August 13, 2010


Belleville, N.J.

Cars speed down Franklin Avenue.
A small curb, two breakaway traffic signs,
a concrete trash can and a fireplug
protect me from skidding chunks
of steel, glass, plastic and rubber.

Up the block old men cross
to the Chandelier Restaurant
in the rain. The cars do not slow,
the old men time them as they pass,
then muster all their speed to scoot across.

When it rains at the bus stop, you get wet.
An umbrella might help a little bit,
but you get wet.
Duck in the doorway of the Bank of America
but keep an eye on the traffic up at the light,
that’s the first place you’ll see the bus
coming for you.

In the doorway of the bank
you stand out of the rain
but you’re still out in the rain.
Your umbrella here is as useless
as a three-dollar bill. You get wet.

At Continental and Franklin, sometimes
waiting here for the bus, you smell burgers
or something else cooking at Wendy’s.
Did you know General Washington marched
by this very corner a few hundred years ago.
Makes you wonder what the traffic was like
crossing this road in 1776 with British troops
not so far behind trying to take your fare?

I remember when A & P was where Wendy’s is.
Teen Angel and I went to buy stuff kids buy
at the supermarket and we’d dally a bit after paying
to check out the beautiful blond checkout girl
who wore short skirts. She was always nice to us.
Her younger sister was equally beautiful.
She was our grade but she was one of those girls
who was too beautiful for plain Joes to talk to.
She ran with an older crowd.

Maybe the A & P moved out already
before the building burned down to the ground,
I’m not sure anymore.
Nowadays, there’s a new, bigger A & P
around the corner a ways
where the Acme used to be
on Belleville Avenue in Bloomfield.

When it was the Acme store, my mom
won a diamond pendant in a giveaway.
They called to say she’d won, she thought
it was a joke. She never won anything.
There was that once on Bowling for Dollars
when she was the home winner.
And a few times she finally won at Bingo!
Splitting $25 with eleven other winners.

My sister won the raffle once
at the Holy Family bazaar.
I remember she gave some money
to the little girl who picked her winning ticket.
My sister used to take the bus from this street
to the subway to her key punch job
at Mutual Benefit. When she was late for work,
teasing her hair or putting on makeup,
she asked Mom to drive her
to this bus stop on the corner
or if she was real late
to the subway station on Fifth Street.
The same place I’m heading this very day.

If there was one thing Mama didn’t like
it was driving in rush hour traffic.
When she was a girl she lived in Newark
and took the trolley everywhere.
When I was a boy, we took the 37 bus
to the old subway and shopped downtown
at Bamberger’s department store.
If I wasn’t too much of a pest, she bought me
a hot dog and orangeade at the basement stand.
Like those Presidential Subway Cars, that A&P
and Bamberger’s, though, Mama is gone.
Here, the bus is coming for me.

- By Anthony Buccino
Copyright © 2010 by Anthony Buccino, all rights reserved.

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