Things To Do In Jamaica Plain – a reprieve

Please note: this is not journalism (exactly true per se), but rather a prose poem that I performed some in Boulder, Colorado in 1994-95…and then published in a magazine at Harvard University .

Things To Do In Jamaica Plain

Connie painted that mural on the wall of the fish market.  The one with the big happy multicultural family in JP.  Everyone buys her cards and T shirts and thinks they’re lucky to have such a great local artist.  She hates me.

These lesbians I forget their names want to be known as The Lesbians of JP.  They have synthesizers, televisions and cartons of cigarettes in their apartment. They inhale with their noses and mouths and talk about art like it’s a board game written in Portuguese.  They pretend to be characters from a Tarot deck and all I can do is cough from the smoke.  Therese slept with them all then moved to Cambridge.

Jane’s at the Art Mart.  She says,” I painted all the platforms red and now everyone’s coming in.  And I made new labels: the Our Lady of Lourdes Bath Salts, the San José love potions, the dog chains.  I swept the floor.  I even washed the damned windows.”

C. Shafton lives up to his name.  He’s a lawyer and everyone’s a victim except for the women who rent an apartment from him.  He once screamed

to the judge in court, “Your Honor.  You’re cutting me off at the knees!”  His daughter looks like a thumb with long dark hair.  His wife wishes she were an actress because her accent is great.  She practices a lot on the witness stand.

Peter wants to get acquainted in the neighborhood so he got a job selling bagels.  He draws nothing but boxes in ink, in pencil.  He sings Me and Julio Downby the School Yard in different octaves, like a medley.  He’s off his lithium.

Groovy Andy is not as handsome as he thinks.  He has a band with a guy from Colombia and a woman who’s black.  His specialty is careful world beat music.  Once he brought Mr. Rogers out to the neighborhood to tape a show in the old firehouse.  Marsha says Andy’s thing is really dinky.

Stephanie lost her cat and put signs up all over:

“Have you seen Ralph?  Did you lock him up in your garage or basement?  He does not meow or cry, so please check before he stinks up your place by defecating or dying. You’ll be glad you did!”

She put our phone number on them even though technically she no longer lives with us.  She lives with her boyfriend who hears voices in his bowels.  He forbade her to live with us any longer although she still pays rent here.  When Stephanie comes to pick up her mail she always has to    think a moment before greeting me.

Ken knows my phone number by heart because it’s his job.  I once asked him to recommend a good movie and he said,  “You’ve already seen High Tide, right?”  He was wearing a black T-shirt that said, “Fuck Art, Let’s Dance,” when he asked me, “Have you seen Ralph?”

Fatai when he broke up with me moved to JP to be with his French girlfriend who paints watercolors on Sundays along the Charles.  She has black rings under her eyes and I once remarked to Mei Ping, “She looks really unhappy,” and Meip said, “Oh, she’s just pretending to be an artist!” They moved to a small house with vines growing all over the brick.  They don’t eat ice cream or go to Friendly Pizza Place, though.  This place is not as small as I’d feared.

Mei Ping is a psycho magnet: guys with new shoes and urine soaked clothing try talking to her all the time.  “Hey China girl.  Hey Asian delicacy.”  She screams, “Ning Ning,” and then they don’t know what to say.

Toni’s having a baby.  Jane got out some paint and Toni became a town, her breasts the clouds, her bulging belly a mountain on which two houses waited. The houses in our neighborhood are too close for their taste, although they think the colors  purple, pink even brown with orange, work.

We were a parade, walking Jane’s papier maché women over to the newly cleaned Art Mart. They had antlers and were six feet tall.  Cars slowed, turned their tin and boom music down.  I wanted to create something beautiful but my talent was in lugging the women.  I made sure they didn’t fall off the wagon onto the sidewalk. I told the passersby, “Look everyone! I know the woman who made these.”

–The Dudley Review, vol 3, no 2, Spring 1996
–photo used with kind permission by Lars C. Knakkergaard.  You can view his site here –

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