Praise Sammy Tepper with the fiery red hair—scapegoat for bullies who taunt and tease to hear him squeal. Praise Etsio Goloni, Gas-station Joe, for his kind and toothless grin. Praise his wife, who makes red, white, and blue 4th of July cakes and his overweight daughter who calls old Mr. Le Tang, Monsieur. Praise the super, Mr. Murray, with his coke bottle glasses and green baseball cap. He chases the Gillen twins, in their underwear, from the laundry room to the bins. Praise Mr. Polant, who does not strike Dominic with his wooden hand when he catches Christine, his daughter, inspecting Dominic’s six-year-old body, dungarees down around his knees. Praise the young woman who takes her top off in the third-floor window of the Y, every evening at the same time, a headless angel swaying in her yellow box of light as adolescent boys shudder over themselves in the shadows. Praise tough Tony Eyeballs, of the Aces–he hears Mrs. Tepper’s shrieks and dashes into her apartment to find little Sammy thrashing and grinding his teeth on the yellow kitchen floor—praise Tony for cradling Sammy and lowering him into a tub of cool water. Praise Wild Bill Pleba, the pock-faced cop who lives in 5A. After the porter, Nathan, savagely beats two bikers who terrify his girlfriend Benadetta after she backs her car into their parked motorcycles, Wild Bill tells Nathan how to lie when the detectives come. Praise C.C. Morasco, “Lolita” of the Mount, and Debbie Boccio, who neighborhood mothers call cheap. Praise Mrs. Sprat and her granddaughters visiting from Kansas—they smell bright like lemons– and horse-faced Annie Hopkins from Oklahoma–she doesn’t belong. Praise unrequited passion, the flip side of desire, and hollow hallways where voices sound their acapella ache. Praise Wicked Pickett, Rubber Soul, and Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie… Praise the blacks and Italians of South Fulton for the gift of the edge. Praise the parry punch, Marshall’s egg creams, and the German Deli men selling the best potato salad in south M.V. Praise Tony Eyeballs—one more time—for standing up to massive Tommy Mantle when he lifts little Sammy off the ground by his ears. Praise the well-placed kick. Praise the cruel names that make kids tough. Praise Sleepy Eddie Foy, stealing change purses at Wilson Woods—did they break you yet, Eddie. And poor Vinny Bevilacqua still serving time after 30 years—never go along for the ride, son. Praise Billy Sullivan, dead at eighteen, car ablaze in front of the Dairy Bar on graduation night. Praise Nadine, whose face cruel boys press their hips against, her wall-eyed stare full of fear and sadness. Praise the drunks and the junkies, the kids sniffing glue down by the tracks. And Sammy, laying behind the bocci courts on the sparkling black macadam, cheek-down among hundreds of fallen chestnuts, one vacant hazel eye gazing up at the sky, his Captain America t-shirt twisted and stained with something dark, God have mercy.
Praise the dead’s knack for forgetting.
And the approximate act of re-membering—
And forgiveness.
Praise forgiveness.

Image credit:RahulPandit

Rick Pernod is fascinated with mixed media collaborations.  He is currently part of the mixed media group Pernod Medina (poetry, music, video/film), which is putting together a show for the Fall of 2022 in venues around NYC.  He also led the spoken word/music group House of Pernod for several years (listen on YouTube).

Rick has been published in numerous publications.  He was the founder and curator of Exoterica, a non-profit series that featured poets, authors, and musicians worldwide in several permanent locations around NYC.  He also was the curator for the music and art series at the Museum of New York, and he ran the National Arts Club/Con Edison Writing Scholarship Program for underserved communities.