[Reminiscences of the building where I grew up.]

The Basement of 201 Linden Boulevard, Brooklyn, 1955

The Basement

Nobody shouts in the basement.
Gray. Everywhere gray.
Bare bulbs’ blinding light sucked greedily into the walls,
the gritty floor.
Even the metal elevator doors have turned dull.

Six floors above I shower in sunlight.

The Laundry Room

We all meet here.
Big people talk to me.
Ten cents and some powder
buys foam, swirling colors,
more exciting than TV
except when the Dodgers are on.

We also meet here for Civil Defense.
I am a warden. My job:
knocking on doors
telling people there is a drill
or a bomb
wearing a paper hat
trying not to get laughed at too much.

The Super’s House

Gruff stubbly black gnome
alone in his lair
welcomes me in to see the books people leave.
He sells newspapers and books
but I look first.
Never asks for anything.
Am I the only one who visits?

The Storage Room

Mysterious riches lurk behind a huge menacing padlock.
I am never let in.
My punchball friends joke about gold
but they don’t know either.
I have never seen it open.
Nobody has.
Old furniture, we guess.
Maybe it’s even empty.


No kid could ring all the bells in this house.
Mrs. Solvay, in the Information Booth,
has Tootsie Rolls for everyone.
Then we go around ringing
in our plastic masks.
I go to the basement,
ring the Super’s door.
Trick or treat!
He hands me a nickle without smiling.

The Roof in Summer

On hot days
smell the tar
sticking to your shoes
but we brought up picnic chairs
to get the tangy air.
At night
the lights of Ebbets Field
and when a Dodger hit one
the crowd roaring like the ocean at Brighton Beach.

The Bicycle Room

The key releases me from our block.
On my Schwinn three-speed
I am minutes from the Park
where I fly on wheels to the lake
greeted by squirrels, pigeons, ducks
counting on me for peanuts.
They understand me better
than my punchball friends
who call me Four Eyes.

The birds fly free
like the ones I will live among someday.

Leslie Gerber 9-10/03

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