Winter 1979 by Jason Baldinger

Corner of Bethoven and Apollo
hanging drywall in a warehouse
no running water
piss in a bucket
scan the east side of the city

Shake dry wall dust out of my hair
the sun in this city
is the strange case of Jekyll and Hyde

When its grey
with the brutal winter light
it could still be hell with the lid off

When its sunshine
especially in the spring
especially in the fall
I swear it’s the garden of eden

Today, as I look
at the Immaculate Heart of Mary
it’s both, sometimes at the same time

Pellegrino used to live down the street
late 70’s, he’s got his stories out
I can’t keep dates straight
let’s say winter 79
he climbed that Douglas Fir
on the hillside, drunk
cut twelve feet off the tree
so his wife could have
the Christmas she wanted

He tells me about Chessie
a polish drunk, a few hairs over five feet
who stuttered
and played the accordion
he fired howitzers during the great war
his brain never recovered

His sister was in an institution
after his parents died
he couldn’t afford it
so he moved her in with him
lived off her social security checks

She died near the end of the month
he didn’t call the cops
didn’t call the corner
waited days till her next check came
bought a ton of beer
drank himself silly
then called the corner
who couldn’t tell when she died
her skin was wax, her ears were black
they covered her in a sheet
took her away
while Chessie rambled
he swore he fed her breakfast that morning

Chessie claimed he married Spanish Ann
who no one ever saw
but when he mentioned her
he’d wheeze in nasal voice
Blue Spanish eyes
tears falling from your Spanish eyes
it was nothing like Humperdinck

The alcohol got the better of Chessie
he lost the house, taxes and loans
no more iron city pounders
he died alone
in one of those goddamn government rest homes

Jason Baldinger

Jason Baldinger is a poet hailing from the Appalachian hamlet of Pittsburgh. He’s the author of several books the most recent of which, the chaplet, Fumbles Revelations (Grackle and Crow) is available now, and the collection Fragments of a Rainy Season (Six Gallery Press) which is coming in September. Recent publications include the Low Ghost Anthology Unconditional Surrender, Uppagus, Lilliput Review, Rusty Truck, Dirtbag Review, In Between Hangovers, Your One Phone Call, Winedrunk Sidewalk, Anti-Heroin Chic, Nerve Cowboy Concrete Meat Press, and Heartland! Poetry of Love, Solidarity and Resistance. You can hear Jason read some poems at jasonbaldinger.bandcamp.com

 

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