Hometown Hero

                                    ...no matter how dark it seems. There's always a way.

                                    - Kal-El

We used to live above a bagel shop owned by

                                                those Jews,

my father once told me.

I didn't care, their bagels were good.

My mother worked in a pastry shop

down the street,

                                    ran by some guido.

                                                            I'm half guido.

                                                                        She was a wop,

my neighbor told me.

My school was the same distance

as the pastry shop,

but in the other direction.

My uncle told me my teacher

                                                           was a chink.

I was excited about that because

I was going to learn a lot that year.

We would walk everywhere in Astoria.

We had a car.

Conked out in an intersection.

Mom hugged me until it was over.

My grandparents lived further down the street.

Grandpa said I wasn't allowed to walk over alone.

He warned me about "the

                                              porch monkeys"

that lived in between.

We had encyclopedias in the apartment

                                                          "porch monkey"

was not a known species.

That terrified me.

My dad used to pick up things 

from a convenience store,

                                              owned by Habeeb.

I went there once, after school, to say "hi" and get a water.

That was not his name.

Mom had to run back to the pastry shop one night.

Told me, once, 

Lock the door and wait here.

I heard a lock break, but not ours.

I remember unlocking two deadbolts and unfastening

one chain.

I peered downstairs at two men with masks on.

One saw me.

I think he pretended that  

                                                           I didn't exist.

That was nice of him.

First published in Cowbird, 2013