THEN, NOW

It was easier then, so let’s
go there, the spring of 1970,
the location is less important,
so long as it’s a coffee house
where those barely old enough
to drink, or barely short of that
age congregate, waiting for
something to happen or, I
seriously hoped, someone,
someone with little hair, but
who carried James Joyce in
his jeans pocket, Portrait of
the Artist the only Joyce to fit.

I had thought of Ginsberg or
Corso, a better fit, but too
intelligentsia for this audience,
and literature was not my purpose,
although I hoped they did
not know that, or if so, would
not hold it against me, at least
until after a first date and sight
of me in my Air Force uniform.

I did succeed that spring, so
my efforts did bear fruit, but
50 years, and a failed marriage later,
let’s instead go back twenty
years, to an Indian restaurant
where being a poet fit neatly
into the hip pocket of my jeans.

First appeared in the South Shore Review (Canada) Issue 2, Spring 2021

POETS GATHER

One deep and abiding beauty of dreams
is that it is entirely logical for
Marina Tsvetaeva to be engaged
In an animated discussion with
Corso and Ginsberg where none will
acknowledge that the world they
wrote and imagined is a total mess.

Over in the corner, Mandelstam and
Reznikoff have agreed that for eternity
every game of chess they play will
result in a stalemate, if only
to drive Brodsky to distraction, that
and having Osip say he prefers
Reznikoff’s free verse translations
to Brodsky’s ponderous rhymes.

I am looking forward to a cup
of espresso with Sylvia Plath, but she
says here she only drinks single malt
Scotch until it’s at least 5 P.M.

ELEGY FOR A POET

(for Allen Ginsburg)
You died quietly in your bed
friends gathered around
the cars and buses of the city
clattering out a Kaddish
to a God you had long ago
dismissed as irrelevant.
We would have expected
your to howl, to decry
the unfairness of it all,
but you merely said
it is time, and slipped away.
Who gave you the right
to depart without leaving us
one last remonstration
against the insanity
that surrounds us, one last
censure of the fools
who we have so blindly chosen
to lead a generation
into a hell of our creation.
You had your peace
but what of us
left behind, what can we
look forward to
in your absence
save the words we know
so well, can recite by heart
that no longer beats
in your breast.


First appeared in Living Poets Vol. 2, No. 1, (U.K) 2001 and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum vol .30, Nos 1-2,  2006

ANOTHER BAR, THIS ONE TOKYO

This poem was recently (February 5, 2019) published in the Beatnik Cowboy.  Check them out at: https://beatnikcowboy.com/

 

“Another,” he said,
his knees pressing
against the mahogany panels
of the old bar,
“and keep them coming
until I can take no more.
There won’t be
a last call tonight.”
The clatter of caroming
billiard balls cut
through the cigarette smoke
that curled against
the etched, streaked mirror,
over the din of karaoke.
As the bartender rinsed
and wiped the glasses
with a beigy cotton towel
and walked to the storeroom
he lifted the shot glass.
“This one’s for you Ginsberg,”
as he had earlier for Lowell,
Reznikoff, the others.
Much later as the sun
rose slowly, as his head
rested in his left hand,
he struggled to grab the small glass,
lifted it painfully
from the ash littered bar top
and in a sodden, slurred voice
whispered, head falling
against the wood, “and this
is for you Corso.”

TO ALLEN

Tell me more about death, I said
put it into words, that’s
your specialty so open your mouth
from amid your black jungle of a beard
now white, I want a noise, a howl.
Why the hell do I hear only silence,
I know it’s the sound
of one hand clapping,
but I demand more than a mere koan
Corso would at least bathe me in gasoline
but you, who wrote to be immortal
so why, now, only old words?
So I can complete the circle?
But they hit the floor like
so may peanut shells
washed by the spilt beer.
Come on, say something
even a simple kaddish
for your silence is killing me.