“Really Ready to Rumble?”

In Issue 26 by Gerard Sarnat

Really Ready to Rumble?

“When I was younger I could remember anything,

whether it had happened or not.”

-- Mark Twain

i.

Made my bones playing ledgeball on the block, but during college

no taxi’d drive back into the Southside snatch-‘n-grab boarded up

storefronts below Chicago’s elevated trains. Hertz’d have none of it;

Avis required signing stacks of notarized waivers. Bounding four flights,

I’m scrutinized by a scraggly old gent who cackled, Beg pardon, lookie

we got here in Spookville! – slamming the door before could catch my breath.

Back in the 50s, 71st and Jeffery seemed just booooring Jewish

(no one’d buy Christmas cards I sold door-to-door) except my riverboat

gambler Uncle Sugar whose fortunes handicapping the Daily Racing Form

turned a 3-hole Buick Special into a jalopy into a cherry Impala with rims

— you know that kind of thingamajig. But thanks to auspicious demographics,

later on playing with house money, I faked having survived the Blackstone Rangers.

ii.

Planning better lives, when they got the chance my parents moved

our quartet through prairie dog towns west to another walk-up

in paradise so Sis and I’d do well at the best available LA public schools.

As it happened, right up the alley of my lifelong partner whom I’d eventually

meet during high school, she spent indifferent time playing in the same alley

— though we didn’t figure it out until four decades had passed.

When Dad’s finances afford it, he relocated us to a ramshackle fixer-upper

a few miles north in the part of town the world thinks of as Beverly Hills;

the miniscule antique swimming pool’s hand-painted tiles were a drainless cesspit.

There no one played on the block or in the alley where only maids went.

Took months to get invited into mansions with triple-stemmed cherries, big rock

candy soda fountains, tennis courts — if you can believe it, even Otis elevators.

iii.

Harvard pre-med home the summer of South Central’s riots of 1965, I’d volunteered

to administer vaccines at the Watts Health Center. Maneuvering to avoid pepper spray/

duck snipers in here while outside, establishments burned and Crips pulsated blood,

jostled below window level by ex-gangbanger Community Organizer Julio Bates

(nicknamed Master), my high-tops bid to establish bogus street cred

based on résumé more than cajones: “No problemo. I was raised in Chiraq.”

About the Author

Gerard Sarnat

Website

Gerard Sarnat has been nominated for the pending 2022 Science Fiction Poetry Association Dwarf Star Award, won San Francisco Poetry’s 2020 Contest, the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for handfuls of 2021 and previous Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. Gerry is widely published including in 2022 Awakenings Review, 2022 Arts & Cultural Council of Bucks County Celebration, 2022 Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival Anthology, Washington Square/NYU Review, The Deronda Review, Jewish Writing Project, Hong Kong Review, Tokyo Poetry Journal, Buddhist Poetry Review, Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Arkansas Review, Hamilton-Stone Review, Northampton Review, New Haven Poetry Institute, Texas Review, Vonnegut Journal, Brooklyn Review, San Francisco Magazine, Monterey Poetry Review, The Los Angeles Review, and The New York Times as well as by Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Penn, Columbia, North Dakota, McMaster, Maine, University of British Columbia and University of Chicago presses. He is a Harvard College and Medical School-trained physician who’s built and staffed clinics for the marginalized as well as a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO. Currently he is devoting energy/ resources to deal with climate justice, and serves on Climate Action Now’s board. Gerry’s been married since 1969 with progeny consisting of four collections (Homeless Chronicles: from Abraham to Burning Man, Disputes, 17s, Melting the Ice King) plus three kids/ six grandsons — and is looking forward to potential future granddaughters.