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Jerome Ave Chronicles, by Jean Lozoraitis

Jerome Ave Chronicles

Jean Lozoraitis


'Jack', I said, 'Look at that!'
A big green trash bag
was moving on the sidewalk.
The movements were deliberate, not blown by the wind.
'Let's hope it's just a rat, and not a baby,' he answered me,
walking up to the bag and ripping it open..

She was old, her nose brown and pink,
her left eye wide and glassy.
I picked her up.
She was soaking wet.
They must have tried drowning her first,
then threw her away when
it didn't work/she was
a tiny dog, a chihuahua,
who ran away
as soon as we let her go.
There are many dogs like that
on Jerome Ave..
Some snarl as you walk by. Some
sit at the feet
of the homeless, warming themselves
by the barrel fires.
'We are lucky', they say, stretching lazily under
the thin January sun.
'WE have a home..'


It started out foggy and warm
for a morning in January..
crossing the GWB, I could barely make out
the skyline.
Once again, I drove past
the dead raccoon on the sidewalk.
This morning she was surrounded by
windblown leaves, looking peaceful
at last.
I scanned the radio for something
to carry me across the bridge -the French
rock and roll was snappy,
and I struggled
to understand the words.
Before I knew it, Jerome Ave
was before me..I stopped
to let a man with one leg
cross the street. He walked swiftly,
no self pity in those crutches.
The barrel fire next to our building
already was burning brightly. Only
a woman reading a newspaper
was there. Maria gave her
some still fresh bread
from last night's church supper.
The women broke the loaves
into small pieces,
and fed them to
the pigeons.


These January days
are warm, dull and dirty. Everything
is covered in dust and salt. Fumes
from the big trucks crowd out
the air..the skyline has
nothing to say today, she struggles to breathe.
Nothing good
seems to be happening
this morning. Even
the homeless people
are not home. The kind of day
when you want to be
somewhere else, nerves grating
like worn brakes/the kind of day
that makes you wonder
why you came here and
will you ever go back?
There is nothing holy
about this day. It
and disappears
like smoke
from the barrel fires.

2/4/92 'Year of the Monkey, Day of the Rat'

I forced myself
to watch her..she
cautiously inspected
every inch of the gutter searching for food.
I said to myself, 'If you
are going to work here,
you must learn to look
at rats.' She wasn't too big,
with soft, beige colored fur..
very busy, determined to find something
to eat.
I watched
the sidewalk people
cook chicken
in the barrel fires. It
looked like they were camping,
but there were no trees.
They wired an extension cord
up to a light pole and played their radio.
And the dogs were happy
and the chicken sizzled.

2/6/92 On My Way Home

A tall crazed black man
ran down the hill,
right into
the side of my car. I was stopped
at a red light, but that
didn't matter..because
the Whole World should have stopped
to let this tall bird with flapping wings
continue his Flight
to Freedom.
He looked at me as if to say
'How dare you get in my way!'
Then his face
broke into a smile of compassion-or pity-
for one who could not fly..
then he ran back up the hill
and disappeared
into the sky.


They were gone.
But now they are back.
City trucks moved in
and cleaned out
their home -this unsightly
human mess, this
combination of
alcohol, mental instability
and just plain
Bad Luck..gone, disappeared
around the corner, into the
World At Large..but
this morning,
they are back..Fires burning
more brightly
than ever..bread being toasted
on sticks..songs being sung
of the hills of Puerto Rico-
where the sun makes
diamonds on the sea.
and home is just a memory.

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