little dark girl with
when it comes time to
use the knife
I won't flinch and
i won't blame
as I drive along the shore alone
as the palms wave,
the ugly heavy palms,
as the living does not arrive
as the dead do not leave,
i won't blame you,
i will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of
and I will remember your small room
the feel of you
the light in the window
our morning coffee
our noons our nights
our bodies spilled together
the tiny flowing currents
immediate and forever
your leg my leg
your arm my arm
your smile and the warmth
who made me laugh
little dark girl with kind eyes
you have no
knife. the knife is
mine and i won't use it
Cass was the youngest and most beautiful of 5 sisters. Cass was the most beautiful girl
in town. 1/2 Indian with a supple and strange body, a snake-like and fiery body with eyes
to go with it. Cass was fluid moving fire. She was like a spirit stuck into a form that
would not hold her. Her hair was black and long and silken and whirled about as did her
body. Her spirit was either very high or very low. There was no in between for Cass. Some
said she was crazy. The dull ones said that. The dull ones would never understand Cass. To
the men she was simply a sex machine and they didn't care whether she was crazy or not.
And Cass danced and flirted, kissed the men, but except for an instance or two, when it
came time to make it with Cass, Cass had somehow slipped away, eluded the men.
Her sisters accused her of misusing her beauty, of not using her mind enough, but Cass
had mind and spirit; she painted, she danced, she sang, she made things of clay, and when
people were hurt either in the spirit or the flesh, Cass felt a deep grieving for them.
Her mind was simply different; her mind was simply not practical. Her sisters were jealous
of her because she attracted their men, and they were angry because they felt she didn't
make the best use of them. She had a habit of being kind to the uglier ones; the so-called
handsome men revolted her- "No guts," she said, "no zap. They are riding on
their perfect little earlobes and well- shaped nostrils...all surface and no
insides..." She had a temper that came close to insanity, she had a temper that some
call insanity. Her father had died of alcohol and her mother had run off leaving the
girls alone. The girls went to a relative who placed them in a convent. The convent had
been an unhappy place, more for Cass than the sisters. The girls were jealous of Cass and
Cass fought most of them. She had razor marks all along her left arm from defending
herself in two fights. There was also a permanent scar along the left cheek but the scar
rather than lessening her beauty only seemed to highlight it. I met her at the West End
Bar several nights after her release from the convent. Being youngest, she was the last of
the sisters to be released. She simply came in and sat next to me. I was probably the
ugliest man in town and this might have had something to do with it.
"Drink?" I asked.
"Sure, why not?"
I don't suppose there was anything unusual in our conversation that night, it was
simply in the feeling Cass gave. She had chosen me and it was as simple as that. No
pressure. She liked her drinks and had a great number of them. She didn't seem quite of
age but they served he anyhow. Perhaps she had forged i.d., I don't know. Anyhow, each
time she came back from the restroom and sat down next to me, I did feel some pride. She
was not only the most beautiful woman in town but also one of the most beautiful I had
ever seen. I placed my arm about her waist and kissed her once.
"Do you think I'm pretty?" she asked.
"Yes, of course, but there's something else... there's more than your
"People are always accusing me of being pretty. Do you really think I'm
"Pretty isn't the word, it hardly does you fair."
Cass reached into her handbag. I thought she was reaching for her handkerchief. She
came out with a long hatpin. Before I could stop her she had run this long hatpin through
her nose, sideways, just above the nostrils. I felt disgust and horror. She looked at me
and laughed, "Now do you think me pretty? What do you think now, man?" I pulled
the hatpin out and held my handkerchief over the bleeding. Several people, including the
bartender, had seen the act. The bartender came down:
"Look," he said to Cass, "you act up again and you're out. We don't need
your dramatics here."
"Oh, fuck you, man!" she said.
"Better keep her straight," the bartender said to me.
"She'll be all right," I said.
"It's my nose, I can do what I want with my nose."
"No," I said, "it hurts me."
"You mean it hurts you when I stick a pin in my nose?"
"Yes, it does, I mean it."
"All right, I won't do it again. Cheer up."
She kissed me, rather grinning through the kiss and holding the handkerchief to her
nose. We left for my place at closing time. I had some beer and we sat there talking. It
was then that I got the perception of her as a person full of kindness and caring. She
gave herself away without knowing it. At the same time she would leap back into areas of
wildness and incoherence. Schitzi. A beautiful and spiritual schitzi. Perhaps some man,
something, would ruin her forever. I hoped that it wouldn't be me. We went to bed and
after I turned out the lights Cass asked me,
"When do you want it? Now or in the morning?"
"In the morning," I said and turned my back.
In the morning I got up and made a couple of coffees, brought her one in bed. She
"You're the first man who has turned it down at night."
