The  Beat: True Stories From the Streets

Page 12  Story and Poems by Harry Martin Polis
                Artwork by Jaynee Levy-Polis
Blah Blah the Snail
Blah blah the snail
He lived in a pail
And was drowned 
With an Ajax equal
Blah Blah was pale
A quite dead snail
And this poem
Will not have a sequel

The Man in The Iron Mask
The man in the iron mask
Was told to perform a task
He couldnít speak
No measured cheek
And no response was asked 
The man in the iron mask
In life he couldnít bask
Hide from sight
Nowhere for flight
And all his time was past
The man in the iron mask
Has left us all at last
No smile from lips
His sunken ship
His die was finally cast

Where I Was
I was,
where I was,
when I wasnít
I wasnít aware, 
when I was
I was all around
Then I skipped town
I was aware 
where I was

The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger
Never a stranger
He was my hero inside

When I was a Young Man
When I was a young man and wore younger clothes. 
I struck a position
And laid out my pose 
I wrote stories
And paid through the nose
In poetry, songs, and sad-lined prose
Where will I go?
And what will I be?
These were the words that were haunting me 
Now, I am older
The clothes are the same
And I really and truly
Have no one to blame
I still write my sayings
But not on a wall
People all tell me I still have the call

The Swimmies

 When I was a young boy, growing up in South Philly, I lived across the street from a city swimming pool.  In those days, the pools had wooden dressing rooms in which to change clothes.  Kids could swim for only 45 minutes a day because so many kids wanted to swim.  The recreation leaders wanted all the kids to get a chance to swim.  We would line up outside the pool.  The lifeguards would count the children and let in 100 kids.    The lifeguards checked to make sure our bathing suits were dry so that the same people couldnít get in to swim twice in a day.  In those days, we all had only one bathing suit, so we couldnít cheat.  However, in order to get around the dry bathing suit rule, some kids would go swimming, get dressed, and when they came out, theyíd throw their wet suits under passing cars to squeeze and dry them out. 
If they went early in the morning, then returned late in the afternoon, the lifeguards didnít recognize the kids.
When we got in, we sat on a wooden bench in the order of our numbers.  After each session, it took about a half hour to clear the pool.  If someone had an accident because they could not reach the bathroom in time, the pool closed for hours or didnít open again that day.  In addition to having only 45 minutes in the pool, the days alternated between girls and boys days.  That meant that I could swim only three days a week, and only during the day.  At 7:00 PM, only adults over 18 could swim. 
Thatís what it was like when I was growing up downtown.  There were lots of rules to control the numbers of kids participating in activities because of the huge number of baby boomers.  I was a war baby but my generation was effected by the crunch too because we were still growing up and wanted to use the pools and everything else that was available.  It was a very different time, maybe harder than now, but Iím glad I grew up then, and not now.  This time seems much more violent and frightening with less rules to guide us.  There is too much hate and self-indulgence.  I think itís a good thing to have rules that encourage us to share our resources, just the way the lifeguards used to do at the Swimmies.  Understanding that is a step toward loving one another and thatís the real McCoy. 
Copyright 2000 by Harry Martin Polis



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