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Larry Jaffe interviewed

pinstripe suits

believe it or not
i grew up wanting
to wear a pinstripe suit
no not the banker hew
i wanted to wear the pinstripes
that adorned my baseball heroes
those new york yankees
legends of the long ball
running the outfield
that skirted my bronx birthplace
you see i was born in the
shadow of yankee stadium
just down the street
where bronx hospital rocked
with the muse in daily delivery
march 31, 1948 what a day
and i was born so bad that i
slapped the doc and pinched the nurse
no one touches my butt without permission
but oh i wanted to wear that uniform
put spikes on my feet and run that infield
grace the house that ruth built
and dimaggio reigned
and mantle owned
these gentlemen of baseball
dressed in their sports regalia
as if it were religion they pursued
and not homeruns
they wore holy roller pinstripes
crossing their bats and hope to hit
cutting quite the dashing figures
a divinity of four baggers
holy trinity of ruth
dimaggio and mantle
sporty zoot suits
worn by the elite of baseball
and i longed to dress in locker rooms
and hear my name called on
public address systems
look into the sun and catch fly balls
and pound my bat at the plate
making ready to be the next
sultan of swat
yankee clipper
the mick
yeah i was born in the bronx
lived above a dry cleaning store
not part of any charming baseball dynasty
i had to play catch with myself
as part of the jaffe clan
of neo-immigrated
but less than migrant workers
inhabitants of day jobs
a blue-collar bunch
not an athlete in the crew
and i grew up wanting to
dress in pinstripes
wear that yankee suit
i could never wear a tie
without feeling enslaved
i wanted to roam centerfield
not a factory or an office
and if i couldnít play baseball
then obviously i had to be a poet

© 1999 lgjaffe

history lesson

i would love to
tell you the history of my
peoples but they donít seem
to have any
they seem to have miraculously
set up shop in the bronx of our
new homeland having escaped
prosecution of pogroms•
and prenazi purges
the various entities
of my respective families
did not know each other
or of each other
funny how jewish
geography only seems
to work for children
where we all seem to be
related somehow
but the empires of russias
where one of my grandfathers
derived and the empire
of romania are
distinctively different
and the only histories
they kept were in their
heads and their memories
did not allow repeating
they left no tracks
they were very clever
covering their footsteps
so no on could follow them
and they came to this country
with the streets paved with gold
to make their fortunes
and one side did and forged
that gold into business
the other side sweated
with their brows
to take themselves
out of that gutter

my father did
he lifted himself up
by the bootstraps of
his working man shoes
and took a stranglehold on life
and with my mother
removed us from the
ghettoQ to a safer plantation
filled with green apartment
buildings growing to skies
littered with promise
and then yanking and struggling
they wanted the american dream
to be lived by their children
so stretching their arms
wide to encompass
suburban earth carried
bag and baggage in a
station wagon of love
to the new found land
of long island
manifest destiny
for these first generation
non-immigranted souls
related to survivors of holocausts
bought the american dream
and stinker
moved their love and
quiet ambitions for safety harbored
neighborhoods to finally dock their station wagons
wanting so much for their
children to stride where they had not gone
leaving their marks on this fertile ground
that grew wheat and potatoes
and cucumbers that were
destined to become pickles
for heinz had owned that
land and meted it out
one housing development
at a time with no variety
let alone 57
and the growing fields turned into
playgrounds and schoolyards
where children grew instead of crops
and we did not grow too wild
in our suburban cocoon of our
parents dreams
many just stood at home
fitting right into the tongues and
grooves of parental carpentry
and not too groovy for their times
we lived in boxes without
heritage despite brilliant
attempts to tether us to the
values of ancestors that we never knew
harness our desires to ancient dreams
they tried valiantly but vainly to anchor
me with family and these well
worn manifestos
but i never knew how to
breathe inside air
and traveled my own reckless
path like my grandfather before
me searching for my america
did i tell you my father in his
search for historical identity found
the ship's manifest that carried
my grandfather to these lands
and his name was carefully
inscribed in the hands
of the captain of that noah's ark
that eastern european mayflower
that landed at ellis island
overseen by the statue of liberty
not just another plymouth's  rock
and there were no
so-called indians to pillage
they were already herded
like my grandfather's peoples
into reservations
american ghettos of isolation
and corralled historically
chained to events
their minds drunk on tears
and the slaves were said to have
already been set free
yet they wondered if
ghettos were contagious
cause indigenous peoples never
seem to keep to their own lands
where was the america that i sought
my grandfather running
away from mad russians
while i was running away
from a parent's love
that in its own way
kept me alien in my homeland
and i looked for ways out
taking this shining manifesto
to the streets seeking freedom
for myself and other assorted loved ones
that i found in fast food outlets
and chain stores
i wandered through states and cities
neighborhoods and apartment flats
triangulating on loveless promises
of my heart beating in my soul
was i searching for my history
or searching for me
drinking first blood of morning dew
while carrying my burdens in
mental backpacks
my only prized possessions were of
dreams i had yet to dream
and passions i had yet to feel
that I thought I should be paid for
or at the very least reimbursed
this was not the white man's burden
it was the jewish son's burden of
pathos and guilt worn like long
underwear purchased in penney's
and only coming in white
i donít wear that white underwear
anymore my briefs are black
and i donít shop in j.c. penney's
i wear calvin klein or jockey
or nothing at all
white underwear never looks clean
once you have worn it
and you can never tell when you
might be in that accident mother predicted
much to a mother's dismay
i turned out to be a poet
and not a doctor
but she was only looking out
for my best behavior
and no one can blame
a mom for that
she was singing thoughts of
care and love while i wandered
isles of self pity in this supermarket and
got stuck in the frozen dreams section
while i worked to carry out this
manifesto of unjust causes that
i wore proudly like merit badges of honor
jousting with windbags instead of windmills
i grew my children up to be
not completely content with whom they are
so that they would always be ready to
change for themselves but not another
and as i watch these generations pass
by my eyes the fore and aft
speeding through time without
einstein's theories to hold them
down cause a thought is quicker
than the eye and light donít travel
as fast as spiritual understanding
i wonder about manifests and logs
keeping track of peoples and ages
the homeless and the homed
the loveless and the loved
huge databases filled with
inconsequential consequence
i no longer wonder why i am here