"It's o.k.," I said, "we needn't do it at all."
"No, wait, I want to now. Let me freshen up a bit."
Cass went into the bathroom. She came out shortly, looking quite wonderful, her long
black hair glistening, her eyes and lips glistening, her glistening... She displayed her
body calmly, as a good thing. She got under the sheet.
"Come on, lover man."
I got in. She kissed with abandon but without haste. I let my hands run over her body,
through her hair. I mounted. It was hot, and tight. I began to stroke slowly, wanting to
make it last. Her eyes looked directly into mine.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"What the hell difference does it make?" she asked.
I laughed and went on ahead. Afterwards she dressed and I drove her back to the bar but
she was difficult to forget. I wasn't working and I slept until 2 p.m. then got up and
read the paper. I was in the bathtub when she came in with a large leaf- an elephant ear.
"I knew you'd be in the bathtub," she said, "so I brought you something
to cover that thing with, nature boy."
She threw the elephant leaf down on me in the bathtub.
"How did you know I'd be in the tub?"
Almost every day Cass arrived when I was in the tub. The times were different but she
seldom missed, and there was the elephant leaf. And then we'd make love. One or two nights
she phoned and I had to bail her out of jail for drunkenness and fighting.
"These sons of bitches," she said, "just because they buy you a few
drinks they think they can get into your pants."
"Once you accept a drink you create your own trouble."
"I thought they were interested in me, not just my body."
"I'm interested in you and your body. I doubt, though, that most men can see
beyond your body."
I left town for 6 months, bummed around, came back. I had never forgotten Cass, but
we'd had some type of argument and I felt like moving anyhow, and when I got back i
figured she'd be gone, but I had been sitting in the West End Bar about 30 minutes when
she walked in and sat down next to me.
"Well, bastard, I see you've come back."
I ordered her a drink. Then I looked at her. She had on a high- necked dress. I had
never seen her in one of those. And under each eye, driven in, were 2 pins with glass
heads. All you could see were the heads of the pins, but the pins were driven down into
"God damn you, still trying to destroy your beauty, eh?"
"No, it's the fad, you fool."
"I've missed you," she said.
"Is there anybody else?"
"No there isn't anybody else. Just you. But I'm hustling. It costs ten bucks. But
you get it free."
"Pull those pins out."
"No, it's the fad."
"It's making me very unhappy."
"Are you sure?"
"Hell yes, I'm sure."
Cass slowly pulled the pins out and put them back in her purse.
"Why do you haggle your beauty?" I asked. "Why don't you just live with
"Because people think it's all I have. Beauty is nothing, beauty won't stay. You
don't know how lucky you are to be ugly, because if people like you you know it's for
"O.k.," I said, "I'm lucky."
"I don't mean you're ugly. People just think you're ugly. You have a fascinating
We had another drink.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Nothing. I can't get on to anything. No interest."
"Me neither. If you were a woman you could hustle."
"I don't think I could ever make contact with that many strangers, it's
"You're right, it's wearing, everything is wearing."
We left together. People still stared at Cass on the streets. She was a beautiful
woman, perhaps more beautiful than ever. We made it to my place and I opened a bottle of
wine and we talked. With Cass and I, it always came easy. She talked a while and I would
listen and then i would talk. Our conversation simply went along without strain. We seemed
to discover secrets together. When we discovered a good one Cass would laugh that laugh-
only the way she could. It was like joy out of fire. Through the talking we kissed and
moved closer together. We became quite heated and decided to go to bed. It was then that
Cass took off her high -necked dress and I saw it- the ugly jagged scar across her throat.
It was large and thick.
"God damn you, woman," I said from the bed, "god damn you, what have you
"I tried it with a broken bottle one night. Don't you like me any more? Am I still
I pulled her down on the bed and kissed her. She pushed away and laughed, "Some
men pay me ten and I undress and they don't want to do it. I keep the ten. It's very
"Yes," I said, "I can't stop laughing... Cass, bitch, I love you...stop
destroying yourself; you're the most alive woman I've ever met."
We kissed again. Cass was crying without sound. I could feel the tears. The long black
hair lay beside me like a flag of death. We enjoined and made slow and somber and
wonderful love. In the morning Cass was up making breakfast. She seemed quite calm and
happy. She was singing. I stayed in bed and enjoyed her happiness. Finally she came over
and shook me,
"Up, bastard! Throw some cold water on your face and pecker and come enjoy the
I drove her to the beach that day. It was a weekday and not yet summer so things were
splendidly deserted. Beach bums in rags slept on the lawns above the sand. Others sat on
stone benches sharing a lone bottle. The gulls whirled about, mindless yet distracted. Old
ladies in their 70's and 80's sat on the benches and discussed selling real estate left
behind by husbands long ago killed by the pace and stupidity of survival. For it all,
there was peace in the air and we walked about and stretched on the lawns and didn't say
much. It simply felt good being together. I bought a couple of sandwiches, some chips and
drinks and we sat on the sand eating. Then I held Cass and we slept together about an
hour. It was somehow better than lovemaking. There was flowing together without tension.
When we awakened we drove back to my place and I cooked a dinner. After dinner I suggested
to Cass that we shack together. She waited a long time, looking at me, then she slowly
said, "No." I drove her back to the bar, bought her a drink and walked out. I
found a job as a parker in a factory the next day and the rest of the week went to
working. I was too tired to get about much but that Friday night I did get to the West End
Bar. I sat and waited for Cass. Hours went by . After I was fairly drunk the bartender
said to me, "I'm sorry about your girlfriend."
"What is it?" I asked.
"I'm sorry, didn't you know?"
"Suicide. She was buried yesterday."
"Buried?" I asked. It seemed as though she would walk through the doorway at
any moment. How could she be gone?
"Her sisters buried her."
"A suicide? Mind telling me how?"
"She cut her throat."
"I see. Give me another drink."
I drank until closing time. Cass was the most beautiful of 5 sisters, the most
beautiful in town. I managed to drive to my place and I kept thinking, I should have
insisted she stay with me instead of accepting that "no." Everything about her
had indicated that she had cared. I simply had been too offhand about it, lazy, too
unconcerned. I deserved my death and hers. I was a dog. No, why blame the dogs? I got up
and found a bottle of wine and drank from it heavily. Cass the most beautiful girl in town
was dead at 20. Outside somebody honked their automobile horn. They were very loud and
persistent. I sat the bottle down and screamed out: "GOD DAMN YOU, YOU SON OF A BITCH
,SHUT UP!" The night kept coming and there was nothing I could do.
the house next door makes me
both man and wife rise early and
go to work.
they arrive home in early evening.
they have a young boy and a girl.
by 9 p.m. all the lights in the house
the next morning both man and
wife rise early again and go to
they return in early evening.
By 9 p.m. all the lights are
the house next door makes me
the people are nice people, I
but I feel them drowning.
and I can't save them.
they are surviving.
they are not
but the price is
sometimes during the day
I will look at the house
and the house will look at
and the house will
weep, yes, it does, I
the lady has me temporarily off the bottle
and now the pecker stands up
however, things change overnight--
instead of listening to Shostakovich and
Mozart through a smeared haze of smoke
the nights change, new
we drive to Baskin-Robbins,
Rocky Road, Bubble Gum, Apricot Ice, Strawberry
Cheesecake, Chocolate Mint...
we park outside and look at icecream
a very healthy and satisfied people,
nary a potential suicide in sight
(they probably even vote)
and I tell her
"what if the boys saw me go in there? suppose they
find out I'm going in for a walnut peach sundae?"
"come on, chicken," she laughs and we go in
and stand with the icecream people.
none of them are cursing or threatening
there seem to be no hangovers or
I am alarmed at the placid and calm wave
that flows about. I feel like a leper in a
beauty contest. we finally get our sundaes and
sit in the car and eat them.
I must admit they are quite good. a curious new
world. (all my friends tell me I am looking
better. "you're looking good, man, we thought you
were going to die there for a while...")
--those 4,500 dark nights, the jails, the
and later that night
there is use for the pecker, use for
love, and it is glorious,
long and true,
and afterwards we speak of easy things;
our heads by the open window with the moonlight
looking through, we sleep in each other's
the icecream people make me feel good,
inside and out.
don't feel sorry for me.
I am a competent,
satisfied human being.
be sorry for the others
and it will
beware of them:
one of their
key words is
and beware those who
instructions from their
for they have
failed completely to live their own
don't feel sorry for me
because I am alone
at the most terrible
I am a dog walking
I am a broken
I am a telephone wire
strung up in
I am a man
eating a meal
in the month of
put your sympathy
water held up
you better be
it doesn't always happen
and when it does
if he's bad
there's more chance
he'll stay that way,
or if he's good
he might hang
but a woman
the absence or
presence of sun
or good times.
a woman must be nursed
where a man can become
by being hated.
