Johnny by
(28 Stories)

Prompted By Community

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“If Not For You”

The only community I ever knew

were the kids on the block.

Our most popular member ‘Johnny’

is currently laying in a hospital bed, 

struggling a bit.


We were all Catholics 

but never bonded in church.

Never reached across the aisle 

for genuine friendship,

not ever bringing one stranger home.


We had each other, 

practically from birth,

more than fifteen of us

roaming that Forest Hill neighborhood 

from morning to night.


We sat for hours on porch steps,

played our sports in the street,

didn’t stop hide & seek until teenagers,

until Carol & Jimmy couldn’t be found.


Johnny was our James Dean,

thick, wavy black hair,

rolled up white, muscle t-shirts,

blue or black denim jeans and work boots.


He played guitar and loved Bob Dylan.

At night he serenaded us with ‘Visions Of Johanna.’

On weekends he waxed his Alpha Romero,

or took long trips to the mountains on his Harley.


The guys couldn’t get enough of him,

they would wait for him on his porch,

Some for work-outs, music, or car stuff, 

shooting the breeze until late at night.


Throughout those many years 

he went with every girl on the block.

he made a move on every single one of us,

some serious, mostly hilarious, 

endearing him forever in our hearts.


This community of street people still keep in touch.

No matter where we travel, we come back.

As if something we were born with commands us

to be together one more time.


We lost some, we buried some, 

we held each other tighter, we wept together 

in the shadow of that street light,

but danced once again on its faded lawn.


So this poem is for Johnny, our community leader,

the kid with the thick black hair.

The one whose spirit back then seized the daylight,

and bought about our eternal kindred vow…



in the words of Dylan “If Not For You”


Profile photo of Patricia Valese pattyv

Characterizations: moving


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Vivid portrait of Johnny, Patty. I just listened to the Dylan link and was bopping along. Johnny seems so charismatic, born leader for the boys, heartthrob for the girls. I hope he gets out of the hospital soon. I’ll say a prayer for him.

    Growing up in Detroit, on a street full of kids, we didn’t have a leader like Johnny, but we played hide and seek or kick the can until the street lights came out, rode our bikes or roller skated with care-free abandon. They felt like simpler times. I moved to the suburbs when I was 10. It was a very different place and life was never the same.

  2. Patty: A wonderful hopping description of an idyllic time. It makes me feel a loneliness for parts of my past. BTW, what happened to Jimmy and Carol? Seemed mysterious to me. Perhaps because of today’s frightening context.

    • pattyv says:

      Ha ha Rich, no need for concern, guess it was an inside joke. Carol and Jimmy were the oldest, so playing hide & seek became their favorite opportunity to hide and cuddle. They found unique places to ‘make-out’ all over those backyard grounds, it was the beginning of a romance that lasted until their 20’s.

  3. Thanx Patty for your poetic and nostalgic look back at your community of the kids on the block you grew up with.

    Of course it got me thinking about the kids I grew up with on my old block, and wondering where they all are now.

    I did write about one very special friend whom I was in touch with until her death some years ago.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    How lucky for you to grow up with a built in community of peers and to have stayed connected over the years. Once my family moved to suburbia, that type of connection vanished. Johnny was your charismatic leader. What a great childhood you all had.

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