Dian Cunningham Parrotta
Dian Cunningham Parrotta grew up in a working-class family, always liked flying on Brooklyn’s sea breezes and seagulls’ huah huah huahings to meet the adventures that each day living in Flatbush had to offer. Her poetry appears in Sonic Boom, Space and Time, Blue Collar Review, Flora’s Forum among others. Dian has two poetry books published and another two will be out this summer.
Growing Up Flatbush in the 60s
Getchya hot square potato knishes, hot dogs here, eking out a living that unlicensed vendor’s honest hustle’s old script-sales-bait pitches across the grandest Dreamland Park he knows and the Steeplechase and Lunar Parks too and along the under the board walk zone, the People’s Playground peddling below the rumbling thunderous roars of the armies of coaster rides & Scream Zone with Big Mamma Cyclone and the iconic memories of that wooden Switchback Railway that gravity pulled coaster’s ghostly shrieks in the winding-up Victrola carny music sounds Julius Fucik’s "Entrance of the Gladiators" and big band foxtrots’ “Fly Me to the Moon’s” 4/4 time beat long movements, like lovers, continuously falling, steps into stories, swings the Italian dark-skinned guy, goateed 40-something in mirrored aviator sunglasses with muscular tattooed forearms, the Coney Island Beach Vendor, in fly fishing gloves, dragging brown paper Gimbles-bags by and skirting around glorious bikinis sets on the two-piece beach of sun worshippers burrowing on top of beach blankets like oiled squirming fish waddle. Shirking and hollering out, Getchya hot square potato knishes. Hot, Getchya hot dogs. Hot knishes here. Arduous barefootsying round towels, boom boxes balancing on top of bags, the thermoses, umbrellas and sand chairs, like tracing crossword puzzles in sand or crisscrossing borders and boundaries navigating the narrows of nations. Hot potato knishes, gettem here. Getchya hot dogs. Hot knishes. A tall that big blonde, in that glitziest swimsuit, dragging, a lug, that ice chesting through, grooming smooth snow board trails, burying more cigarette butts than seashells there. Tanned, huge-bouncing boobs hanging big with a Marylyn-Monroe-singing-softly-voice, crooning chiseled short sexy trills of ice-cold orange creamsicles, popsicles, fudgsicles. Gotcha ice cold red, white and blue Rocket ice Pumps Pops. Iced cold cans of coke, root beer, orange sodas. And gotta Killem, these Ballantine beers blasts and gots cigarettes. Save me, one unsold cold one for Jimmy Gargiulo’s my man. The two wearing yellow-taxi-man Nickel-Plated Steel Money Changers with penny, nickel, dime and quarter barrels, swingin loosely on waistbands, round their bare bellies. Refracting splendid awe-inspiring masterpieces of stained-glass rainbows, scattering, like flying kaleido s c o p i c surfaces tilting against those heated wafting miscellaneous carnival Funnel Cakes, frying burgers, french fries, Coney’s Cones whiffing out sugar smoke into a swelteringly against the beach’s salty seawater smells. Aww, Coney Island, the buttress, a magical gem, a dreamland I used to know interwoven in the dithering washed out white noise of the vendors’ coins mixing with seagulls’ huah huah huah huah huah huah huah huah huoh
Ken, lock your car doors
Little Harlem in 1960s—where Haitian Black population boomed
It’s not the July Fourth without that Dad’s drive over to Bed-Stuy
for his yearly Firework-Package Pick Up to those row houses on MacDonough Street from limestones to the modest brick and brownstone in ordered row-house to building tenements and flats buildings blocks and blocks looking for Alopecia Dumont selling thrills of the firework matts, cherry bombs, ashcans, looking for the man not a hair on his head or eye lashes even selling flags and unstamped North Carolina cigarettes and those fireworks those Brocks. Bombshell Repeaters, standard dizzle dazzle bangs, screech owls and jumping jacks those C.T. Brock & Cos Crystal Palace Gun powder Super Dragons and sparklers down the alley ways those behind the scene’s secrets where the black girls wearing jequirity lady bug-beans jumping Double Dutch and laughing and me taking turning the rope in my brand new Beatlemania white go-go boots on with the Star-Spangled Banner on their Transistor radios and smelling the barbecue fires up for a block party later just like we’re gonna have the black man with the white face is sitting on the stoop smiling calling my daddy, my Cabby Red is here for the crackers. And the kids are playing in water in gutters in street under opened fire hydrants sprays to sprinklers blastings the tenement kids in underclothes and trunks.The hot streets smelling like those Black Snakes Firework Pellets they selling all big 12 in a bag, grows into a massive flaming tower on the side in the street as they burn a watery steam fluffing up-base on fire and glowing, carbon dioxide gas burning on tar resurrecting black ash wiggling up and the Grandmas looking out windows and some outside in pretty Karabela dresses with ruffles with ric rac serving bowls of peaches with canned evaporated milk cream with fried green sweet plantains and the little girls playing whipping hand smacking into screeching louder those clapping game songs with the same rhythm as of eenie meanie sassaleeny right there under that Serpentine weeping Cherry Tree twisting crawling branches diving back down into the alley way ground with foliage with bright green panicles with Caribbean archipelago planted intact to the sidewalks of colors smells teeming outdoor Kingston, Jamaica, Grenada to the sidewalks of New York that Haitian Creole heard then that Haitian lady and the Black American lady are fighting in the street and daddy says look away whispering they don’t like themselves that other lady says ohhhh yes you are talking to me so condescendingly with you reaching for that American Dream that ain’t never there for you black just like me and yanking the woman’s frills off her hand-Embroidery from her fresh cotton Caribbean’s pride there with ruff and lace torn off in the street black tar heat and that red and blue torn fabrics getting wet floating
by the open fire hydrant high-pressure sprays spurting skyward under the jumping children those crafty tenement kids.
