“Really Ready to Rumble?”

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 is a physician who’s built and staffed homeless and prison clinics as well as a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO. He won the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. Gerry is published in academic-related journals including Stanford, Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Virginia Commonwealth, Arkansas, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan, Slippery Rock, Appalachian State, Grinnell, American Jewish University and the University of Edinburgh. Gerry’s writing has also appeared widely including recently in such U.S. outlets as Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, MiPOesias, American Journal Of Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, Poetry Circle, Clementine, New Verse News, Blue Mountain Review, Danse Macabre, Canary Eco, Fiction Southeast, Military Experience and the Arts, Poets And War, Cliterature, Qommunicate, Brooklyn Review, San Francisco Magazine, The Los Angeles Review and The New York Times. Pieces have also been accepted by Chinese, Bangladeshi, Hong Kongese, Singaporian, Canadian, English, Irish, Scotch, Australian, New Zealander, Australasian Writers Association, French, German, Indian, Israeli, Romanian, Swedish and Fijian among other international publications. Mount Analogue selected KADDISH FOR THE COUNTRY for pamphlet distribution nationwide on Inauguration Day 2017. Amber Of Memory was chosen for the 50th Harvard reunion Dylan symposium. He’s also authored the collections Homeless Chronicles (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), and Melting the Ice King (2016). Gerry’s been married since 1969 with three kids, five grandsons and looking forward to future granddaughters.