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McDonald Ave.

by John Ilotan

We lived in a slat lit apartment
under the shadow of the El,
In a fatherless world
of welfare checks
old clothes
and dirty faces.

Hot nights carry
the faces of bored strangers
as trains blow past
my open window,
spitting gobs of noise
and bruised light
into my bed.

My brother cries,
urgent and scared,
"The curtains are on fire,
....... John, the curtains on fire."
But I know they're not.
Again, it's just a dream,
manifestations of
an unnurtured childhood.

We scurry and scamper,
furtive and small,
Feral creatures,
rooting in the underbrush for individual love
and attention.

Smiling at me
with anemic eyes,
my pale little sister
fries potatoes.
They sizzle,
in a black iron frying pan.

Dirty dishes piled high,
soak in the kitchen sink.
and the roaches

And there are
never any clean socks.
I swear
that some day,
I'll find my father's house
and steal
all of his.

Mom's nights are lit
by Marlboros and tears.
With every exhalation
a dream unfurls
and dies.

She cries,
lonely in the dark
and I cry alone
for her.

Around the block
is another world.
Mothers dole out dollar bills
to happy little kids
who run laughing
for Good Humor
and Freezer Fresh.

I watch as good, smiling
load up their Buicks, Pontiacs
and Chevy wagons
for fishing trips
and picnics at the beach.

They drive away


and I wish
that I


Posted on 04/04/2003
Copyright © 2020 John Ilotan

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Olivia Weinkein on 04/04/03 at 01:32 AM

this is so sad. but a good write. thanks for sharing it.

Posted by Rhodora M Fitzgerald on 04/04/03 at 02:13 AM

Awww..... what a tear jerker! You paint the picture very well here John.

Posted by Kalikala Smith on 04/04/03 at 02:54 AM

so well written, good work...

Posted by Agnes Eva on 04/05/03 at 09:04 PM

this is a truly excellent poem of a hard upbringing- the emotions and scenery captured so poignantly it puts the reader as omnicient fly on the wall. it's perfect- well done, good flow.

Posted by Thomas K. Hunt on 04/06/03 at 05:28 AM

outstanding imagery here...way to go on capturing a rough but real existence...very well written

Posted by Christina Bruno on 04/06/03 at 08:28 PM

This is excellent, you describe to shadows by the El very well. It is dark even on the sunniest days...:*( We must live near eachother

Posted by Lori I Wolfe on 04/07/03 at 03:55 AM

This poem breaks my heart ... so many children fit into the canvas you have just painted with your words ... thank you for sharing it with us.

Posted by Vimal Rony on 04/10/03 at 11:38 PM

Such a lovely capture.I must say u have done a brilliant job, John.

Posted by Anne Engelen on 04/11/03 at 02:25 PM

speechless....excellent poetry!

Posted by Ginette T Belle on 04/11/03 at 03:07 PM

your imagery strikes deep...very, very powerful poem...thank you...

Posted by Maryellen Lebeda-Parra on 05/05/03 at 02:15 AM

every piece of your is just amazing

Posted by Rommel Cruz on 05/21/03 at 02:16 PM

this is just wow. very sad but amazing.

Posted by Ken Harnisch on 05/31/03 at 06:36 AM

lived close enough to the el...and this hell..to remember all of it without fondness. Well described, John

Posted by Maryellen Lebeda-Parra on 06/01/03 at 07:00 PM

... just WOW

Posted by Vimal Rony on 06/20/03 at 04:30 AM

John, i came back to read it again.What a wonderful job u have done here!

Posted by Robert Cameron Hazelton on 10/06/03 at 06:32 PM

This poem is just amazing. The depth of the images is truly astonishing - WOW!

Posted by Katerina T Nix on 02/29/04 at 01:50 AM

wow! i absolutely love this piece. well done on a great piece. Kat:)

Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 03/01/04 at 02:12 PM

OUCH! What a vivid and moving poetic portrait. Excellent all round!!

Posted by Traci Mabats on 03/10/04 at 04:29 PM

Oh this was heartwrenching, it made ME want to steal the fathers socks.

Posted by Mike Loftis on 09/21/04 at 01:11 AM

This is heart wrenching good. You have some incredible pieces in your library. Standing ovation!!!!

Posted by Paul Marino on 05/02/05 at 02:48 PM

that was amazing. really. the words were so smooth and real, with great strength and pain.

Posted by H.M Stevens on 03/28/06 at 01:44 AM

This poem is...beautiful. It has such rich imagery and an ending that really brings you there. Thanks for writing.

Posted by Ken Harnisch on 02/27/08 at 05:12 AM

I was on McDonald Avenue and Avenue J just last week...and your poem brought up memories of my own New York upbringing, much like yours, so much i winced.

Posted by Joan Serratelli on 03/20/09 at 04:53 PM

NYC is a weird city- from one block to another- the priledged and the not. I almost cried when I read this story- true or not, it was heartbreaking. Good visuals- I could see your Mother crying and you crying for her....and your siblings- excellent story;Well written. You did a GREAT job!

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