‘July Arrested Me’

Studebaker_53

Big July arrested me
the little kid
with the skinny arms
urging the steering wheel
alone in the unlocked Studebaker
the sun exploding
off the taillight chrome
of the fat Buick parked ahead

Wanting so bad
to roll out into the world
I had only imagined
how it would feel
like sex probably
which I also
did not know
or flying

And I did somehow
when the brake released and
I began rolling backwards downhill
and for a long moment
was on a fear-struck joy ride
maybe the last of my little life
but I might see the farms of Iowa
wild horses
and the TV sunlight of California

If a rear tire hadn’t kissed the curb
setting me down hard from my cloud
back to rest on the East Bronx street
to the cry of “supper”

‘Wrecked Nash’

Upon viewing this beast, this tank, this dream of a car at a local auto show, I knew it was time to reprise this poem from my recent chapbook, “America, I’ll Have My Way With You,” followed by a rumination on the original experience, which appeared in a post here on 3/9/10.

Nash_Full Car

In the Wrecked Nash

Big stand of day lilies
in the July morning
the time when the trees
begin to hang

 
the country taxi
takes a bend on 23A
headed up the mountain

 
I was nine the summer
in Mahopac when the ambulance
came and took old man Figarelli
the guy who threw
hot water on the dogs
humping on the gravel roads
of the bungalow colony

 
later me and Leif
sat among the hornets
in the wrecked Nash
that listed in the weeds

 
we had the front seat
and the world
all to ourselves
the huge plastic wheel
the split windshield
the hot seats

 
we could make up anything
excursions to distant states
being Audie Murphy
home runs a mile high
deadmen flying through the trees

From ‘The Hot Ride’ (3/9/10)

A heat bomb hit me when I slid into my Chevy today, a welcome rapture after an icy winter in upstate New York. It took me right back to the tireless Nash that was heaped among the weeds in my boyhood, nested among toads and copperheads in a bungalow colony in Peekskill.

A James Deanish boy named Leif was my summer partner in crime. He was the true grit country boy, I, the city kid learning the ropes. We were just short of teenage, and that mechanical skeleton was our rocket to the moon.

We sat in the stultifying July sun, hornets circling; our souls exulted from the dusty upholstery scents as we took turns behind the hot steering wheel, the battered speedometer feeding our imaginations. The cracked and crazed sheet metal became a time machine, taking us on far journeys through states that were as yet unknown. Our young hearts baked and burned. Turn after turn, we explored, as if mapping out the rest of our lives.

I have no idea what happened to Leif after that summer. Year after year, my own soul baked on: in my father’s Studebaker, Dodge; in my first car, a 1948 Cadillac hearse. That black monolith took me to California and back twice, tracing every road I had imagined in that magical Nash.

It persists. I’ve since traveled the back roads of most states. I continue the journey every chance I get: Cross Creek, Savannah, New Orleans, Pueblo, Greensboro, Kansas City, Staunton, Barstow, Albuquerque. Somehow, it’s always just beginning, when the sun enwraps you behind the wheel.

America is in my blood, my bones, as evinced in my writing.

Shadow’s NY Times Story Included in ‘Best of 2015’

The piece I wrote as part of the New York Times “Walking New York” feature last spring is included in the Times feature: “2015: Our Best Visual Stories and Graphics.” The feature is published in today’s online edition.

To find my piece, click here, scroll down to the “Walking New York” story and search “Kovler”. Or, even simpler, click here, to read it (it’s a short piece) on this blog. I wrote this one under my given name, Allen Kovler vs. my penname, Allen Shadow.
Times_Best_2015

Ode to the Lost Motels of the Jersey Shore

Exploring Seaside Heights, N.J., for the first time, and, sadly, I find no treasure-trove of midcentury motels like there are in Wildwood. Here, as testament, is an image of a Jeffrey L. Neumann painting of the Seashell Motel in Wildwood and my poem on the same subject (total coincidence, but not surprising, since Jeffrey and I cover the same beat: lost America).

 

"Sea Shell," a painting by Jeffrey Neumann

“Sea Shell,” a painting by Jeffrey Neumann

CHECKOUT AT THE SEA SHELL MOTEL

the caramel room
at the Sea Shell Motel
dollar store palm prints
and nicotine sills

cheap rum hangs in the shaft of sun dust
hula lamps hold the afternoon

dealings have come and gone —
Greek families, pimps, divorcees,
schmuck runaways, suicide watches

music plays no more
only murmurings and distant trucks
the scent of the bulldozer

Shadow in Online Edition of The NY Times

Just to clarify, my story appears in the online version of the “Walking New York” Magazine feature in The Times, and doesn’t appear in the print edition. If you’re looking, click here and search “Kovler” in your browser to find it quickly.

NYT_Kovler

 

Shadow Published in New York Times

The New York Times published a piece I wrote as part of their Walking New York feature for this Sunday’s Magazine. In addition to a number of prominent writers, others were invited to submit a story of about 600 characters, and mine was one of few that made the cut.
NYT_Kovler
I wrote about a boyhood adventure along the Grand Concourse, in the Bronx:

The Grand Concourse, Near Tremont
By Allen Kovler (aka Allen Shadow)

At 13, my friend Sammy and I would hike up the Grand Concourse all the way to Mosholu Parkway on a hot, sunny Saturday, equipped as if on an explorer-worthy trek, cargo pants pockets stuffed with sundries, Army canteens smacking our hips as we marveled at the sights: the bric-a-brac stores on Burnside, the Loews Paradise, the bustle of Fordham Road, the eerie tranquility of Edgar Allan Poe’s cottage, the home for the blind. Exhausted, we’d mount a bus back, hanging from the windows, still thrilled.

The Story Behind the Novel ‘Hell City’

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was my debut thriller, “Hell City.” The Rap Sheet just published the story behind the novel. It’s all about how a boy with a car made of kitchen chairs drove around the world in his mind, then took his imagination on the road of life, steering it through stints as a poet, a newspaper reporter, a musician and, finally, a novelist.

“…half cows, men with blood-smeared aprons…”

Let’s go back to the era when this author was 5 years old, standing on a rooftop in West Harlem, marveling at the hard dark and light of the Meatpacking District while on a trip to my father’s bookkeeping office–trucks with half cows, men with blood-smeared aprons, crows wheeling under the vaulted girders of the West Side Highway viaduct. Then came the poems, during my college days and beyond. Poems that refracted the chiaroscuro of the city’s façades, the dolor of her teeming but lonely streets. Poems that found their way into many a small-press magazine, into chapbooks. Poems that caused Library Journal to cite my work for its “startling imagery.”

Along the way, I worked in the city’s warehouses, drove her cabs, wrote for her newspapers, and sang in her nightclubs. Her underbelly was my beat, forging a gritty, cinematic prose style.

Note: as part of a special promotion, my novel, “Hell City” can be downloaded free from the Kindle Store on Nov. 14 and 15 only.