Park Ex, by Silvia Fiorita-Smith

publié le 14 août 2020 à 11:44 par Sasha Dyck   [ mis à jour : 14 août 2020 à 12:06 ]
Where did you grow up?
I answer Park Extension,
Eyes widen, jaw drops,
You don't look so tough!
Oh, but I am...
And unpretentious too,
In my neighbourhood,
We spoke our mind,
Mothers screeched in a dozen 
Different tongues,
Home now or you'll get it!
No family secrets,
Arguments resolved on balconies,
Where we spent summer vacations,
Peeling away at grey chipped paint,
While we slurped dripping purple Popsicles,
Bubble gum blowing contests,
Reading Marvel comics
And swapping hockey cards,
Dickie Moore one of our own,
Hot like hell in the middle of a city,
Where the air doesn't move,
Trapped in concrete,
No one has a lawn but
Every backyard is overrun with
Beans and tomato plants,
One kid, the blond English one,
Actually owns a bike,
He gets to ride after we all
Take a turn,
One girl on each block owns
A pair of rollerskates,
She never knew what it was like
To skate on both of them,
I had the only wading pool,
Six of us squished in
And barely got our feet wet,
Shake a few apples
Down from someone's tree
Then run like the dickens,
Please no more sour green apples,
Sick to our stomachs
With pirated treasure,
No one phoned ahead,
Everyone just showed up,
My house was Central Station,
My Mom fed half the population
On our street,
An old man stopped by everyday
For his espresso and Italian sandwich,
No idea who he was or where he came from,
He just came and went and then disappeared forever,
We didn't know names,
Everyone had a moniker,
The Polish lady
Across the lane, the crazy family,
The Mayor of Jungleville,
The Queen of Sheba,
We knew instantly who they were,
Kids ran amok the busy streets,
Stinkbombs in the Legion,
Hide and seek until midnight,
Dads swilling cold ones
Molson Export Ale,
In between drags of Export A,
Bike deliveries from the grocery store,
Horror movies in the church hall
Saturday matinees,
The one bad boy we all looked up to,
Offering a ride to school
In a stolen car,
5 cent bags of candy
From Beliveau's on the way
Back from school,
Ducking frozen snowballs,
Crossing traffic at the age of seven,
Only heard of one kid being hit
The whole time I was there,
The Catholics in Catholic schools,
Everyone else in Barclay's,
The Protestant stronghold
Even if you were Jewish,
No distinctions anywhere else,
We hung out with each other,
No religion, race or language mattered,
Except the one time we tormented
The French girl who ran from us,
And dropped her ice cream cones
Splat, all over the cracked sidewalk
She tripped on,
Her whole family showed up to protest
And I tried my best to live it down,
We got along after that,
I soon knew how it was to feel
Marginalized and pushed aside,
The famous fence went up
Along the length of L' Acadie,
The townies claimed it was to
Keep their youngsters safe,
It was the sign that showed up
The disparate lives we led,
On one side the big rich houses
And on the other the working class,
It didn't keep us out....if anything 
It was a lure, 
Then finally it happened,
The boys of summer saved us,
Crowds milled through Park Ex,
Off the 80 and onto St. Roch,
Past the piggery, scaling the overpass
We were there in '69,
Learned all about America's 
Favourite pastime,
Heard accents from Louisiana
And Arkansas and other exotic places,
Sat in Jonesville and cheered them on,
Like old pros we were,
Then they blew away like dust,
And moved onto bigger and better,
Like those in the old neighbourhood,
Who scrimped and saved their pennies
To stop renting....buying homes after 
Years in factories or building roads,
And seeing how the other side of the fence lived,
Desiring a little corner of their own,
I left only to get married at 
The age of 24,
Park Ex followed me,
It is not a place really,
But a state of mind,
An experience that becomes you,
My parents stayed on,
My children getting a glimpse
Of what made me who I am,
I grew up in Park Extension,
Grew older somewhere else.

Copyright Silvia Fiorita-Smith
August 14, 2020

Boys in Park Ex, 1969
Photo from 1969 by Mary Pappas Pagano