Writing the Apocalypse | LES: Past and Pandemic

Writing the Apocalypse is a weekly series featuring the poems, essays, and recollections of Puma Perl, with subject matter influenced by her experiences as a NYC resident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diva in Tompkins Square Park. | Photo by Puma Perl

Past and Pandemic | BY PUMA PERL

I was a child of Tenth Street

Police locks and bodegas

Open hydrants, rooftops,

cerveza on credit

We were poor and tough,

might have seemed hard,

but if a child stumbled

a hundred hands reached out

The author on 10th Street. | Photo by Alice Espinosa-Cincotta

to break his fall

In the street, on the stoops,

under tenement skies

We were always home

Everywhere was home.


I was a child of Seventh Street

Tompkins Square Park

was our front yard

Handball and Latin nights,

rock shows on the bandshell,

late nights on the benches

In the morning, we’d clear

the sandbox of syringes

so our kids could play,

chasing each other

past the wooden seesaws

and the metal swings

The Strip, the basketballs

the pills along Ninth Street

“I got the tea that killed Bruce Lee”

at the entrance

The park was home.


Diva, at Nuyorican Poets Cafe. | Photo by Puma Perl

I was a child of Third Street

The Nuyorican Poets Cafe

where I learned

how words could feel

Lines for cocaine

and welfare cheese

Heroin and poetry

Presidential, 357,

baskets lowered

from fifth floor

windows, hands

creeping out of grates

Abandoned buildings

waiting for developers,

kids sleeping under

Star Wars sheets

Three eggs for Thanksgiving

Bacardi for Christmas

The streets were home.


Down here,

below Delancey,

below Grand,

I’m no longer a child

The sun rises in my window

Diva and I walk along

Diva chasing squirrels. | Photo by Puma Perl

the East River some days,

or maybe along South Street

Now and then,

a longer journey

across Houston

I am home

with keys and a couch,

books and television

Empty highways

and ferries

below my window

I am home,

but in these pandemic times

I am homeless.


© puma perl, 02/06/21

Puma Perl is a poet and writer, with five solo collections in print. The most recent is Birthdays Before and After (Beyond Baroque Books, 2019.) She is the producer/creator of Puma’s Pandemonium, which brings spoken word together with rock and roll, and she performs regularly with her band Puma Perl and Friends. She’s received three New York Press Association awards in recognition of her journalism, and is the recipient of the 2016 Acker Award in the category of writing. Her most recent books can be found by clicking here.

Diva with the Ramones. | Photo by Puma Perl


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