1951-1955: Whiffs Of Heaven, Hell

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
— William Blake, “The Tyger”

Assaying our downstairs
makeshift kitchenette
Rube Goldberged
in laundry room
to spare having
to go fourteen
steps up into
what’d been
repository
all things
food for
37 years

abruptly
here among
Mason jars,
Tupperware,
and all-manner
of nook containers
top shelves/ on table;
I am transported back
about 7 decades to when
a kid in your grandfather’s
hole-in-the-wall apothecary poor
Southside Chitown asphalt jungle…

Now shopping for whatever combo
of Costco pistachios/ Trader
Joe’s mixed nuts/ Terrasoul
Medjool dates plus a few
pieces of Wiley Wallaby
Watermelon Australian
Style Licorice feels ok
today for my body’s
needs well as yens
— which flash me
back to dearest,
oldest memory

can be expressed
in words…earlier
emotions seemingly
ineffable: sweet Izzy,
uneducated immigrant,
pleasant peasant Isadore
had some purity about him
that attracted University of
Chicago professors, Senator
Paul Douglas, other luminaries
who had nada rational business
trafficking dregs except pleasure

including a sizeable lending library
customers casually felt comfy
considering Free despite sign
above saying, Please Leave
Nickel Or Dime In Dish.
Such was primo issue wife
Fanny tackled when she
descended from their
apartment attempting
to convert losses to
profit, a concept
lost on Gramps.

I worked there
most every Sunday
from age 7 or so to 10
when we moved to L.A.
Sweeping sawdust, smells
still suddenly swept Skidel
shtetl Sarnatzky soul synapse
shots sucked/ snuck stairs staring
straight down unsafe wooden rickety
unwalled unregulated abyss — if fell
would snap your cervical spine singing
death knell before conscious life emerged.

What’s below? Furnace maw fired by feared embers,
coal orbs horrible to inhale/ singe nose, try hold
breath while gather bottles of medicinal scents:
Dear Pops bootstraps to leonine ur-schooled MD
SB, MS, FACS, DDS looks askance at ignoramus
Old-Country daddy, embarrassed, oy sad,
instructed son (soon enough glad Ger
joins new upwardly mobile line of
assimilated Sarnat labor with Zoe,
firstborn grandchild evolved
surgeon à internist à shrink
whoopee made him proud!)

…Paid for day’s effort literally in
peanuts lovingly scooped from old-fashioned
warmer – to be exact, not more aromatic pistachios
but rather Spanish peanuts – ain’t because delicious
but since cheapest, lasted longest like licorice sticks.