Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Time, Unmeasured,1969…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Love and Romance,Politics,Retail Purgatory,subtle erotica — Bob at 5:28 pm on Monday, March 31, 2014

© March 31, 2014

 
It was a six foot by eight foot wooden box
I built it in Chicago
I was nineteen
From the heavy hinged door to the slanted roof
So the snow would fall off
A solitary window slid back and forth
The rain was defeated
The small structure was solid
And eventually I, too, was solid
Because one thing led to another

 In winter, surrounded by a blizzard
The yard high black metal kerosene heater
Warmed my chilled bones
Transfixed me when I stared through the
Circular holes atop it
To the fiery circle below
Made my lids turn to lead
As I breathed in the delicious poison
While I waited
And waited
To sell someone a newspaper

 Scratched and beaten small newspaper trucks
After being restocked by the Mother Truck
Screeched up every few hours
Wordlessly threw wired bundles on the ground
When newspapers were like radio
When news was news because they said so
The dark black ink screaming headlines
Telling you what was important
The little stories inside
Telling you what wasn’t
The New York Times
Was for the Beautiful People
And in Chicago
It just didn’t matter

 I was there waiting
Waiting for a Century
Or it seemed to be to me
For some person to wander over
And buy a newspaper
Talk to me

Asking me:
”Hey kid, what’s the news?”
Because all I was, really
Was the fleshy part of the newspapers 
Waiting for my dime
A human vending machine
Before we were eliminated

Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Tribune
Chicago American
Chicago Daily News

(The last American city with four major daily newspapers)

Chicago Daily Defender
The New York Times
The Daily Racing Form
Scratch sheets, Red and Green, for the track
Chicago Seed, sometimes
As radical a publication as
The treacherously tentacled
All powerful and everywhere
Chicago Political Machine
Would allowed me to sell
I was their serf
My license existed by their grace
By a thread

 Almost every newspaper driver
Stole newspapers from my
Tightly wired bundles thrown off
Those speeding route trucks
They knew, I knew
They also knew there was little I could do
Killing them wasn’t permitted
It was right there in the Serf Handbook:

“No Killing of thieving truck drivers

Allowed!

Unless appropriate payoff made first”

In the summers
Time stopped
Sunlight roasting the concrete
Sticky air hanging, motionless
Like a dragonfly over a swamp
I had no electricity
No fan
No nothing

Flies collected
On the newsstand’s shadowy side
I waited until there were enough to bother
And then killed them all
With a rolled up newspaper
Recycling in action
1969

 I would sit and bake
Long thick dark brown hair
Sweat sticking it to my forehead
Sometimes a T-shirt was too much
Soaked and heavy
Hanging on my body
I’d strip it off
I wore cut off jeans
Sometimes barefoot
I turned brown as a Sabra
Skin like suede

Sometimes other people noticed
I had no idea anyone
anyone
Would ever watch me

Polite to everyone
Policeman to priests
Parents and teenagers
Children and their pets

Sometimes…
A Mom would come by and
Pay me a visit
Hang around
Make conversation
Make suggestions
Tethered to my stand
No place to escape
Had that thought ever occurred to me

 Jesus Christ!
Moms
Thirties to Forties
Were hot!
When they were focused
And they were focused
When they wanted something

At first, a stunning revelation
Eventually a relief
A riveting metamorphous from
The mean girls in high school
Passing me by in the halls
Without hesitation
Without curiosity
Without flirting
Silence like a slap

 I wish I knew
In 1966
What I would learn
In 1969
That waiting was worth it
Christmas would come
Down the chimney of the newsstand
Where Santa left me a nice cot
Where the kerosene Barn Lantern
Swinging from a nail
After I closed for the night
Entranced neglected Moms
Who thought that the
Yellow flickering light was exotic
 That the brown and flexible
Paperboy was exotic
Unexpectantly attentive
And most importantly
Certain to be quiet

 But I was always polite
To them, then
To you, now
Even serfs can find happiness
While waiting on a lonely corner
On steamy summer nights
Almost forty years ago

3 Comments »

Comment by Bob Aldrich

April 1, 2014 @ 5:24 am

Love the story/poem! Did you have a transistor radio in there, at least? So much grat music in those days. Re the “mean girls in high school” – I was class of 69 – there were a few mean ones, I guess. I think most, of the HP kids anyway, were just introverts, waiting for some nice guy to notice THEM. Wish I knew THAT in 1966!

Comment by Helene

April 1, 2014 @ 4:16 pm

Nice. So much said in just a few words and so creatively.
A picture painted in a story. Short film on paper.

Comment by David Griesemer

April 6, 2014 @ 10:37 pm

What comes from the heart cannot be corrected. It is its own authority. When Bob writes of forty years ago, of fatigue and chill, of defeating snow and rain, of waiting centuries for a ten-cent sale, of wanting to kill truck drivers, of baking in the summer sun, of girls who slap and moms who relieve, of happiness found, when Bob speaks discreetly of what he knows – never of who – when his memory is clear and sweet, when it knows no editing for mass appeal, then he is not our suitor. We are his.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>