Featured Poet: Fred Samuels, Alton
Fred Samuels grew up in Brooklyn, NY, but was always a country boy at heart. After teaching Sociology and Race Relations at UNH for 27 years, he retired to the peace and quiet of his house in the woods of Alton, NH where he spent his days tending to the various wildlife in his yard, and getting back to his first love, writing poetry. He was a longtime officer of the Poetry Society of NH, and though shy by nature, he attended many open mic venues, sharing his sometimes humorous, sometimes serious poems. In addition to his many writings in the field of Sociology, his publications included To Spade the Earth and Other Poems, and Breakfast in the Bathtub - A Book of Smiles, co-authored with Joann Duncanson. In December, 2008, while driving through an ice storm to get home to feed the birds, his car skidded off the road and into a tree, thus beginning a period of failing health which ended with his death on June 16, 2009.
STRANGE DUETS AND CITRONELLA
We would sit on the red brick porch
above the haze of Brooklyn’s lights,
the summer stars sat neatly in place
while our neighbors played on their mandolins,
sang of Napoli, Sorrento, Roma;
here and there an errant star
would streak across the tidy sky.
Dad with eight-stringed banjo-mandolin,
sang from London music hall, from New York vaudeville.
" ... Some say the world is made for fun and frolic,
and so do I, and so do I ..."
"Oh the moon shines tonight on pretty Redwing ..."
The Ferraras invited us to share homemade
pizza and dandelion wine
so long ago in my improbable youth
by an earthen road in Flatlands
where neighbors had goats, grape arbors,
fig trees, tons of "egg tomatoes" for paste.
" Finniculi, finiculaaaaa ..."
"...her brave is sleeping while Redwing’s weeping ..."
In this first stanza of "Strange Duets and Citronella," Fred gives a vivid feel for what life in his old Brooklyn neighborhood was all about – right down to the sights, the scents, and the songs of it. His happy memories of growing up in the old Italian neighborhood never left him. But there is also a final stanza of this poem, where he paints an entirely different picture – the fights, the intolerance, the slurs, and finally, a little boy’s fear :
"we sat tight and tense,
These themes – peace and harmony versus chaos and intolerance – persisted throughout his writing career, perhaps in hopes that his poetry might help bridge the gap between the two.
hushing the growling of our terrier
fearing that their fury might turn
toward the one Jewish family
in their midst."