GOD AND THE FIFTIES - Don Marquis Poems


Poems » don marquis » god and the fifties


It was shady deals and
Connie Francis on jukebox
junipers and chevy convertibles
parked outside Dino's restaurant;
it was brighter skies, manageable
skyscrapers, gang-fights and Kennedy;
it was gambling at Atlantic City with
the Four Seasons, it was crabs and
Johnny Unitas and Connie Arena who
teased my heart through ten school
years, her father practicing race-track
cornet every day driving us nuts on
such bored summers of tee-shirts
with cigarette packs at the sleeve and
Beachboys and weights.

It was romance, people taking
Peyton Place seriously, of miniature golf
and trampolines, of barbecuing with the
mob on Chesapeake Bay, of drums and
Brylcream and hairspray and the
scents of night in parked cars and alleyways.

It was the girls I never had and did have,
and Ben Hur at the Paramount, Rome Adventure
at the Patterson, Sandra Dee walking
around everywhere, and Frankie and Dion,
it was October skies falling
with promise and spring like an unhatched
easter egg, Christmas with train-sets out of Ideal
magazine, Nat Cole singing White Christmas

ending gang-fights and hits for the night.
It was sneaking out to a night of
tire screech and bushes and hushed love.
Of holding hands forever until time whacked you
in the back of the head, time, the real ruffian,
not Butch, not the Dundalk boys, but time, that guy
who said we had forever to comb our bangs and
get the Orioles tickets and cruise the Fatima dance;
it was time. It was time beyond waiting for your date
and plotting the jump on suckers, and waiting for
three o-clock school bells. It was time like a foreign
animal that killed us.

But there was God too, beyond the maverick
and the delinquent, the crazy, the dice, the
fighting, the lunacy of girls behind the bowling alley,
under the fabric of fat ladies in salons and stevedores,
and black vendors at Fell's Point; inside the dance of
music of the Rat Pack and the myths of Liberty Bells
and Camelot and Sun Valley and Niagara moons,
and death arriving at Johns Hopkins and bocce balls
on August nights in the mesh of living, the haphazard
desperate living, to satisfy, to have, to love, to hold
your dream to the words of your favourite song, there
was this God, holding the foreign animal back, holding him
by his heels, holding him back from
the kisses of Vivian, holding him back, holding him
back from the good and the bad, God and his
inimitable good nature, leaving us with illusion,
that grandest of gifts, the illusion of everything
like the taste of a candy-apple.

It was that, the rich, confused, carnival feel
of rooms that were scary and perfumed, and it was
something any real God would have given us and we took it
in stride, and sang him easter songs and
carols and went on living.

We took nothing seriously,
and he wanted it that way, the God we had,
talking in chrome glint and pastels and
sunsets that had lyrics.
It was the sense of that, of a juggler who
dropped a ball and laughed, of a father
whose business was letting us out.

There was this God,
and shady deals and Fabian,
and terror in the schoolyard and things we
later called scars but were like the
Colorado River carving the heart.
There was this God
who saw romance in the meanest efforts
to love him. There was this
God who made all things His in
our wrestling.