Sunday, December 29, 2019



I loved my boyhood unfinished basement:
Gray stained floor, smooth ass cement,
The rising red metal jacks propping up the beams.

Unchanged from the day it was born:
Unheated, unwalled,
The deep dank reek of kitty litter and mold.

The girls would spin round and around the red stanchions
Kid palms squeak ratcheting 
Ring around the rosies ring around the 
All fall down.

We didn’t have drywall or drop ceilings,
No halogenated mother-in law suites.
No slatted registers to keep out the deep damp cold.

I’d make a rink out of the floor
Limned by cardboard boxes and crates
Sliding over a taped blue line in socked feet,
Firing a puck at a broke ass fan I used as the goalie.

The floor joists were studded with driven nail points.
If you jumped too high it was a crown of thorns.
Stifled your cries or it was another tetanus shot
The cinder block walls were blotched with the outside wet.
Mom is calling for dinner but I’m not ready yet.

My basketball court was chalked
Out on the gray floor and a red horizontal line
Scraped into the mortar four blocks up served as the hoop.
The arc and the angle had to be just right
When the ball struck to count for two.
Whether it was a bucket or not, only I knew.

Paucity! That basement was cold and damp
And you couldn’t escape without getting
Snared by a weave of invisible cobwebs
That arced across the dark spaces every night.
The basement was cold and dark and damp
That basement of mine
Was cold and damp
That basement
Of mine

Slatted wooden steps:
If you walked down without running
Someone might reach through and snatch your ankles,
Drag you through into the darkness.
I never looked down, or back.

Chains hanging from solitary light bulbs
Implanted in the floorboards above.
The flippant despair of the water softener.
The thin black pipes that dripped

There were monsters down there
Under the crawl space
Where no one dared,
In the dark spaces of a drafty home
where even the children had to crouch.

I had no friends, really,
No after school redoubts.
I was born, it was home, I had no say;
You faced the basement terror
Or found another place to play


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