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Jenne’ R. Andrews: Ramsey Hill 1976


The building was long and listing,

brown brick leaning back

from patches of dry lawn,

when my cheeks were flushed

from Harvey’s, hands warm

in my pockets, out in the light snow,

over to view the vacant apartment

not far from my haunt,

the Commodore Hotel bar,

on that day.


See now how the seasons have become

whole years, indelible presents fading

to patterned past lives,

rolled together like vintage

paisley-stamped carpeting—

and not only the seasons

but the era we were living,


our hair let down, our long denim strides,

gaudy dreams ascending

then tangled in Old St. Paul’s

centurion trees, F. Scott’s problematic

residence in the long brownstone

rowhouse its own kind of ambience

and mental weather– mist and cobwebs

for an aesthete’s depression.




That day I dutifully climbed

three flights, unlocked the door

to the east light pouring in.


I went to the long casement windows

that opened to a Juliet balcony.

There was an oak tree whose branches

brushed the wrought iron railing—

enough room for one chair,

one poet. Once more, as I had,

all up and down Ramsey Hill,

I brought in what I had portaged

from the last cheap garret

overlooking the Mississippi.


I remember now what I had left

to fill that bruised and planked space,

to quell its echoes;

A sage velveteen couch

from Formerly Finnemans Antique Store

in Mahtomedi. My great-grandmother’s

spindly bird-s eye maple drop-leaf

writing desk, there in the corner—


the typewriter set up in frigid expectancy,

alphabet canines

in a non compos leer.

The brass bed given to me

was hauled up by friends,

assembled, fitted once more

with one in a dynasty

of stained box springs

overly christened and pocked mattress,

its tufts flattened.


Walt Whitman litho over the bed

harbinger of the body

straining to be known

and know itself.

Would my own midnight cryings out,

sedate neighbors passing by,

elicit a Bergmanesque rejoinder?


And the family crest

Mother had set over my crib

on Guadalupe Trail

back in Albuquerque,

bringing me home,

commencing brief idolatry

of her girl child

before vanishing, far gone

with Seagram’s madness

into the adobe sanitarium

on the infinite desert.




The crest was a severed hand

with a falcon perched upon it

within a shield–

a bird of prey whose amber eye

looked down at me in my crib,

a ribbon with the inscription

Deus Mihi Providebit.

and my name.


What made me hang it once more

to lie beneath it so vulnerably

in my ruthless nights?


As soon as there was music,

Brubeck or Snow, or before

I sat at the desk, Bach playing lowly

I would feel around the edges

of my new home, uncork

my last bottle of cheap red.


But then the surprises

that always come just when life

seems new again, recharged

by a tenuous settling in–\

Phebe Snow on the stereo

crooning San Francisco Bay Blues—


I, in early wine-burn

when my loneliness lagged

into apoetic solitude, nether rooms

softened by shadow—

my self-obsessed role at the time:

a gypsy long-hair

who excelled at dusting off

broken men, staunching my loneliness

with them, profaning

untrammeled and holy night.


After Snow it was Piaf

Je ne regrette rien

I sang along saltily

although salty regrets aplenty

coursed the veins of my being.




The first night in 339

the night hawks began

to wake and chur and arise

a whole cache of them

in the old oak tree—they rushed

aloft, with their odd little cries

making acrobatic love to the twilight.


When they flashed past

barely visible from the eye’s

wine-dulled corner,

I felt the nearness of others

in the nest in the oak trees,

the guy next door always in a hurry,

kind, driven, I thought,

in a half-running walk.

The young girl down the hall

Living in with an inscrutable man

who taught somewhere, or who

was what we called in those days

a community organizer.


It seemed only weeks

of settling into that place,

dressing at dawn,

digging the VW out of the snow,

off to school to poetize

before a sea of wide-eyed kids


that my father called me

begging me in a whisper

to come home.


It was not long after Christmas

when I had last braved the long interstate drive

from St. Paul to Colorado

to hold them, my broken parents

disappearing into their unruly clothing,

to rage at them, then drink,

and beg their forgiveness.


He had been going down with emphysema

for a decade. I had watched his

adaptation to retrograde merman,

his gaping mouth and gills

like a trout’s thrown back,

writhing on the hook of his disease,


He cajoled me in that whisper. But by then

I was welded to 339; I had found the pub

a short walk from the building, out the back door;

I had a Puerto Rican lover, a lawyer,

our long and desperate clenches

in the dark. Once he was sated and gone

I would go to the night hawks

praying they would sing to me

their reverie.


Nothing fixes anything, nothing

stays, climb, climb then to the stars


I heard them sing in a thin and high scree

the bel canto of tiny hearts with wings—

I knelt like Turandot in surrender,

tears ruining my grease paint.

It was true—he would die this time,

the nurse said.


Oh the locking of doors behind us,

the leavening of small measures of freedom,


how in 339 everything would seem

in its right place

and then at midnight

the immortal bat in the chinks

high in the closet I could not

evict from my life


would indubitably shake loose

his wings and drop

from the shelf, strafing

all of my tableaus in elation,

knocking my miniature Noah’s Ark

and its reassuring two by two

survivors of floodwaters to the floor,

I, occupant gone missing.

Copyright 2015 Jenne’ R. Andrews.



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This entry was posted on January 12, 2016 by in Poetry and tagged , .

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