Concrete Pastures coverW R Rodriguez

W R Rodriguez is the author of two books of poetry: the shoe shine parlor poems et al  and concrete pastures of the beautiful bronx. He is working on a third: from the banks of brook avenue. His poetry has appeared in several anthologies and in numerous journals, including: The Party Train, Two Worlds Walking, Editors Choice III, Abraxas, The Critic, Epoch, North Coast Review, Poets On The Line, Negative Capability, and Wormwood Review. For more information, and to listen to a reading of concrete pastures of the beautiful bronx, visit

my little red fire engine (mp3)

my little red fire engine

my little red fire engine
i sit i steer i pedal
toward imaginary disasters
as though i were important
but today no kids are out
to save from the flames
too hot this august morning
for many emergencies
this holy day of obligation
at early mass the stone walls
of saint luke’s church
chill the bronx heat
señoras in black dresses
finger rosaries
the last irish knights of columbus
guard lonely pews
priestly latin drifts
through the morning peace
firemen beside the holy water
on the threshold are ready
to scramble but the alarm
does not ring
the offertory bells
startle all to salvation
hook and ladder 29
just across the street
its art nouveau facade
wondrous to a young boy
searching for heroes
and glory
engines shiny
freshblood red behind
a trinity of corniced arches
prepared to rescue all
from mortal infernos
nothing burns
devotional candles melt with prayer
the priest’s homily
is in the vernacular
heaven is heaven and hell is hell
earth is the mystery to me
o for the paradise years
before riots and assassinations
and the arson that burns
through the safety of sleep
brickbats bottles the rage of the mob
greet the saviors
so many willing to throw stones
at so few
before despair there is hope
which flickers away
save the apartments we desperately need
the building beside the church
is torched one winter night
the top two floors lost
before the ladder is raised
five stories overhead the lone fireman
directs the hose
he is a silver angel
in the white spotlight
the orange flames
the black sky
the brown smoke
it is all just another insurance payout
a cheap eviction of unwanted tenants
this is the incense
of the church of the bronx
charred tenement skeletons
stand like sentinels of death
acres of crumbled brick and broken glass
fill for years with garbage
weeds grow amidst the rot
faint promise of a green life
the trash is set ablaze
these are the prairies of the slums
where wild dogs scavenge
and there is wailing
and gnashing of teeth
we make our offerings
and we eat the divine
we are blessed and are sent
into the stark sunlight
of bronx streets
at the bakery the cinnamon buns
are still warm
mother perks the coffee
and sends me out to play
in my shiny red
little fire engine
and i roar up and down
but the arsonists are sleeping
and there is no one to save