Mark Zegarelli
Mark Zegarelli

Five Flights

I wish I could remember how it was before I was

What they said about the wooden bed

Frame two twin beds in the room between the middle two rooms

Uncle Walter (dead) Uncle Joe (still lives upstairs)

And the Fleur-de-Lis patterns somewhere but I don’t remember where

Exactly probably the carpeting or was it a rug?


That was how the depression was they lived six in one apartment

And they still live there and talk about it sometimes but

That wasn’t the whole story no not by a long shot

And I wish I could remember what was there when I was not

Or even maybe when I was

When I was young there was so much they used to talk about around the kitchen table the kind of talk that kids don’t get but tells a truth the kids don’t hear


A sound


That was good it’s coming back – Marlboro Cigarettes tamped


In an elephant

On the radiator cover as the surface heated up

Fogging up the windows as the day goes down with all the time in the world

What I was before I fully was what I am today

That would soon be something else


I can bring to mind their faces and it’s strange to be a child

Feeling like I’ve joined a play in progress not knowing yet the story

Or my lines

You pick them up in the cadences of give and take you fit down small

Between the cracks and then they give you space you grow

Coloring in between the lines on your stomach lying on the floor smelling wax Crayola crayons and the crunch of crayon paper as they crack in little stubs


I wish I could remember what was lying outside that foggy window that day or any day

Or the meaning of Thanksgiving when that parade still mattered

And the women still went out wearing hats and wouldn’t walk outside

Without one

But I can bring to mind the smell of the building (dust)

And echoes in the marble foyer where visitors got buzzed into the house


There was this brick stoop outside where you sat and smoked if you were an adult but when you were a kid you played out front in front of the hedges that surrounded this little patch of dirt you could never quite get into because it was surrounded by all these hedges and you knew everybody’s name and they took care of you even if they did have funny accents with a strange way of telling what was old and new and old and young and asking what I was going to be when I grow up because that’s what boys do but girls don’t have to worry about that stuff cause they were gonna get married and have kids or maybe be either a teacher or a nurse of some kind of librarian but me I was gonna be a policeman and that seems like a strange choice now but that’s what I said at the time maybe because they got to wear a uniform with brass buttons or more just the hat and the badge and of course the club they carried to knock out crooks and of course the handcuffs were good too


Nothing made much sense then and it still doesn’t

Does whatever a spider can

Playing checkers and feeling like a pawn


You watched a lot of television. Before that, they listened to a lot of radio. I don’t even know what they did before that. Vaudeville?


I liked the innocence. That was innocence. Then sin was introduced. I felt like it started with a lie but then maybe the lie was always there or always planning one day to show up. Because you entered in the midst of a play in progress and there you were. It never made much sense. They love you, sure, but then you’re all caught up in it anyway. You get a few years scot free then you get pulled in. Grow up.


I didn’t want to leave. I thought if I could hold on there a few more minutes I’d be OK. So I ran the five flights up onto the roof walked out to the edge and saw the whole city all the way to New York. But at that time of day when moments get darker and each time you turn your head the next thing disappears into the glare and all the outlines fade dimmer black on blue on midnight blue get lost in more electric orange lights. Fading in the glare darting thing to thing under the sound of traffic. You can’t keep track of it. My eyes kept shifting trying to hold on to it all at once but it’s no use and then the whole damn thing goes down and just sinks into dark while you watch. Then tosses the moon above into the night and it hangs there. Absolutely no control. I know there’s no hope. That’s when I know I’m going down. So I go down.


That’s when they brought me down then bring me home.