This funky pizza parlor decks its walls
With family portraits some descendant junked,
Ornately framed, the scrap from dealers’ hauls,
Their names and all who cherished them defunct.
These pallid ladies in strict corsets locked,
These gentlemen in yokes of celluloid—
What are they now? Poor human cuckoo clocks,
Fixed faces doomed to hang and look annoyed
While down they stare in helpless resignation
From painted backdrops—waterfalls and trees—
On blue-jeaned lovers making assignation
Over a pepperoni double cheese.
“Décor” by X.J. Kennedy, from In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus. © The John Hopkins University Press, 2007
From The Writer’s Almanac
It’s the birthday of poet X.J. Kennedy (books by this author), born Joseph Charles Kennedy in Dover, New Jersey (1929). He grew up in a working-class Irish-American family. His father, a timekeeper at the local boiler factory, recited poems to his son. Kennedy went to college, where he started reading and writing poetry, then served in the Navy for four years. He said, “I enlisted in the Navy to avoid serving in the infantry. I’d also been reading Moby Dick, and I had a rather glamorous view of the seas.” Kennedy’s first book of poetry was called Nude Descending a Staircase (1961). It was written for adults, but there were two poems in it that he intended for children. He went on to publish many books of children’s poems, including Ghastlies, Goops, and Pinchushions (1989), and City Kids: Street and Skyscraper Rhymes (2010).
Kennedy has also written poetry textbooks and volumes of poetry for adults, including Dark Horses (1992) and The Lords of Misrule: Poems 1992-2002 (2002).
He said, “I like poems where you don’t really know whether to laugh or cry when you read them.”
- Poetry: Off the Beaten Path (candidaabrahamson.wordpress.com)
- Poem of the Week (xingu2.wordpress.com)
- My Legacy, Wilting: A Poem (poeticparfait.com)
- poem notes — (bottledaux.com)