I had a root beer float at lunch today,
in a diner you’d have scoffed at
for making its living off nostalgia,
but you should know: it was IBC root beer,
a kind of genuine that gets lost in the Rockies,
the ladies who waited the tables were Midwest nice,
and the coleslaw was rich and tangy.
We’ve got two pieces of nostalgia
to wrap our teeth around – pastrami and ice cream,
K’nish Nosh and Hagen Daz, you don’t believe
in substitutions, New York boy,
twenty-five years raising kids in New Jersey,
with a front lawn and a backyard,
and freight trains instead of subways.
You raised your children on another planet,
with another language, another culture,
you were always half a stranger in the small town;
you smelled too anonymous for its ball fields.
How are you breathing in Boston?
Do the streets twist around your throat,
do you choke on propriety
and skipped r’s, are you starving for bagels?
Where do you go when you’re lost?
Do the lights look like interrogation,
like what are you doing here,
go home, city boy. You like it too rough
for our streets.
The happiest I’ve ever seen you
is eating pretzels in Central Park.
We never needed directions. Your father’s
ghost made sure we always found a parking spot,
your childhood took us to the airport,
your first date through Midtown –
you watched the city at night
as though the lights had been left on for you,
come home, city boy. It’s not too late
to come back.