H e a r t   S o n s   &   H e a r t   D a u g h t e r s   of   A l l e n   G i n s b e r g

N a p a l m   H e a l t h   S p a :   R e p o r t   2 0 1 4 :   A r c h i v e s   E d i t i o n






Upon Hearing that the Second Avenue Deli Is Being Replaced By

Chase Manhattan Bank


Let us have a moment of silence

for the red-headed hostess

a classy dame if ever there was one

with her false eyelashes and magic marker eyeliner

with her nails painted the bright orange

of traffic cones by the side of the road

in the middle of the night

with her long gold earrings dangling like empty playground swings

after the children have all been called in to supper.

She ran a tight ship, that one, managing

groups of anxious theatre-goers who all had shows to catch,

pairs of finger-snapping wise guys eager to impress their dates

“Don’t worry honey, I’ll get us a table,”

ravenous altercockers from New Jersey

arriving by the busloads,

the men sweating in their grey wool overcoats and felt derby hats

the women in mink coats, clutching patent leather pocketbooks

the size and shape of old doctor’s bags

everyone crowding into the already crowded doorway

all staring up at our brassy-haired hostess like a pack of hungry dogs

knowing that when she held up

one perfectly manicured finger it meant “wait”

and when she swiveled her wrist and waggled that same finger

it meant—oh joy!--come, hurry, follow me, here is your table, here is your chair

here is your menu the size of the Rand McNally atlas


And let us bow our heads and say a prayer

for the old, stooped over yet dignified waiter

a prince of a man if ever there was one

who stood all of five-foot-two and looked like my Uncle Irving

with his stringy grey comb-over

cresting over the top of his shiny pink head like an ocean wave

breaking over the shores of Brighton Beach,

with his crisp white shirt and fat black bowtie always slightly askew,

a gravy stain decorating the lapel of the gold jacket

I’m sure he wore as a Bar Mitzvah boy back in 1932.

Oh bless him for clanking down

a white china plate of coleslaw and a silver tray of green pickles,

 I shouldn’t starve to death

before I shrugged off my winter coat and sat down

at the little table for one in the back known as Siberia,

but banished as I was he refused to desert me,

standing beside my table silent and still

pencil poised above pad, immobile

as a prizefighter frozen in the ring

waiting for the bell to sound

amid busboys with buckets

of dirty dishes scuttling past

waitresses with trays the size of hula hoops

held high overhead on delicate bespangled wrists,

he was patience personified

as I sat there drooling over my choices:

blintzes or knishes, tsimmes or kishkes

kreplach or babka, chopped liver or latkes

or perhaps all of the above?


And now let us glorify the poor cow

a noble beast if ever there was one

whose severed tongue I bit into

despite being a vegetarian

but hidden there at the little table for one in the back

I could be anyone, I could eat anything

even 16 ounces of thick slices of cow tongue

pressed between two pieces of rye bread

cooked to succulent perfection

bringing me back to the kitchen of my youth

where my grandmother ruled

in her blue flowered housecoat buttoned up to the neck

her stockings rolled down to her swollen ankles

a large shiny knife held tightly in one hand

a whole cow’s tongue lying before her on the cutting board

slick, sleek, and slimy as the body of a beached whale

she turned a deaf ear to my teenage rantings

about animal rights and saving the planet

barked out between spoonfuls of brown rice and yoghurt

soup I shoved into my mouth trying not to gag,

and late at night when everyone else was asleep

she, a chronic insomniac  playing solitare downstairs in the living room

pretended not to notice her beloved granddaughter

sneaking into the kitchen, the family dog a Toto look-alike

close at my heels as I quietly quietly quietly

eased open the refrigerator door

the bright light slicing into the darkness

like my grandmother’s sharp knife into that tongue

pieces of which I now crammed into my greedy mouth

so good it was, so tangy, salty, chewy, sweet

washed down with a swig of Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda

drunk straight from the bottle, glug, glug, glug—ah!


I consecrate the Hostess, Holy Keeper of the Gate

may you be led to the best table in the house all the days of your life,

I venerate the Waiter, Humble Bearer of Countless Suppers

may only the finest foods be set down before you

until your own Last Supper is served,

I sanctify the Cow and her Great Selfless Sacrifice

may you know only soft hay and sweet grass in the great pasture in the sky

I glorify my Grandmother, Beloved Balabooster bustling about the kitchen

of the Kingdom of Heaven

may you have hungry, grateful mouths to feed for all of eternity and beyond,

I honor myself, angst-ridden angry adolescent,

unable to make the world a better place for two- or four-legged creatures alike,

I anoint myself, underpaid secretary spending hard-earned pennies

on pseudo-home-cooked meals eaten to ease loneliness of life

in the big city, a promised land never living up to its promises,

swallowing hopes and dreams as easily

as forkfuls of seven-layer cake washed down with bitter cups of coffee

made even more bitter by tiny tubs of nondairy creamer

and pink packets of poisonous artificial sweetener.

And now miles and years away from Manhattan

standing in my own nonkosher kitchen,

I even praise the corporate crooks of Chase Manhattan Bank

bastards that they are

for setting up shop on the hallowed corner of 10th Street and Second Avenue

and stirring up these long-forgotten memories

that have been simmering on the back burner of my mind for decades

like an enormous vat of matzo ball soup waiting to be served



[“Upon Hearing That the Second Avenue Deli Is Being Replaced by Chase Manhattan Bank” © 2010 Lesléa Newman, from NOBODY’S MOTHER (Orchard House Press, Pt. Orchard, WA). Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author. Originally published in NHS, 2013 http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/_special_edition_nhs_2013/.]