at the cost of that weapon of surprise
RIP Young Douglas Johnson 1954-1966
They must have demolished the good old Marine Park Movie Theater, used to be right here, all dressed up in red velvet curtains, an aura of majesty demanding all its patrons be on their best behavior—People used to whisper and act all like they were in church. Uniformed ushers, ashtrays, double feature plus a cartoon. Yeah, Pink Panther. Bugs Bunny. Popeye the Sailor Man! He’s Popeye the Sailor Man/He’s strong to the finish, cause he eats his spinach/ He’s Popeye the Sailor Man! It used to be right here. The redolent evocative smell of copper festering from a broken film tape flapping, film burning up or film break or scratch or they gotta change the reels of the spinning top rotating and wobbling as the projector wheel keeps herky-jerking raw and that reminds of-of that lingering metallic smell down avenue L and Nostrand as the small spindly body of a boy a school boy dragging on the back right wheel well of the bus slapping.
The banging of pots, pot covers, metal spoons on pans back to Flatbush we go
Saying goodbye to Grandpa John, Grandma-GB and Aunt Judy was more than just an obstructive choke in the throat. It was more than just holding back the tears. It was the not knowing when we will be able to get back like always maybe next summer. And now I see it was not the three-hour ride that was the difficult part; it was the finding a car that worked for three hours straight there to Saugerties, and back to Flatbush, Brooklyn and it was Dad being able to get the vacation days off all in a row.There, the three stood, in the road with their hidden instruments behind their backs.We all packed in the station wagon with the suitcases and the pillows and the spreading out bedsheets in the back and in the road where Grandpa in his pajamas and Grandma’s beginning to bang pot covers on kitchen pots and Aunty Jewels holding the pan with a metal spoon behind her back looking like proud drummers dressed in cotton robes and slippers they stood out in the middle of the country road belt-bash-biff-blow bopping until we couldn’t see them anymore belt-bash-biff-blow bopping until we couldn’t hear them anymore and that lump knobby in the throat lasted till we were far passed old Elden’s gas station and heard mom and dad’s flying wind-muted talkings about Elden’s last senile moments outside without any clothes or shoes on like how the winter trees etched, displaying limbs stripped naked, clean and sharp against the frozen landscape. Elden found the unfurling of that hoary winter’s snow-covered roads with temperatures of zero and below and the chilling wind sighing through the grip.
oh, irrevocable Flatbush in the 60s
There were drugs in the 60s in Brooklyn across the street from Navaare Pharmacy
where this big kid Mike Oburn lived inside that apartment was filled with the big high school kids that smoked pot and hashish, snorting heroin nickel bags, and some shooting up. Kip was a drug addict with swollen arms with needle holes and fat legs that could hardly walk. He is a drug addict, the kids would say walking slowly like in a floating cloud down Avenue M. I said, hi Kip acting like I am big because next year I will be an 8th grader and me wearing my Nehru paisley shirt and rushing back to the school yard to hang out in hope my teacher, Mr. Dorr, passes by me and I say, hi Mr. Dorr, with my Hippi mandarin collar on, cool like when I had said, hi Kip on my way down M and felt he was like the mayor of the avenue and that I could say hi to the slow walking monster. He said, go up to Mike’s place; he’s stopped breathing. And I walked up the flight of stairs to see and there an ashen pallor or pale a grayish- blue a metalic skin the tall Mike spread out on the floor all so fart smelling stinky. My shoes stamped double sounds loud in a stairwell, echoing clip-clops clattering down the steps, with rapid shallow breathing breaths. I ran back down Avenue M without stopping and flew up the front foyer to my Grandma Tessy’s always inside her kitchen in her house-dress apron on watching over the meatballs slowly fry simmering and says all lovingly come sit with me. And we both watch and listen to the same wet slap percolator coffee maker idling with me thinking about his breathless moments