a coney island on my mind_-_-
New York, NY, 2000’s
Mark is the first poet I ever met. Back in college I thought he was ridiculous for writing poetry. He was ahead of me in his sense of himself as a writer, and in his expanded idea of what writing is. I was the ridiculous one. This is Mark’s account of a glorious day – the supposed last day of Coney Island as we knew it. There was a hurricane in progress but we were determined to head out to the beach to celebrate the rinky tink place that we loved at a bar where the die-hards were gathering before the end. Mark captured the day perfectly. He was right: nothing will stop us. There was a stay of execution and most of the bars and shops were allowed to remain.

Mark is a Native New Yorker who escaped to Montana. He’s an outdoorsman, an entrepreneur, a writer, a family man, a great and brave guy and a friend whom I love. Thank you for that day, for this poem and for introducing me to poetry.

A Coney Island on my mind

a woman comes up to us looking for dollar bills for quarters
we exchange a couple of dollars for loose change
and then she asks us, can you spare any change

it is pouring rain, you ask the gentle faced small black man
Nathan’s employee
for trash bags to wear as raincoats
we go outside and try to stand under an awning
to create and put on on our new raincoats
the wind howls lifting the bags over our heads

I struggle with making the rainbag work
the wind blows
the clouds roll
the rain clears
we walk in the drizzle to the pavillion by the beach
with the bags bunched up in my hand

the boardwalk is empty
we had wanted to ride the cyclone, but the hurricane,
there’s no way it’s open
the sky opens up again
wind and hard rain

we stand under the pavillion
and video with our cell phones
the rain on the boardwalk
the wind in your hair
the american flags
the gray, white cloudy sky
glare from the sun trying to burn through

you walk in the rain, hand me your phone
direct me, I video, we laugh
our phones ring, it is our spouses,
we ask the workers hanging out under the pavilion
sitting on folding chairs doing nothing
is tomorrow really the last day?
is there any chance the cyclone is open?

we watch people swimming in the Atlantic
the water crashing on the rocks
a few people wandering on the beach

you walk along the boardwalk
twirling, I twirl with you videoing the twirls,
your long flowing hair twirling
along the freak show sign
into Rudy’s Bar and Grill
suddenly a place full of people and jukebox music
a salute to the penultimate day of the Coney Island Boardwalk

one young man at the bar a roller coaster fanatic,
who rode the cyclone earlier in the day, before the hurricane, telling us about
all the roller coasters all over the country, the world? he has ridden
and his friends, one of whom you insist was checking me out
(along with many others, all men)
oblivious I was focused on you –
and the young operations manager, father of two,
dressed in disguise as a roller blading, leather man
deeply mourning Coney Island and telling us about his photograpy project
taking pictures of the entire boardwalk up and down, a panorama

the day was a panorama, the rain on again off again, the wind, the puddles,
the glare, the gray, the splash of cars, the splash of a bus, the garbage in the road,
the amazing rebuilt subway station with solar panels,
the people huddled underneath overhangs, children running,
the not knowing what to do, should we stay or should we go,
the people, the the gentle faced small black man
Nathan’s employee
who I now ask for bags of ice,
as Maddy has tripped over my feet as we raced through the rain
and the puddles and has twisted her ankle
“run, she tells me, run, get me ice, quickly, run!”
whenever I slow down, she yells at me to run,
she limps along behind me and I race to get her ice,
the man is so sweet, I give him money he doesn’t want, it is pouring out now
no take it I tell him, you have been helping us out all day
and then he recognizes me from before and smiles and accepts
I run back out to Maddy and then we limp her back into Nathans
where we talk to the man who lives in Howards Beach, Queens
another place another time in NYC history
and Maddy tells the man how she twisted her ankle

Eventually we limp Maddy onto the subway, ice bag in hand
where she sits with her leg up, videoing Coney Island as it drives by
the Wonder Wheel, the Cyclone, the hurricane, will always be there,
as at some point we head underground….

O.K. so I’m getting a little over poetic.
Jackie is gone for the weekend.
I am sitting at the kitchen table on her computer.
I am home with Howie and he has 2 friends over.
they are watching t.v.
I really should be outside doing something with them.
I need to take them fishing.
the weather is changing – winter is coming, tomorrow is the first day of fall.
Nine years ago, on this day at 5 am, my mother died
It was Yom Kippur.
My dad was holding her hand and he felt her spirit rise.
I was asleep in the house I grew up in.
I had a dream that she visited me when I got home to Montana
or I had a dream about her when I got home to Montana a couple of weeks later.
I can’t remember which, whichever it meant that my home was in Montana.

All that aside, I need to get outside,
it looks pretty stormy out there, but I got the kids to turn the t.v off
and now they are back on the trampoline
it’s 2 pm
I think that’s about when we got to Coney Island
it is going to rain
but that won’t stop us
nothing will

Read a poem by Jeanette W.

2 Responses to A Coney Island on my mind, Mark R.

  1. John Maggs says:

    This poem brings me back with startling clarity to a spring day when I was sitting on the grass outside Avery Hall withMark who pointed out to me, some distance away, a woman he knew who, I needed to know most emphatically, was named Maddy and was so cool and beautiful. I remember thinking then that this guy was in the grip of some powerful feelings. I hardly knew Mark, a class ahead of me, but I remember that he wrote poetry and was friendly and unpretentious in a way many others at Columbia were not. Why do I remember this? I guess I remember hearing what it was to speak honestly and frankly about someone you admire, to someone, anyone who would listen. How good it is to unburden yourself this way.

    • Madeline Schwartzman says:

      Mark passed away a couple of months ago. Super sad. ALS.
      Hope to meet you (remeet) at reunion.
      A scholarship has been started in his name.
      Saw your comment and thought to write

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