God and the Fifties

Original Text: 
Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, Living in Paradise: New and Selected Poems (Toronto: Manfield Press, 2001): 143-45.
1It was shady deals and
5it was brighter skies, manageable
7it was gambling at Atlantic City with
10teased my heart through ten school
11years, her father practicing race-track
12cornet every day driving us nuts on
13such bored summers of tee-shirts
14with cigarette packs at the sleeve and
16It was romance, people taking
18and trampolines, of barbecuing with the
21scents of night in parked cars and alleyways.
22It was the girls I never had and did have,
26it was October skies falling
27with promise and spring like an unhatched
28easter egg, Christmas with train-sets out of Ideal
30ending gang-fights and hits for the night.
31It was sneaking out to a night of
32tire screech and bushes and hushed love.
33Of holding hands forever until time whacked you
34in the back of the head, time, the real ruffian,
36who said we had forever to comb our bangs and
38it was time. It was time beyond waiting for your date
39and plotting the jump on suckers, and waiting for
40three o-clock school bells. It was time like a foreign
41animal that killed us.
42But there was God too, beyond the maverick
43and the delinquent, the crazy, the dice, the
44fighting, the lunacy of girls behind the bowling alley,
45under the fabric of fat ladies in salons and stevedores,
50on August nights in the mesh of living, the haphazard
51desperate living, to satisfy, to have, to love, to hold
52your dream to the words of your favourite song, there
53was this God, holding the foreign animal back, holding him
54by his heels, holding him back from
55the kisses of Vivian, holding him back, holding him
56back from the good and the bad, God and his
57inimitable good nature, leaving us with illusion,
58that grandest of gifts, the illusion of everything
59like the taste of a candy-apple.
60It was that, the rich, confused, carnival feel
61of rooms that were scary and perfumed, and it was
62something any real God would have given us and we took it
63in stride, and sang him easter songs and
64carols and went on living.
65We took nothing seriously,
66and he wanted it that way, the God we had,
67talking in chrome glint and pastels and
68sunsets that had lyrics.
69It was the sense of that, of a juggler who
70dropped a ball and laughed, of a father
71whose business was letting us out.
72There was this God,
74and terror in the schoolyard and things we
75later called scars but were like the
76Colorado River carving the heart.
77There was this God
78who saw romance in the meanest efforts
79to love him. There was this
80God who made all things His in

Notes

2] Connie Francis: born Concetta Rosemarie Franconero, a popular US Italian female singer of the 1950s and 1960s, famous for such songs as "Who's Sorry Now" and "Mama." Back to Line
3] junipers: evergreen shrubs. chevy: Chevrolet. Back to Line
4] Dino's restaurant: Hollywood eatery named after Dean Martin, the popular US singer and comedy partner of Jerry Lewis. Back to Line
6] Kennedy: John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Back to Line
8] Four Seasons: US vocal group featuring Frankie Valli, hugely popular in the 1960s, with songs such as "Ain't That a Shame" and "Marlena." Back to Line
9] Johnny Unitas: Baltimore Colts player (1933-2002), named the greatest football player of all time. Back to Line
15] Beachboys: the main US competition to the Four Seasons as popular US vocal group. Back to Line
17] Peyton Place: a TV soap opera on sex and love in America broadcast in 524 half-hour episodes between 1965 and 1969. Back to Line
19] Chesapeake Bay: a 180-mile estuary from southernmost Virginia to northernmost Maryland, home to thousands of species of animal and plant life. Back to Line
20] Brylcream: hair cream with the advertising slogan, "A littl' dab will do ya'", used by many American men before long hair, crew-cuts, and unisex cuts became popular. Back to Line
23] Ben Hur: film starring Charlton Heston (1959). the Paramount: Baltimore movie theatre erected in the 1940s on Belair Road, now turned into offices. Rome Adventure: romantic film (1962) starring Suzanne Pleshette, Troy Donahue, and Rossano Brazzi. Back to Line
24] the Patterson: a movie theatre (now unused and in renovation) in Highlandtown, Baltimore, with an impressive vertical marquee. Sandra Dee: teenage actress of the late 1950s and 1960s, star of films such as Gigit and A Summer Place (1959). Back to Line
25] Frankie Valli of The Four Seasons, and Dion DiMucci, lead singer with such groups as the Belmonts and the Del Satins. Back to Line
29] Nat Cole: Nat King Cole, black vocalist (1919-65), whose "Christmas Song" was about as famous as Bing Crosby's "White Christmas." Back to Line
35] Dundalk: city east of Baltimore. Back to Line
37] Orioles: Baltimore's major league baseball team. Fatima: Our Lady of Fatima (Catholic) School, 6400 East Pratt Street, Baltimore. Back to Line
46] Fell's Point: a waterfront historic community in Baltimore, with a Recreation Pier. Back to Line
47] Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Peter Lawford, entertainer-friends of the Kennedys. Liberty Bells: perhaps the specialty chocolates. Back to Line
48] Camelot: a name given to the White House when John F. Kennedy was President, 1960-63. Sun Valley: an Idaho resort. Back to Line
49] Johns Hopkins: the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. bocce: Italian game of bowling, on a lawn or dirt court. Back to Line
73] Fabian: Fabian Forte (1943-), a teenage singing idol of the 1950s and 1960s, known for songs like "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter." Back to Line
81] Jacob wrestled with an angel who, unable to defeat him, dislocated his hip and yet, when Jacob refused to let go, had to bless him (Genesis 32:24; Hosea 12:3-4). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
2001
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2003
Rhyme: 
Special Copyright: 

Copyright Pier Giorgio Di Cicco 2001