Lackawanna Poems

I’ve written several plus poems that have something to do with Lackawanna (NY). Some are done. Some are perpetually in progress. Here are three:

Map to Gramma’s Grave

Salvador said
come see
come help
clean, maintain
the common cemetery
somos muy comunitarios
together, we care for our own

la comunidad Clavijo Abajo
a scattering of huts
loosely drawn to a dirt highway
at the base of the foothills
of the Cordillera Central

sweeping dust, pulling weeds
straightening head stones
without us
our dead
would disappear

back home
it’s a solitary ritual
it’s now my turn
to tend the graves
soy muy familiero

pry the markers
pour 3 inches of sand
then gravel
reset them,

more than three decades
since I visited their plots
Uncle Clayton
was too old to say

I found them
buried under
a lifetime of memory

near Lackawanna’s center
in the shadow of the Basilica
in Glorious Mysteries
of the Rosary Shrine

from the NW corner sign
37 paces towards
the center obelisk
turn left and follow
diagonally laid stones
many receding
subsumed by gravity
and the loss of family

seven and a half paces
and there
gramma, grampa
      and Aunt Wawie
because she had nowhere else to go

© 2006-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

Sugar Straw

On Saturdays
the mall is still mobbed
crawling with security
protecting shoppers
from changing
demographics , and
teens, being teens
black, brown, and white
strategically stationed
throughout the concourses

near an exit
4 Lackawanna girls
once Irish, then Italian
now Yemeni
squeeze together
waiting for their ride
black and floral satin hijabs
lean in excitedly
for the latest

then the youngest
throws back her head
trying to get every last grain
from a sugar straw

© 2018-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar


by ship they came
Italy to Lovejoy
breathe in
the fuel of work

rounding the corner
William to Bailey,
the sweet heavy cloud
of hauling

wheel spins center
Iron Island to Route 62
clutch, shift, release,

motors rumble like grampa
South Buffalo to Lackawanna
before the steel mill
heart attack took him

moving product to market
reminded of the open road
carrying me and once exotic fruit
to port and home

© 2012-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar