Praise Song For a Fifth Floor Walk-Up, Holyoke MA 1965 – Sally Bellerose

Praise the broom sweeping cracked linoleum
On the faded kitchen floor
Praise the scratches on Antoine’s almost eighteen-year-old knees
The scrapes across Janine’s just-turned-fifteen back and ass
Praise the fist of Old Man Wallowitz
Who lives below banging
On the apartment’s only lockable door
Praise the old man’s broken English
His extra-syllabled Who ors, Who ors, Who ors
Praise the witch hazel
From Zavala’s bodega-turned-drug store
Praise the pot and Hamden Ale
That keep Antoine and Janine from going crazy-bored
Praise the statutory laws as yet unwritten
Nowhere in this tenement employed
Praise the holy yokes
As yet unbroken
Of their joy
Praise the mighty trunks of Dwight and Suffolk
Elm and Oak Streets
Their branches reaching
Their leaves unfurling
Shadowing the tenements
Praise the morning hiss and spit
Of radiators    their warming sweat
The smell of gardenia  rose  and lily
Garlic rising and descending
With every old lady’s step
Praise the whistle blowing
The boy who thinks he’s a man running to the mill
Where the pulp already pounded into paper
Waits to be loaded onto forklifts
Praise the canal rats that splash
And speak their chittering language
Every boss
Line worker
Pregnant fifteen year-old girl
And rodent
Who ever stood or sat
Or rutted on the factory floor


Sally Bellerose: My writing has always involved themes of lesbian identity, sexuality, illness, and class.  Whether I’m writing about my parents, my own parenting, growing up in the 60’s, nursing, love, friendship, whatever, the basic themes don’t seem to change.  The more I write, the more interested I become in the messy, confusing, and complicated relationships of anger, humor, and transcendence. My  awards include a Fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts, The Barbara Deming Prize, and The Rick DeMarinis Award.  My work appears in a call to nursing, Crab Orchard Review, The Sun, Naugatuck River Review, Cutthroat, Per Contra, and dozens of other publications.  My novel, The Girls Club won the Bywater Prize and was published by Bywater Books in 2011.

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