I grew up on a kitchen floor
with morning sun splayed
over yellow linoleum.

The scent of cloves
stuck in oranges,
warmed on the stove.

I banged on pots and pans
with maniacal intensity.
Drumsticks were wooden spoons,
pot covers, my cymbals.

Neighbors complained
with broom handles.

I drummed on tin Jello molds,
and struck nutcrackers, rolling pins,
kraut cutters, and butter paddles
for special sound effects.

Father said: “He’s a future Gene Krupa.”

When mama wasn’t weeping
from listening to soap opera
sob stories on Stella Dallas,

she danced to the rhythm
of my beat as I followed
Dixie Land Blues and Ragtime tunes
on a wind up Victrola.
Sophie Tucker belted “Red-hot-mama.”

For mama, a ballroom dancer,
who once worked at the Palace,
for ten cents a dance,
I maintained a steady beat
as she danced the Turkey Trot,
Bunny Hug, and Camel Walk.

When the time came
to start kindergarten,

happiness was no longer mine.