Poem, Thoughts – Roots

Where do you come from?  Not from 5-minutes ago, or from your vehicle, but the essence of you, what time, experiences, and place gave you the foundation of who you are?  Where are your roots?

I did not come money, I came from Northeast, Minneapolis.  And so begins the story melding with the present and future, culminating in who I am now.

A few months ago I posted a poem titled “Summer on 41st” about the neighborhood I grew up in – http://wastelandhere.com/2012/06/10/summer-on-41st/

In an effort to figure out where I am going, and my purpose, I am looking back on where I came from.  I will be posting more of these reflections and observations about childhood, family, and my roots.  Below is a piece titled “Walking in Northeast”.  I apologize for the length of this piece.  Brevity is something that I have not yet mastered.


evening light casted between
1 ½ story clapboard houses
across the boulevard from first Lutheran.

quiet this November Sunday
under changing leaves and after the changing guard.

the old boulevard
lined with sprawling oak and elm.

cement sidewalks in 4 foot sections
with weeds and purple flowers sprouting.

slight hunch over blue walker
down Central Avenue sidewalk.

eyes fixed ahead, slow deliberate steps
past large framed glass.

I wonder about shelter this evening
and the exposed face, grey beard and no socks.


throngs of railcars separated
from the line are silent.

skipping over rusted dormant tracks, careful
of railroad ties and greyed, burnt rock.

timbers beginning to split
wet and soft to our touch.

come, just over here, near
the abandoned caboose next
to the junction box.

rain begins to mist
and cling to exposed skin.

we climb into a rail car,
slightly tilted and askew
shelter from easterly snow as the wind howls
jackets flutter and echo in the enclosed space.

searching for something to start
a fire in the aging stone ring,
we find old newspapers,
once wrapping market fish.


I stop outside the wrought iron gate,
hands each grasping thin bars.

old black oak holding up the
fading blue sky.

the horizon thins behind iced headstones
mirror reflects silhouettes each evening
and the bouquets placed atop granite.

I bow my head before grandfather
lost to ailing lung and pacific theatre fire fight.


each Sunday emerging from darkened church
halls, under the noon bell ringing.

turning right we walk to
central avenue and south from there.

red maple and yellow oak leaves flutter
soft, twisting, meandering to the concrete,
covered in white and purple chalk,
washed and blurred numbers.

Broadway is near and
the red, green and white awning
of Delmonico’s, face pressed against the glass
white cheese, sausage and daily baked bread.


blue fills the space between red brick
buildings from the early 1900s
slanted rooftops smooth with snow
white shadows casted from oak and elm.

cracked glass fragments expose the interior
the crystal chandelier is dark
powerless, clinging to the tin
ceiling handcrafted by Mario’s hands.

blood deep and lighter tan bricks
patterned in rows
separated by fading cement.

above second row of leaded windows
before the rooftop caps the building
inlaid brick arches hint at the roots
ancient Rome and venetian countryside.

for rent signs litter most windows
derelict has moved in.
Seemingly overnight, but years have passed.

expired rusty parking meter blinks
waiting for dropped quarters

once red bike waits in silence
for Mr. Totino to return,
one last ride around the
block to the corner
grocery store for milk.

standing at central and Hennepin
newspapers sprawl across
chipped cement underneath
skewed blinds and forms of payments
the chained door speaks… closed
and there will be no spaghetti with
grandma tonight.

I wish to have known then,
to have seen the shuttered windows,
that I see now, to have known
when the chandelier’s will fall.


rain collects in the hats brim
the walk to the café
becomes longer the nearer I am.

I stop in front of a yellow clapboard home
manicured lawn under the yellow lights.

rain drops enlarge,
the impact echoes as time slows.

the blinds are closed
it feels quiet.

the willow tree branches sweep across
the lawn as the rain ceases.

then I know why I stopped here…

will it ever be the same, when you were here?
the booth we shared is empty.

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