© 1997 lgjaffe


i have always
loved to watch
an artist work
on canvas
or in a factory
at a sewing machine
or a saw where
work becomes art
on a basketball court
or a baseball field where
sport becomes art
i love to watch
the movements
of fingers doing
what they do best
or a voice that
captures passion
and the lust of life
the litany of a
head cocked just so
in the full
appreciation of themselves
and their work
so much there yet
no effort
even the sweat glides
from their brow
oh how i admire these artists
and take delight not only
in their creations
but in their creating
i had the opportunity
to see another artist
with his fingers
at the keyboard
in virtuoso performance
interestingly enough
it was me
and if that makes me cocky
then i am cocky
if that makes me vain
then i am vain
because tonight
when i woke up in the
middle of the night to pee
i then sat down at my keyboard
and wailed
the words went flying from
my fingers in song
my eyes crying salt
from self inflicted wounds
no more
i had arrived for myself
i could see the expression
on my face
i could see the rhapsody
of my work in my fingers
i could see my face mirrored in pavarotti's
i felt good
i felt like miles on the trumpet
i felt like herbie at the piano
i felt like picasso at the canvas
i felt like mj or dr. j. soaring to the hoop
like mantle at the plate
mays basket catching infinity
and like my dad at his workbench
i felt like me
and lest you take umbrage
with my tale
i felt good
damn good
and the words
oh man the words
like notes drifting
cutting like laser beams
in the night
notes slicing through alabaster
the birds outside my window
singing to me telling me
their stories in thousands
of warbles
and i understood every note
and they knew
as i know
that i was born again
an artist

© 1997 lgjaffe

Soul traveler

For Giovanni

Through moments of desperation
Through timeless ventures into the unknown
A soul walks many miles on their path
An ongoing journey from the stars and back again
A journey of survival and existence
Mixed with pain and pleasure
Moving from one lifetime to another
Discarding worn bodies like old clothes
A soul reaches across the millennia
To touch others he has felt before
Welcome back Giovanni
Welcome to your family
Wherever you have gone before
Whatever stops you have made
This is yet another part of your journey
No doubt this world you enter has lost some of its love
Perhaps you will put back some of the missing pieces
No doubt this world is more than a little crazy
Perhaps you will make it somewhat saner
Earth is not the garden of Eden but we nurture it still
So we welcome you Giovanni with open hearts and arms
We will try to make this stop most enlightening
Most peaceful and loving
So welcome back little one
Welcome back from your weary travels
We welcome you Giovanni
Welcome you to our family

© 1999 lgjaffe


i looked at
the boy
blood of my
spirit of my
his eyes
consuming me
with love
i am the son
of your daughter
he tells me
i am the son
you never had
i am your boy
i will wear your
baseball mitt
on my tiny fist
i will shoot hoops
with your dreams
i will catch
touchdown passes
with your passion
i am your
your boy

