Billy From Torresdale-a Poem fifty years in the making

Billy From Torresdale


I knew his father beat him

till the old man


the passing of out

I knew his old man beat him

as though it would bring back the old lady

not named Nancy Sikes.

I knew his old man beat him

later would wake up bleeding, in bruises

blaming the Vodka being cheap

Billy knew he had to run away soon

it was his 



and only.




Billy explained to me

(in his Torresdale attic apartment,

Torresdale being one of the armpits of

unloved NE Philadelphia)

Billy explained to me

if I wanted to be “special”

I would move my “treasures”

only to the left

when we went to these “other places”

where men might meet us

men with money

men with liquor and cigarettes

men with needs.


I couldn’t get the hang of that hanging

Hell, I wasn’t even twelve then-

Had just learned

to masturbate

didn’t know why yet

or to what tune……..




Billy, I think,

just wanted another boy, another toy, another joy

to go “downtown” with him at a time

not yet nineteen sixty even-


It had nothing to do with “queer”

as was said then

or being “a Nancy boy”

if we had been Brits

It had nothing to do with being QUEER! FAIRY! or FAGGOT!

It had everything to do with power and loneliness and having a friend.


Billy knew Spanish and Greek by age freaking 13 and if that didn’t spell GENIUS!!

I didn’t know what did

I had just started to write bad poems in English

I never wrote one about him in his dank apartment and-


If he had only asked me to love him

I would

I would of

I would of done that.

Maybe liked it.

Would of said I did anyway.

But the poor dumb bastard

But the poor dumb bastard

asked me to follow him in “new ways” 

not knowing

I didn’t yet know 

the old ones

not till Marty six months later

thought a 12 year old Virgin who was a friend

needed a girl

who was nothing special.


Years later

I remember the excitement

of the forbidden

and how I knew he was “special

not different

yes different

yes glorious




I hope he found someone

who loved him

didn’t play the long term role

of abuser or abused or both

did not become addict, alcoholic

dying of aids or knives

or just plain fucking lonely

because he still lived in that attic apartment

and didn’t let anyone in



And I’m sorry

I didn’t go with him more

I didn’t know then

this was the best offer

i would get

for the next




Bob from Torresdale

found this on a folder in the basement marked 12-24-92

thought I lost it

redid it tonight

before I lost it again  5-25-13










About bobsmall1

Bob Small has read at Bacchanal, Barnes and Noble, Borders, The Booksource (Swarthmore), The Clark Park Festivals,Community College of Philadelphia Highwire Gallery, The Mad Poets Annual Food Fest Reading, The Middle East Restaurant, Nexus GalleryThe Painted Bride Arts Center, The Philadelphia Ethical Society, Robin's Bookstore The University of Pennsylvania and also in New York City, Trenton, NJ, Washington, DC, and in many Delaware Valley Venues. He is the author of numerous chapbooks, including El Otro Lado (with Maralyn Lois Polak), On watching America Die, Small Steps and Toes (with Lamont B. Steptoe), and The Unapoet. This is his first Reading in over a year. Bob Small was Founder and President of the two decades old Poets and Prophets, which presented Poetry Readings in both Delaware County and Philadelphia. Bob was the Chair of The Delaware County Green Party and was the First Green Party Candidate in Delaware County (2005). He was also a Green Party National Delegate, among other duties. He is the Founder and Facilitator of The Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition (PaBac), which is a Coalition of both Independents and Third Parties., seeking to legislatively improve Pennsylvania's Ballot Access Laws. (Facebook) Bob is also a founding member and Facilitator of Democracy Unplugged, and Delco Debates, which has presented Independent and Third Party Forums in Delaware County since 2004. Facebook) He was formerly involved with Cinema Resistance, and Delco Pledge of Resistance. Bob currently lives in Swarthmore with his wife and their menagerie of animals. He is currently focused on writing a Novel and organizing his Poetry, which he posts on his Blog (Bob Small1). He is retired from most of the above activities, except Delco Debates and Poets and Prophets, which he may return to.
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