Rooftop in Brooklyn

Where: My brother’s rooftop in BK. When: Last Friday.

So below is a poem I wrote for my Seminar in Literature & Writing class. We’ve been reading the work of poets Jane Kenyon and William Carlos Williams. The assignment (at least what I chose to do) was to write a poem, then to rewrite with an eye toward the editorial voice of either JK or WCW; I chose JK. Below are both versions. Which one do you like best?

Rooftop in Brooklyn

Blackbirds sluice the sky

as one

circling Brooklyn rooftops.

Cigarette smoke divides us

as I stand

belly full under a rosé-tinged sky

inviting evening in.

A nap beckons.

The birds,

now divided

still dip and swoop

in tandem,

while a ghetto-bird *trundles forward

to the blackbirds’ left.

The wind is picking up now.

The trees chatter in the breeze.

Sirens shrill in the distance.

Somewhere a train screams to a stop.

I crush cigarette under sandal.

Casting a final glance,

over Brooklyn rooftops,

while the blackbirds continue

their cylindrical ascent.

* helicopter

Rooftop in Brooklyn-Kenyon edit

 Blackbirds sluice the sky

as one

circling chimney studded rooftops.

A veil of cigarette smoke separates us…

I stand belly full under a bruised rose petal sky

beckoning evening.

I long to take to my bed.

It is too early yet.

The birds,

now divided,

continue to dance

in tandem,

dipping, swooping, arcing.

A mechanical dragonfly

nudges the clouds to the left.

The wind is picking up now.

Trees sway and bend in the breeze,

leaves brush together

creating a sonic trick;

is that the sound of the ocean

trapped in a sea shell?

Somewhere in the distance

sirens slice the early evening air,

a train screeches to a halt.

Gathering sweater about neck,

I survey the scene…

Blackbirds continue

their cylindrical ascent

over Brooklyn rooftops

now capped

with an oyster-shelled sky.

Donna Tartt: “The Goldfinch”

I believe my mother was the one who bought me "The Secret History" from the library. This book was my introduction to author Donna Tartt who is known for releasing a new book every ten years. I live for these moments; Tartt is such a superb author you can’t get mad at her timeline. Her ability to paint a world you feel you are a part of is remarkable.

Her next book “The Little Friend” did not receive as much acclaim as the first, but I really got into it and in fact preferred it to the first. A colleague and I have been discussing this book and the need to go back and revisit the story.  My attraction to “The Little Friend" is all about the dialogue, that rich southern dialect.

I have happily pre-ordered her new book prior to even knowing what the story is about, because Tartt is that good. I do the same with two sets of musicians: The  Roots and Coldplay. I can’t wait for my book to come through. Not sure when I’ll get a chance to read it since I’m in school but I will savor it like a piece of my mother’s homemade apple pie!

Donna Tartt: “The Goldfinch”

Wretched of the Earth: Several Days in the Life of a Little Girl in Salt Lake City


Me somewhere in Utah, probably up to no good.

This past weekend in a conversation with my mother about how ‘special’ I was as a kid, she said and I quote: I wasn’t going to allow you to be the nasty little wretched sonofabitch you wanted to be. Damn Mom!!!! She realllly went in on me with that one but she’s right. I was a little badass growing up.

I remember living in Salt Lake City, Utah from ages two through eight and in that time racking up quite a few ‘wretched’ incidents. For one, I diverted my school picture money given to me by Mom for the principal, and, like a Willy Wonka version of Robin Hood, spent it all at the 7-Eleven adjacent to the bus stop. What?!I was spreading good cheer and over-size Hershey’s bars! I also was a regular shoplifter at the corner store that stood at the bottom of a steep hill in our neighborhood. I stole candy on the regular, so much so that the Korean proprietress ran outside after me one day, You steal from me again, I shoot you. I mimicked, You shoot me? I’m sure she wanted to sprinkle my ass with buckshot as I tore up the hill, candy still in my greedy little clutches. I’d find a tree on the way home and with some kind of device, let’s say a strong twig; I’d scratch out a shallow grave for my wares, pat dirt on top and mark it. I’d revisit my storage space on the way to the bus stop on school mornings.

 I didn’t stop with stealing candy and money for candy, I also forged my mother’s signature on a disciplinary note sent home by my teacher. I thought I was smart with my large elementary school hand; Mom always used a Greek E in her signatures so I did too. Not to toot my own horn, buuuuutttt, I did get away with it for about a month. I was fast-talking Freda; I had an answer for everything: Cija, your Mom hasn’t signed your note/ I know she hasn’t been feeling well. Days later, Cija, do we need to call your Mom/Oh no, I’ll tell her. Finally, the principal, so tired from my shenanigans took me into the chapel and gave me an ultimatum, If you don’t tell your mother tonight, then you will be kicked out of the school/Ahhh…

 I wish I could remember why I had a note sent home in the first place. By this point my life was reminiscent of the plot of 90s Christian Slater movie “Very Bad Things”. But I digress. So, back against the wall, veil finally yanked, I admit some of the story to my mother, trying to dance around the issue to avoid the in-depth E! True Hollywood version. Well, kids have a habit of doing dumb things, dumb-transparent as a glass of water- things and what they never realize is that adults have been there done that and in many cases done it better. Needless to say, when I told my Mom about the forged note I figured she’d be angry. What I didn’t bet on, is that her favorite aunt, Gloria- her mother’s sister- had succumbed to breast cancer that day. In the kitchen I remember her crying and thought I, her devil spawn, had finally broken her. Later Dad made sure to tell me it wasn’t about me. Fed up with my continuous need to fulfill the wild child in me, he sent me outside on a cold fall night in my birthday suit. There I stood shivering on the covered porch, my silhouette outlined in the buttery beam of kitchen light. I covered my kibbles and bits while staring at my parents huddled together behind the screen door. Mom looked worried; Dad looked simultaneously firm and resigned. She would later tell me how difficult it was to see me like that, but she also admitted to feeling helpless when it came to me. I was her oldest, her first baby; my brothers and sisters should feel lucky to be here with me leading the pack.

So back to the shivering youngster on a side porch under the thin mountain air of Utah: I would have bet money that I stood out there for an hour but there’s no way I did. Note to self: Ask Mom how long I was actually on the porch. Dad pointed behind me to the mountain chains in the distance, If you want to go live with your grandmother (his mom, my savior) then keep going east through the mountains, you’ll eventually run into her. Then I thought of myself shivering trekking through dark mountains on a foot quest to my grandmother. My imagination played out the scene similar to Frodo’s quest to get the ring to Mordor. Of course I didn’t know about “Lord of the Rings” or J.R.R. Tolkien then but Frodo’s journey as depicted in the movies was how I saw myself. Post journey I would have looked like Gollum’s slightly cuter yet atrophied cousin. After what felt like forever Dad finally released me from the cold back into the warmth of the house. I was grateful – at least for the moment, I’d been allowed back into the fold.