The bleachers crumble,
St. Lannes’ “American Boy” is gone,
only his feet left on the pedestal,
his empty temple
a haven for pigeons
and ghosts. Once upon
a time presiding
over the games of our youth, then giving
sanctuary to junkie waifs
selling virginity beneath stone
legs, he had become unsafe.
The City will raze the whole thing soon…
How fast the years…
The Doyle twins’ house burned down.
Tommy Doyle got sent away
after twenty years on the force.
Lost all his teeth, put on a hundred pounds.
Drugs, they say.
The Crosstown is all mirrors
now, undocumented cooks hidden
behind closed doors,
the juke out of a time warp,
still crooning over dream lovers…
Each night, I slip in through the parking
lot behind the bleachers, pass among
the cars, one or two gently rocking.
Babes in cradles. Were we ever that young?
The Electra of the soft shocks was totaled…
I’ve grown old.
Too many nights love lay in my arms
crying herself to sleep
and I offered no solace.
Now all I do is roam…
my life a broken promise…
I can’t bear to stay home.
So I sit in the bleachers alone,
the joggers gone,
my mind unclear.
So empty. It looks like heaven.
One night, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A deer,
nibbling the dandelions
that had overgrown
the turf. She was impossible, like a vision.
She looked up once, saw me
but did not run.
Just turned and meandered
off. She had all the time in the world.
Eugene A. Melino
This poem began as an exercise I wrote in the Advanced Poetry Workshop at the Writers Studio in New York City. The exercise called for writing a poem using the techniques and narrative voice Robert Lowell applied in his great poem, “Skunk Hour.” (Lowell based his poem on “Armadillo,” the masterpiece by his long-time friend and colleague, Elizabeth Bishop.) My own poem has since evolved over several dozen drafts. While it still falls far short of its model, Lowell’s work gave me an immense amount of insight into poetic technique. Whether my poem succeeds or not, the hours I spent reading and rereading “Skunk Hour” were well worth the time.