In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots I have never seen a post-war Philco with the automatic eye nor heard Ravel's "Bolero" the way I did in 1945 in that tiny living room on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did then, my knives all flashing, my hair all streaming, my mother red with laughter, my father cupping his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum, half fart, the world at last a meadow, the three of us whirling and singing, the three of us screaming and falling, as if we were dying, as if we could never stop—in 1945— in Pittsburgh, beautiful filthy Pittsburgh, home of the evil Mellons, 5,000 miles away from the other dancing—in Poland and Germany— oh God of mercy, oh wild God.
I was betrayed by Bohemia early
in my life and left a run-down hotel
with my eye swollen shut by an insect bite
but got my revenge in France and Italy
and wasn’t bitten once in those two countries.
I swore off free meals and book-stealing
both there and elsewhere and
if I got something for nothing
it wasn’t by schnorring
so have a heart, pedagogus.
Think of Baudelaire and his clouds
or Michelangelo on his step ladder
putting a little spit in for tone
and a gob or two for substance
just to please the flunkies down there
even as they kicked the wooden legs
their tongues out in excitement
though I have to interrupt to say
God did it with a voice not a finger,