Two excerpts from "Jersey Street" by David Garvin:


We walked back to our part of the district and settled on some suds and smoke, the streets silent and fluorescent lit.
The fiery death blush of autumn leaves swinging in these skinny trees was the only color in the gray and metal corridors of buildings, so we cut them down while we drank, Das sawing on their trunks with his knife, the night passing on as we filled it with words.
Home was where I got to go after awhile, liste'n to my Mamma's sleep racket in the darkness of the crib, share'n my night with no one. That's soft stuff, girl stuff, pussy soft, share with me, social worker soft. Me thinking on this made an anger in me which I liked, which I felt hard. Soft ain't in me, ain't me 't all. I share what's inside my skin with no person, no body, nor fill no ear with soft words. I had to get some sleep though, 'cause day soon school go the boy hard and inside tight.
My school is. Dang and Das met me up and we hung at the candy store front, the rag heads inside pushing sweet stuff and cigarettes till the bell did. My school is. I had to go and class awhile 'cause the state smooch my old lays gets is hooked to my being there least the city send round a snitch which wants to know why the boy ain't a lear'n boy. I take a couple of desk for myself 'cause I gots to sprawl, lean'n back waiting for it all. A Miss with big flesh and a tiny voice talks at the class, who talk to one another, while I watch her move, thinking about her flesh. Look at me the Miss won't do, her eyes staying down, floor down, not even look'n round where I angle myself, a foot here, an arm there, like a kite of limbs, as the class talks louder and louder and the Miss talks by herself, to herself, hoping to get through to who ain't listening no how.
See, they ain't noth'n here to learn no more. The books lie, the teachers hold on 'cause of their jobs, the class is just a place where you be till you're old enough to go. The cops want to keep you off the streets, that's all, until there be a prison ready for you get sent to. It's easy, like one and one is two easy, 'cause you live in a steel project, you school in a big house with bars on the window, fat, pasty, face Miss's and Misters worry over you while keep'n you under guard, and if you want something you have to take it for your own self.


The house I know is empty-cold, still-chill, a deserted place, with silence on the dinner table. Mamma don't answer to no name no more as I clump through the room tomb know'n she be good n'gone. Gone from the closet her charity clothes goes she with the suit case packed tak'n the be I not never com'n back trip like she got good sense, believ'n in a world out there that be given a shit. She'll cry shelter for a bit, till the strong drive out the weak. She'll sleep in the street-ways, subways, hallways, hunched up and stink'n, mostly eat'n at the table of the rats, soon she be dead, someplace and glad of it. Always beat, meek, took the heat and the smashed face way as due her. Sit'n, stiffen'n as the old man come in, her know'n him hits, whimper'n bitch like so he'd punch her up no more. Wait'n she was good with: Wait'n in the fare well office, wait'n in the food line, wait'n silent and still, for food, smell'n sour and beat, her cough'n lungs painted cigarette red. Wore she mostly a long dress stained, clutch'n at penny change, count'n out each cent as if it be her job and she be good at it. Her nickel world of can goods sales, a dime on some rice, quarters barters some chicken parts, always clink'n short at the register, wring'n them coins till they cried. Mamma's milk was San-O-Lac, factory smack of sugar suck, all us kids ate at it, got raised on it; San-O-Lac, jelly meat, jars of sweet, spooned in daily. She born me, my Mamma, but be'n born is for die'n only, 'cause you wants to get away from all that liv'n means: eat shame, disrespect, spice your life with begg'n, learn that the sneers are for you that the people share when they see you on the avenue, drink pain in your Mamma's milk, her know'n you is go'n to the lock down 'fore she can get your diaper changed, she stopped be'n a Mamma 'fore she got to begin.

 

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