Monday, January 28, 2013

Poets always bleed

(for David Shapiro)

He was the undergrad in the photograph
The New York Times printed,
The boy, seated behind the president’s desk
With cigar firmly planted in his mouth,
Who I would have met had I let
My best friend talk me into going to the protest
That cool April in 68 when I chickened out
Before the storm troopers came
Beating up protestors on national TV,
The truly famous poet I got to know
Many years later when William Paterson
Was still a college and he hid out in the art
Building, and I, a late-comer street kid
Tried as campus literary editor to lure
A few poems I could publish
He, later, sneaking me poems after I
Started by own underground newspaper,
Providing me with legitimacy
My friendship with Ginsberg could,
And  no High school drop out
Like me deserved,
He and I meeting all these years later
In that East Village café, mysterious
Survivors of a generational change,
He admiring me for being what I was
Almost as much as I admired him,
Both of us coming to art from different places
Me from the street, he from Columbia’s ivory tower,
Both of us coming to understand
That in the end, poets always bleed.

Friday, January 25, 2013


The water is purer now than it was
When me and Ralph, Dave and Puck
Came here to do what every kid does
Tying rope to tree to test our luck
Willows decorated the water side
Dripping tears where we could hide
Dave was all with long slim arms
Puck was short, but his life was charmed
Ralph was skittish and feared to fall
And I would do anything at all.
We swung in summer dawn to dusk
Dragging home when told me must
In winter we craved for summer to come again
To sail through the air with our clutter of friends
The city cut the tree and sealed the brook
Quoted as admiring the much better look
Bleachers for ball fields filled up the space
No one came here to cheer on the games
Remembered the time when other kids came
Or how we managed to sail through the air
Testing our hearts, taking on dares
No old tires to dart through
No water to wade
No visions of grandeur
Over success we made
No reckless kids learning about life
Only the ball fields and echoes of night

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It’s not cold inside

It’s not cold
Inside, I say
And laugh
And lead the way
Up the snowy steps
Over the rough wood porch
Banisters covered
In inch thick white
While the porch roof
Drips clear daggers.
We stamp our feet
To the blink of
The Xmas lights
That look like
Colored insects

It’s not cold
Inside, I say
As I clap my gloves
The vestibule
Filled with cloth coats
Of practical men
Who have preceded us

It’s not cold
Inside, I say,
Though I sometimes
Know it is,
Stomping my feet
To rid the of snow
I know won’t come
Off inside of me,
The daggers of ice
Poking me
From inside out

It’s not cold
Inside, I say
And hang my coat
And pray this time
It’s true.

Monday, January 21, 2013

White hat' stained black

I’m always doing the wrong thing,
Hanks always told me
Like the time I gave the finger
To that asshole with Florida plates
For cutting me off as I changed lanes
And he pulled a gun

Or the time I cut off
That Paterson mobster by accident
And had to drive the wrong way
Down a one way street
To keep him from killing me.

Or worse that time I walked
Down Hollywood Boulevard
With my hippie chick girl friend
And told a pack of bikers to buzz off
When they tried to take her,
My back bleeding for a week
From the chains they hit me with

Hank said I never think about what I’m doing
Before I actually do it,
But sometimes I actually do,
Seeing myself as doing the right thing
When time proves I was wrong.
Painting myself as the cowboy in the white hat
Riding to someone’s rescue when often
The only person I manage to rescue is myself

Like that time the sixth street prostitute
Robbed her own pusher to get the drugs
To bring me down from my bad trip,
I still love her for that even though
I couldn’t save her when she flipped out
And threw scalding water in her pusher’s face
When he refused to give her a fix,
He burning down her apartment building
With her in it for revenge.

Or that aging go go dance in Passaic
Who used to buy me drinks
Because I laughed at her comedy act
When nobody else would,
A lone laugh track in a bar full of raging hormone

Or the barmaid with terminal cancer
I would sit up with after hours
Because we both loved Thurmond Munson
And she needed someone to see her off
Someone who meant more than a big tip
When she knew nobody else but me
Someone to cry over her at her funeral
But could not stand watching her put into the grave

Or the host of other lost causes who have
Left their indelible finger prints on my once white hat
Staining it so thoroughly that it becomes difficult
To tell if I am a good guy or a bad guy
Or just one more lonely rider from some cheap spaghetti western
Riding off into some Arizona sunset hoping for the best.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


The only thing you can do
Is follow your heart,
Letting reason fall aside,
Letting logic, fairness, even justice
Litter the path behind you,
Letting instinct be your guide
When all else fails,
Not because it will lead
To right or wrong
Good or bad,
Up or down
Inside or out,
But because it might,
In some off chance,
In some miracle of faith
Some illogical,
Gift from the gods
Lead to love
When in this world
Where there is always
Too much and too little
Of everything,
Love is all that really
Ever matters,
And all that
Always will