© 1997 lgjaffe

miles showed me his trumpet

miles davis lived around the
block from me deep in the upper
west side of manhattan island
and he played like one man could be an island
living for his horn that paid his daily bread
and living in this house made of gingerbread
on west 77th street
while i lived on west 76th
and would see him every
now and again
going into that brownstone
that his horn built
i got to meet miles
walked round the block
round the clock
where miles stood outside
his homestead
proud as peacock
he told me how much
he liked san francisco women
cause their bottoms were so round
not flat from riding subways all days
he said with smile
nudging me guyhood joke
you know what I mean
he said with trumpeting grin
tickling ivories
we went inside
past the new york faÁade
and into his musical domain
headquarters for lonely horn players
miles still smiling at this stranger
then he showed me his horn
the purity of milesí trumpet
leans into me
he sings it blue
my eyes tear uncontrollably
he has touched melodies
that riff with magic
i escape egos with
this horn
it is evolution of life
in notes counterpoint
my fingers feel broken
in comparison
they want to make
the same sounds
with words
that staccato lip thing
that makes the trumpet
merge with man
he showed me his horn
in this house of stalactites hanging
upside down from ceilings
made of sugar coated dreams
when i was a kid
i dreamed of playing trumpet
wanted it more than sex
but i wore braces on my teeth
and they said i would
cut my lips to ribbons
and bleed on my horn
i looked up with tears
and thought miles always
always bleeds on his horn

© 1999 lgjaffe

loneliness walking

have you ever watched
loneliness walking
drifting by your open
bedroom window
trying to sneak in
when it appears no one is
keeping an eye on these
lonely sparrows of despair
loneliness looks to get
between the sheets with you
under the covers and
hide its naked face on your pillow
right next to yours
eyes closed pupils vexed by
the light of your forgiving nature
and your mercy

have you ever seen
loneliness walking
as you drive down the street
like distant smoke signals looking to be seen
faraway eyes like plumes
you watch as barefaced souls
gather their momentum for
a final run at good luck
but what u really see
are these shackles and yokes
a man who cannot be free wears
signifying his brotherhood
in the family of man
here walks the embodiment of slavery
embroidered into society
like the nike logo
he wears not so proudly
on his tattered feet and
across his bedraggled mind

have you ever felt
loneliness walking
wandering into your dreams
an open book sitting on your lap
taking your every breath
as if it was his own
consuming the beats of
your heart in sometimes
staccato sometimes languid style
loneliness wearing your clothes
till they go out of fashion
the only criteria comfort
are you too comfortable
with your loneliness
you sometimes wonder out loud
and that is even more
frightening then the tendrils
wafting from your morning coffee
that you always seem to drink alone

have you ever noticed
loneliness walking
a shopping cart his only mode of transportation
and it was not made by bmw or mercedes
but he can honestly say he has wheels
that carry him to and from
what appear to be pointless destinations
but not to loneliness
to loneliness it his occupation
and he is preoccupied with
his nonexistent wages
consisting of empty coke cans the
currency of the economically challenged
packed in designer luggage made by glad
the history of the lonely safely waterproofed
from the elements and the cruising passerby

have you ever heard
loneliness walking
as he kisses your forehead in the darkness
smiling so vainly into your eyes
with a mouthful of scars betraying his arousal
you feel loneliness like a blood relative pouring
into your wounds so brittle and frail
he creeps through tight muscled thighs
cramping your fists into the unmade bed
creasing your palm with anticipation
loving you more than he loves himself
or so he tells you or so he tells everyone
and yet you still lie there with leftover smiles
preaching to yourself childhood hymns and
awaiting the arrival of your one true love
or so you tell your friends and so you tell yourself

have you ever listened to
loneliness walking
the footsteps of his life crammed tightly
into his backpack as he tours
the indigent streets where you live
you can see his overgrown haggard face
and he reminds you of someone you know
or at the very least someone you wish
you did not have to know but must anyway
he hangs around waiting for you on street corners
his hands are not outstretched
yet you mistake his vigilance for panhandling
and he mistakes your concern for sympathy
you both turn shyly away but you cannot
get him out of your mind
loneliness will not let you
he prints his memories in your daily newspaper
you read them over morning coffee

and why should loneliness bother you so
he does not live with you now
but he does make you wonder
if graces of god looked the other way
would you be he
and you are uncomfortable with loneliness
the silence of empty voices
slowly creeps nocturnal
drinking combustible memories
as you back away into solitude
and wonder how priceless
your loneliness is to his
but the odor of loneliness lingers
deeply in the soul put there
by unseen hands
that strafe your conscience
as loneliness walks
by your open window

© 1998 lgjaffe