Thursday, May 21, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 39.6 (Robert Creeley)

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Creeley, Robert

When Lori and I decided to buy a house in Buffalo back around 2002, we looked and looked and looked but couldn't find a thing we could afford in a neighborhood we wanted to live in. However, we kept seeing an add for this really nice Victorian up in a hidden and somewhat run down section of Buffalo called Black Rock. When we decided to go look at it, I looked on the map and realized it was only about a block-and-a -half from where the Creeleys lived.

They owned a pretty spectacular turn-of-the-century brick firehouse that had been converted into several large loft apartments, one of which they lived in, the others they rented out. I called Bob to ask him about the neighborhood and he told me that the residents were "poor, but dignified," and that it was in general a pleasant place to be.

We bought the house in May of 2003, and I think the Creeleys moved out within a couple of months, as Bob had taken a position at Brown. We spent the next three years remodeling the house, making it a sort of palace in the ghetto. At first we felt as if we were helping to build something stable in the neighborhood, but it very soon became apparent that the area was in a state of rapid deterioration the pace of which we could do nothing to slow. Houses were being abandoned, boarded up and graffitied, or worse, burned to the ground. Drug dealers started appearing on the corners. The police routinely disrupted our evenings as they came to arrest one or another of our neighbors for one thing or another.

In short, "poor," yes, "dignified," not so much.

As if to confirm our decision to leave, in the month after we called the realtor to put the house on the market there was a drive-by shooting behind our house, then the house two doors down from us was burned to the ground, and then the papers were abuzz with news that the city wanted to allow a minister to open a halfway house in our neighborhood for something like thirty level three sex offenders.

By some miracle, we actually sold the place and got out.

The Creeley's firehouse was at the corner of East and Amherst Streets, across from a catholic church and school, both of which are now closed. When we lived there, Lori founded a block club to combat some of the neighborhood problems. It used to meet monthly in the former cafeteria of the school. The church and school make up another of those classically tragic Buffalo sites -- huge old brick structures, beautifully and solidly built, lots of parking, sitting empty, waiting for enough people to return to the city to make use of it.

East Street

Sense of the present
world out window, eye's
blurred testament

to "St. Francis Xavier's
School," red brick,
and grey cornices,

the snow, day old,
like thin, curdled milk,
God's will high

above on cross
at church top over
embedded small arches

and close, tiled
roof. The cars
parked, the accelerating

motor of one
goes by, the substantial
old birch, this

closer look--
path Dennis shoveled--
distraction of all report.


Brent Cunningham said...

Lovely, sad, difficult, unexpected, & suggestive way to talk about RC, thanks MK. Black Rock, which I remember fondly because of time in that firehouse, sounds like it has the kind of inexorably hopeless narrative that runs through much of RCs work--forces larger than the individual, etc.

Michael Kelleher, Buffalo, NY said...

Hey, Brent, I get the sense the longer I am here that those forces are at work all around us -- they just happen to be more explicit here in Buffalo. Hope you are well!

Brent Cunningham said...

Recently getting more explicit here in Cali (Oakland especially) tho.

Very well, thankye...