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The girl I knew

You grow wild with the wind
And remote with passing of days
You form now a stranger
At the coffee counter
Breasts more full
The face of a woman
I dared never believe,
Me still seeing you
As that one year old,
Rocking to old Beatles records
Me hating the idea
That this transformation
Has shaped my soul
Etching lines to my face
Fat to my bones
Me crying over what
A surprise you are
Wishing constantly
For that little girl
I knew when
I was young

Friday, January 11, 2013


“Virtue is its own success,”
My fortune cookie tells me
On this rainy day in January,
The chill making me ache
So deep I don’t know
Where it ends and I begin,
“Success,” another cookie
Tells me “Is living your life
Your own, way,”
Which is all I have ever done,
Walking home in with the wet
Against my face,
As “today is the tomorrow,
We worried about yesterday,”
And in the mists and midst
Of these latest storms
“The greatest pleasure in life
Is doing what other people say
I cannot do,”
An amazing prediction
For what I have done
All my life,
But never so much
As today.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Oh Spartan!
What weary wears these hands have weaved
These walls of stone that wears so worn,
You sit and fade, old man, yet you are the light,
The pride that burns beneath these brandished towers,
Oh how you rot, you decay with the setting day,
Your caverns of rusting steel, aging wheels
 Brushed to dust and then devoured
Still your fire glows
You shuffle from the sanitary market with lightened
Heart, with both pockets and packages empty
And with your arthritic fingers clutch upon your
Car fare home, clutched upon your ticket to salvation.
Oh Spartan! Is it noble,
These crabbed and crooked streets speak
Sorrow, and how your weary limbs grow weak
And your eyes grow blind.
How long can you test despair,
Stepping from curb to curb with unstained feet?
Out from the ghetto you walk
Proud below the darkened towers
Of bestial mills and forged factories,
Out from the shadows of red painted buildings
Upon which the business of banks has placed their
Curse – you rise, Oh Spartan,
A staggering giant, clutching the railing
For support, eyeing the tiled walls with doubtful eyes,
The cracks are there to see
And so are the promises. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fetal dreams

The men on third street stuff their ears
With thin paper bar tabs and wax paper bags,
Their loser lovers sleeping in rusted cars
Like markers of bad gambling debts
And through the amber evenings they drink
To health, wealth and happiness,
Cursing the joggers, stoning the limousines
Mocking with crooked elbows the walking lovers

And after midnight, the jig, a cross between
Panhandling and keeping warm
Thinking up lines like actors
As to how to squeeze another coin
From passing pockets

But when the bars close, when each neon light
Winks out, they turn forlorn to the empty
Doorways and byways and rusted cars
Covering themselves with newspaper financial reports

By dawn, they are the sleeping, dull dead bodies
Curled up in their fetal dreams
Knees pressed against their chests
Waiting for life to start again

Sunday, January 6, 2013

No uncertain terms

Simon & Garfunkel’s song Old Friends
Runs in my head as I listen
To the familiar voice of my childhood
Buddy on the phone,
Each of us touching bases
After a year apart (when
In former days we could not
Be parted for more than days)
Each of us full of the litany
Of age and life
The heart ache and the belly ache
And the pathetic politics
Of labor relations,
Catching up on the year’s news
Of what makes the world turn
the soap opera of people’s lives
That aren’t really ours
We mostly immune to the petty
Stuff that other people
Seem to feed on,
His voice like a the hefty beers
We used to get each Friday
After a hard day’s labor
Talking the pain out
Over the foam,
And even now,
After a year of mutual
Suffering apart
The liquor of his voice
Still works its magic
Telling me in no uncertain terms
We survived.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It only takes three to love

“It only takes three to love,”
she told me that dark night
Long ago, aching to love
Herself as much
As we did each other,
Not quite able to believe it
When she does, or to
Convince anybody else
It might be real,
Love like gusts of wind
Rising and falling
Never touching
The same place
Or the same way twice
But always leaving
A little chill
When it kisses you
always making you think
love is often
a dinner plate
meant for one

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Before the iceberg hits

The only thing
Anybody can really do
Is start over
Feeding the infernal
Machine that runs
Inside of us,
Fueling all our needs
Before we feed
Our desires
The way
coal stokers feed
the insatiable mouths
of vast ships
Sailing over dangerous seas
Hoping we don’t run into
Any more icebergs
Along the way,
When we almost
Always do