The last time I went to Coney Island
I was still a child in so many ways,
melting slowly like glaciers, moving swiftly
like frames of film past the arc lamp.
Both my parents alive, no children of my own,
all my worries migratory like birds and refugees,
my troubles belonged only to me. We had
egg creams before hopping, stepping, gliding
onto a grimy car on the F train; you watched the
beautiful mixed young couples making out
thinking about loose breath and raised fists and
tee shirts getting dirty under the arms. I tried
to catch everything else that went by with
my eyes—a headline on subway shaking newsprint
held opposite me by an old man reading slowly,
spray painted shapes and words in fragments in tunnels,
and “Pray” scratched onto every support beam
by mad geniuses or the livers of sorrowful lives.
It was fast like that. You were German, Jewish,
and other things from Western worlds while I was
all island, second generation messy, with new world
language skills the elders would never approve of,
and I was serious about everything but anger,
your weapon being rage while mine was laughter.
When we stopped getting along it was because I was
starting to grow older, growing out of my old clothes,
wearing down the soles of my sneakers, preferring
to go only where I could get by walking— Downtown,
Midtown, Little Italy, Chinatown with everything else
feeling as far and high and narrow as a bridge or tunnel.
We ate knishes when we got off the F Train, our feet
hitting the sidewalk at Stillwell Avenue at a stand
under the tracks. We walked on the boardwalk and
didn’t talk much before finally making our way to
the beach as the years warmed the waters and the
wind blew on and off along the landscape of our
faces and all the beautiful distance between them.
Photograph by Jose Padua