1999-11-13 / Letters

A Poem To Remember

Dear Editor;

I enjoyed speaking with you and hearing that old Rockaway accent that I grew up with! I was born in Far Rockaway (maiden name was Bonnie Klapper) in 1943, grew up there and graduated from Far Rockaway High School in 1960. I continued to live with my parents for three more years while I commuted to Brooklyn College--mostly by bus. The final image in my enclosed poem comes from the experience of waiting for a bus at Riis Park during one of the incredible storms we get out there. I returned home for a year during 1973-74 so that I could once again live rent free with my parents while I attended Brooklyn Law School. Left for good in 1974, but my parents lived there for about another four years until they retired to Florida, and I would periodically visit the old homestead on Bay court in the Bayswater section of Far Rockaway.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the enclosed poem that I completed in 1997 and had published in a small literary journal from the west coast (Simi Valley, to be exact). The poem also won a prize this past year in a local poetry/art contest.

Hope you decide to let your readers see my fond memory of a place that, unfortunately, many will miss only years after they have left, as I have.

Far Rockaway, New York

I miss the scent of spring lilacs

and pale pink roses

the sound of the bay lapping against the seawall

thunder of the surf at the beach end of town.

The air always smelled of stagnant seaweed,

rotting wood, or ocean salt.

Moisture clung to everything--

the bikes, the cars, our old piano

that could never stay tuned.

We walked in fog along the bay

fantasized about who built the driftwood huts

on stilts that lined the shore.

During hurricanes

my sister and I watched from a bedroom window

to see the tide rise

neighbors' yards across the street flood

tree limbs bend and snap.

Once, riding the last bus to get through a storm

in Neponsit and Belle Harbor

where the land spit narrowed to a few blocks

I saw the waters of the bay and ocean meet

waves of one slapping against the other

like relatives at a raucous family reunion.

Originally published in Verve, volume 10, number two, fall 1998.


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