Today is Bruce Springsteen’s 60th birthday and readers of the blog and my Twitter followers know that I am a huge fan and in a few days will be presenting a paper at the international Springsteen Symposium. My paper is investigating the literary tradition of supermarkets in terms of Bruce’s new song, “Queen of the Supermarket,” which has received some fairly harsh criticism, to say the least.
As I was writing the paper I recalled a poem I wrote back in my poetry days (1996 I think) that references Springsteen, and is also tangential to the food service industry. It was written at a time when I was breaking my poems down to the barest of phrases, focusing primarily on the sounds of the words: alliteration, consonance, repetition, anticipation. Lots of attention paid to individual lines. It’s not my best work, but it’s always fun to look back on what I once wrote.
I thought his birthday was as good a time as any to share it, so here it is (with a few minor revisions).
“Supreme Manufacturing Company, Rahway, N.J.”
Red brick crumbles just below
The storm drain. Water drips
Onto a single milkweed leaning
Against the factory. The air
Is still. The parking lot steaming.
Sun glares off a window
Into the eyes of three Cubans
All in Yankees caps, loading
Artificial juices for Rahway
Prison. A bottle breaks. Bees swarm.
They spray water, laugh,
Smoke cigarettes, shield their eyes.
I, shirtless, sitting
On the hood of a Malibu Classic
Listen to Bruce Springsteen on the radio
Singing about Roy Orbison singing
About the lonely. A monarch butterfly
Lands on the milkweed, and I wonder
If, with all this humidity,
It will ever get out of Rahway alive.