PHOTOGRAPH: On July 16, 2015, Daniel Patrick Delaney read a chapter from his memoir Mary’s Last: Tales of an Irish-American Orphan at Big Blue Marble Bookstore in the historic Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For the event — attended by many friends and neighbors from his youth — Delaney chose to read Chapter 14 (“Come Closer”) of his book, including the following excerpt…
I reach for the tree branch and climb down, the bark of the little cherry tree falling around me. Wasps fly above the high grass, as the water gets lower. The sun is all over the lumberyard, and the smell of hot tar wakes me up. I dip my hand in the swamp and slurp the clear water, and head for the tracks. The smell of the railroad ties bakes on me, as I walk along the tracks behind the lumberyard. The rope swing over the green pond, tadpoles and frogs puttin’ holes in the water. I slide into the pond and skim the green layer with my arms. A deep breath and I’m under the cool water. I open my eyes to see the dark green that’s all the way through. Another breath and down to the mud. It holds my feet down with my arms straight out, until I pull to the top, cool and clean…
AUTHOR’S REFLECTIONS ON THE EVENT:
Reading aloud has always been easy for me. One of my first memories of school is reading in front of the class, but I don’t recall ever being taught how. That for some reason escapes me, but the pure contentment in my reading aloud is a clear vision to me. The words pouring from the page with the utter confidence of that strange, but strong boy that lived within.
On a hot, July (2015) night in Philadelphia, I had the rare opportunity to stand again in front of a group of people and read. This time, however the words were my own. The boy within began at first to speak with ease, and then the book was opened. At that moment the boy turned and left me, to listen to what we had written. He sat on the uneven sidewalk and stared back at me.
The words came as water from a summer hose, warm then cool at first, but now they would have their way. They welled up from my shoes while bursting from my ears. Familiar faces from the past turned to their rightful age, as young as the story that I told this night. And when I had finished, I knew what I had written was true, and the faces on the children of the old block, once again, as old as myself…knew.
PHOTO: The author as a young boy in Philadelphia wearing an outfit he found in a Goodwill donation box.