by Roscoe Morgan
Roscoe Morgan grew up on Elm Street in Over the Rhine and now lives in Tennessee. He is a renowned bluegrass recording artist, music teacher and producer, and songwriter (on the web at http://www.roscoemorgan.com). In recent years he has been the feature artist at the Lower Price Hill Community Music Festival, where he enjoys a fond musical reunion with his friends and fans. Just before this year’s festival, he composed this prose poem reflecting on his Cincinnati childhood. Roscoe writes of the composition, “Walking around, at a time approaching dusk-dark, these words came to me tonight, shared with you in rough prose. I call it simply ‘Cincinnati’.”
I hear the faint flicker of streetlights as they begin to do their night’s work. We, the Morgan boys, are as lone survivors. The streets go through their daily attrition. “Jo-Jo!” “Dante!” “Herstle!” As neighbor kids names are called, they reluctantly go in for the evening. We know that we shall soon hear our names, but we revel in that precious moment that we still have. Kicking a hollow milk-jug as a kickball. Stomping water from a low place in Grant Street. Watch your SSP car, you know that Rodney will grab it if he sees it. Mason’s root beer. Jungle Boogie (dun dundun, dun dundun). Lights come on in the rowhouses around us. And then it happens. Mom is calling. “Tim!” “Jerry!” “Terry!” “Fuzz!” Time to go inside. Having had earlier baths, we were instructed to “not get dirty again”. Cherished cool of the evening, when the heat of the street subsided to the point that we could go barefooted. You boys will have to wash your feet. The delicious smell of fried salmon patties (actually mackerel). To us it was salmon, pronounced SALmon, of course. Soup beans. Kool-Aid. Dad’s coffee cup, and a ring on the table, formed by the day’s worth of fallen coffee cup comrades. Full bellies, made full in a way of love that I still miss today. Love + duty = mom. At the time though, it was just supper. As the birds don’t think about where the worm came from, we just ate. 3 channels on the 1965 Zenith. DAD–”Turn it to Hee Haw”. The last event of the weekend. 4 boys lined up, sitting in the floor in a way most reminiscent of 101 Dalmatians. 2 bowls of popcorn, made as only Dad could. Their bowl, and our bowl. Pass it around. A final tracing of cigarette flame, visible in the night from the distance as Mom and Dad must have been talking over the day’s events. Wake up, boys. Time for school.