“US Route 1 – Massachusetts” by Doug Kerr is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Route 1 swarmed by THE CABARET’S orange birds. Cars stopped for cops watching a shirtless man fail to walk a line, white belly mooning above his belt; his face a tiny bit gold.
D.B.’S GOLDEN BANANA GENTLEMEN’S CLUB, founded by LOUIS DIBELLA, aka DB, the most successful banana vendor the city of Boston had ever smelled, DB who 1982 pulled up alongside my ma on Route 1 & slammed his car door into the side of her Jetta: bang, bang, again.
Past the GOLDEN BANANA. Past MRS. DAVIS PSYCHIC READINGS with its giant purple hand. Past the old widows head to toe in black cloth picking dandelion greens from sidewalk cracks.
For so many years FRANK GIUFFRIDA’S HILLTOP STEAKHOUSE & its giant neon saguaro and fiberglass cows. Once America’s largest restaurant. Everyone walked through the doors & turned into feathers. Passing the LYNN MARSH my ma tells me every time about the bodies the mob dumped. Every time she says That’s where the mob used to put the bodies I dunno if they do it anymore but it was right there. Route 1 a serpent’s tongue surrounded by aging teeth. Everyone I grew up with possibly was here once.
At PURPLE SCORPION a man with a white scar across his face of course named KYLE gives me a bad tattoo of a crow on my thigh & he goes too deep with the needle, turns the whole flesh to scar. SHADY OAKS. WHISPERING PINES. SUMMER MEADOW.
I watched the Chinese restaurant sit dark & then curse & fall down. I walked into HOOTER’S & bought a tank top so Route 1 would laugh but instead all it did was shut down KARL’S SAUSAGE KITCHEN. Nothing on Route 1 is careful. There’s a store called DADDY’S JUNKY MUSIC. Or was. It got tired & lay down. Everybody has to die. It’s not just DADDY’S JUNKY MUSIC.
On Route 1 I get it all wrong: think this roiling pavement matters. Think Route 1 is some sort of baby tooth we can’t knock out. After every funeral we go to THE CONTINENTAL RESTAURANT & its windows look right out on an EXXON sign. Auntie dies the funeral procession drives down Route 1 our cars wear small flags we go eat manigott’ in that thundercloud EXXON light.
Let me do harm. I take the gilded horses off the KELLY’S ROAST BEEF carousel & make them prance down Route 1 alone. All the drivers flip them off. You guys bettah watch it. We skip on by. Check this.
Night slides down & I’m watching my teeth fall out & bounce on this pavement. Is this it? Is it all lost teeth & POLCARI’S NORTH END RESTAURANT: Old School Italian-American Eatery — our authentic recipes come straight from our North End kitchen. World famous Regina’s Pizza available at all locations. We have Curbside 2 Go if you don’t wanna talk.
At least the ocean is nearby. At least Catholics love Christmas lights. At least my grandfather kept two walnut trees alive here for 60 years. At least EDDIE MIAMI across the street didn’t die when his car got bombed. That’s not right he did die. He got in his car & started the engine & it turned into millions of orange birds. That body didn’t go in the marsh stayed dry & hot was not lost to the dark wet next to nothing gray blocks of buildings.
Til recent there was a restaurant called THE SHIP and it really was a giant wooden ship attached to a CHRISTMAS TREE SHOPS. This & the rest were miracles to me. EDDIE MIAMI’s real name was EDDIE MAIANI & he did numbers for the mob or something that’s why he got car bombed that’s not something that just happens to people you don’t just get turned
to birds without first doing some real bad math.
Alyssandra Tobin is the author of PUT EYES ON ME NOT LIKE A CURSE, published by Quarterly West in 2022. Her poetry appears in Poetry Northwest, Puerto del Sol, Grist, Banshee, and elsewhere.