Monday, May 14, 2018

A Decade of Discarded: Poems for My Apartments (Some Stories Behind the Poems)

Cover by James Conant, RIP.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Červená Barva Press announcing the release of my chapbook Discarded: Poems for My Apartments. I am grateful to Gloria Mindock that it's still available to purchase after all these years. For such a small collection, the poems gathered have more stories behind their making than most readers could possibly suspect. Today, I'll focus on someone who was inspiration behind the title piece.

Last year while cleaning out my closet, I found an note from a roommate in the last placed I lived. We're no longer in touch anymore, but an online search shows me that he seems to be doing well today. Not so much over a decade ago.

Back then I lived in South Boston. The apartment building I ended up in after a disastrous stint in Rhode Island had just been renovated, but they didn't do a good job. The water pipes for our split level were poorly insulated and froze often during the winter. After calling the plumber twice in the middle of the night, we kept at least one faucet running the minute the temperature dropped.

Before I came along in 2002, the people who took me in were originally going to rent out my room to students coming in from out of the country. The joke was on those two, and later me, as almost no one wanted to move to South Boston back then.

Even with access to the roof, taking prospective roomies up there just caused them to stare at the section 8 housing nearby. They'd ask if there was ever any trouble, throw in some other questions, then leave and never follow up.

It's likely that whoever is living in that building now is not only paying at least twice what we paid back in 2002 but also thrilled to do so, even though not much has changed (yet) in that neighborhood. It's amazing what the promise of gentrification does to young yuppies. /my resentment for them became evident in "Rat Poem" and other pieces I would later write.

By 2006, I was alone, unable to bring anyone in to live with me. The neighborhood turned people off, and the poor quality of the living space didn't help. The landlord must have known this, since he allowed me to stay there for a few months more, for the same third of the rent I paid when I first moved in.

But in 2005, I was able to bring in other roommates after the original two left. Before the end, it was me A yuppie wannabe waiting to move out of the city, and someone I'll just call Big Guy.

Big Guy was big, very strong and very quiet. Later I found out why he was quiet when he started to fall asleep with the lights and TV on, door open, booze bottles everywhere. Or as I put it in the poem "Discarded, " vodka bottles/ of ever-declining price." That line was true. The rest of the poem was me making suppositions about his sad state after he finally moved away.

But here's what I never included in the poem.
The door to my old place, street number withheld.

The last year of living in that apartment was stressful. I was still finding my footing at my then-new job, and things kept on...happening where we lived. One event took place during the day. I had to leave work early because Big Guy called me to tell me someone had broken into our place. The main door must have been unlocked or ajar, we surmised, because someone smashed through the locked door to our place. The person never went to any of our rooms. They just took an old pair of my sneakers in the hallway (which was weird) and ran off...apparently?

Another happening took place one night when my girlfriend was staying over. It was close to midnight, and we heard someone banging at our door, hard. I told my girlfriend to stay in my bedroom while I went to see what was going on.

It was Big Guy. Intoxicated and unable to find his keys. I let him in, he apologized for the noise (the most I ever heard him make), and that was the end of that. Ended as quickly as it started, which is why I didn't dwell on it.

Big Guy left shortly after that to take care of himself. He was the one who left the apology note. After that, I was left to finding a roommate, then later cleaning out the apartment, then finally finding a new home.

Not long after that, I had a new place to find and a host of of life events too numerous to list here. It would take me a long time to link those two events, to realize that Big Guy was probably the person who broke into the apartment, again not finding or forgetting his keys, bashing his way in and taking a ratty pair of shoes (and hopefully throwing them away) to throw suspicion off of him.

It's not much of a mystery to solve, but neither is why I'm happy to have lived alone for over ten years.

Come back for the fifteenth anniversary of Discarded, when I share with you court documents from my time in Brookline. Until then, support by buying a copy of the book if you can by clicking here.  

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