Red Brick Road

The search for my American roots begins in Boston:
Beantown, Cradle of Liberty, City on a Hill, the Hub, the Walking City.
And we do, you know—walk, that is.

We walk to and from our homes and jobs, our baseball games and the library, the Hatch Shell and our neighborhood bars,
We walk from the South End to the North End—Ireland to Italy—
Marching our way through the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Green-blue fingers of winding water walk their way inland from Massachusetts Bay,
Pooling in marshes, feeding the Fen Gardens, swelling the land lush with muck and reeds—
Boston is not the Breadbasket but the Fertile Bog of America.

Her streets are framed with undulating red sidewalks, burping skyward from the marinating fill below,
A carpet of uneven cobblestones makes narrow streets into pocket parks where children frolic like in the movies,
Kicking cans and playing hide-and-seek, crouching behind corners and gurgling fountains as I stroll home from dinner, my heels echoing on the bricks like horse hooves.

Hundred-year-old trees bend over Worcester Street, their tops taller than the three-story brownstones they shade,
Housing all manner of birds—a host of sparrows, a murder of crows—
Who cheep and caw and spring from branch to branch, gamboling in the dappled sunlight overhead.

The breeze moistens everything with relentless humidity, lukewarm and sticky,
Leaving little wet kisses on my collarbones and the backs of my knees as honey bees dab in and out of the community gardens,
Vaulting in arcs over old stone walls, tapping gently at color and fragrance, trading sweetness for potency at every pause.

Just past nine, the sun lets off a final flare of strawberry gold—
Bursting bombs of solar firelight penetrate the tree canopy, staining my retinas with after-images;
Blotchy and black, I can’t discern between them and the depths of the surrounding leaves.

I climb fifteen steep stairs from the street and turn the key, throwing my body against the heavy outer door, swollen shut like a fresh shiner on a kid from Roxbury;
When it closes behind me, I’m greeted by a call of welcome from Maya on the landing above.
I ascend the curling staircase of carpeted steps, running my hand along the polished wood as I travel up, up, up… the day’s walk is nearly done.

I step across Oriental rugs to collapse on the divan, resting back on the pert green velvet as Boston speaks to me,
Blurting bursts of jazz as the door opens and closes at Wally’s, whispering in the whoosh of taxis ferrying drunk students back to Cambridge,
Sputtering between silence and conversation as couples pause to kiss on the street below, embracing in the growing dark.

After midnight, I ascend the open staircase to my final destination: the yellow bedroom at the top of the house.
In Boston, there are no crickets to sing me to sleep, only rushes of air and police sirens punctuated by sporadic shouts and
The vague clattering of neighbors opening screen doors and pacing on terraces, smoking one last cigarette for the evening.

The twinkling lights of the Pru remind me that Boston never really sleeps, even if we do.
I lay back against the damp breeze wafting through the open window, peering through the skylight to wish the moon goodnight;
My feet and eyelids heavy as sandbags, my heart buoyant and bright.

2 thoughts on “Red Brick Road

  1. I’m really happy that you had a chance to stay in the neighborhood on the border of the Back Bay and South End. You can really see the old, historic Boston pulled into the modern world. It is a feeling that may be common in Europe, but it is quite unique here in the new world.

  2. Lovely piece! The only mention missing was one about the canolli (sp?) in the N. End….to die for, I guarantee.

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