I am drinking tonight in Spangler's Bar
and I remember the cows
I once painted in Art class
and they looked good
they looked better than anything
in here. I am drinking in Spangler's Bar
wondering which to love and which
to hate, but the rules are gone:
I love and hate only
they stand outside me
like an orange dropped from the table
and rolling away; it's what I've got to
kill myself or
which is the treason?
where's the information
books...like broken glass:
I wouldn't wipe my ass with 'em
yet, it's getting
(we drink here and speak to
each other and
buy the cow with the biggest
buy the cow with the biggest
the bartender slides me a beer
it runs down the bar
like an Olympic sprinter
and the pair of pliers that is my hand
stops it, lifts it,
golden piss of dull temptation,
I drink and
the weather bad for cows
but my brush is ready
to stroke up
the green grass straw eye
sadness takes me all over
and I drink the beer straight down
order a shot
to give me the guts and the love to
from "poems written before jumping out of an 8 story window" - 1966
there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day
and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace
those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love
beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect
like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
their finest art
it's the same as before
or the other time
or the time before that.
here's a cock
and here's a cunt
and here's trouble.
only each time
well now I've learned:
I'll let her do that
and I'll do this,
I no longer want it all,
just some comfort
and some sex
and only a minor
now I'm waiting again
and the years run thin.
I have my radio
and the kitchen walls
I keep dumping bottles
I hope that death contains
less than this.
some say we should keep personal remorse from the
stay abstract, and there is some reason in this,
twelve poems gone and I don't keep carbons and you have
paintings too, my best ones; its stifling:
are you trying to crush me out like the rest of them?
why didn't you take my money? they usually do
from the sleeping drunken pants sick in the corner.
next time take my left arm or a fifty
but not my poems:
I'm not Shakespeare
but sometime simply
there won't be any more, abstract or otherwise;
there'll always be mony and whores and drunkards
down to the last bomb,
but as God said,
crossing his legs,
I see where I have made plenty of poets
but not so very much
during my worst times
on the park benches
in the jails
or living with
I always had this certain
I wouldn't call it
it was more of an inner
that settled for
whatever was occuring
and it helped in the
and when relationships
wars and the
the backalley fights
to awaken in a cheap room
in a strange city and
pull up the shade-
this was the craziest kind of
and to walk across the floor
to an old dresser with a
see myself, ugly,
grinning at it all.
what matters most is
how well you
walk through the
ignore all possible concepts and possibilities ---
ignore Beethoven, the spider, the damnation of Faust ---
just make it, babe, make it:
a house a car a belly full of beans
pay your taxes
and if you can't fuck
make money but don't work too
hard --- make somebody else pay to
make it --- and
don't smoke too much but drink enough to
stay off the streets
wipe your ass real good
use a lot of toilet paper
it's bad manners to let people know you shit or
could smell like it
if you weren't
the women of the past keep
there was another yesterday
arrived from out of
she wanted to see
I told her
I don't want to see
I won't see them.
it would be
I know some people who can
watch the same movie
once I know the
once I know the
whether it's happy or
that movie is
and that's why
any of my
old movies play
over and over again
"--you know, I've either had a family, a job, something
has always been in the
I've sold my house, I've found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
for the first time in my life I'm going to have a place and
the time to
no baby, if you're going to create
you're going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you're going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you're on
you're going to create with part of your mind and your
you're going to create blind
you're going to create with a cat crawling up your
the whole city trembles in earthquakes, bombardment,
flood and fire.
baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don't create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
It's never quite right, he said, the way people look,
the way the music sounds, the way the words are
It's never quite right, he said, all the things we are
taught, all the loves we chase, all the deaths we
die, all the lives we live,
they are never quite right,
they are hardly close to right,
these lives we live
one after the other,
piled there as history,
the waste of the species,
the crushing of the light and the way,
it's not quite right,
it's hardly right at all
don't I know it? I
I walked away from the mirror.
it was morning, it was afternoon, it was
it was locked in place.
something flashed, something broke, something
I walked down the stairway and
there is always somebody or something
waiting for you,
something stronger, more intelligent,
more evil, more kind, more durable,
something bigger, something better,
something worse, something with
eyes like the tiger, jaws like the shark,
something crazier than crazy,
saner than sane,
there is always something or somebody
waiting for you
as you put on your shoes
or as you sleep
or as you empty a garbage can
or pet your cat
or brush your teeth
or celebrate a holiday
there is always somebody or something
waiting for you.
keep this fully in mind
so that when it happens
you will be as ready as possible.
meanwhile, a good day to
if you are still there.
I think that I am---
I just burnt my fingers on
this time has finished me.
I feel like the German troops
whipped by snow and the communists
with newspapers stuffed into
my plight is just as terrible.
maybe more so.
victory was so close
victory was there.
as she stood before my mirror
younger and more beautiful than
any woman I had ever known
combing yards and yards of red hair
as I watched her.
and when she came to bed
she was more beautiful than ever
and the love was very very good.
now she's gone
gone as they go.
this time has finished me.
it's a long road back
and back to where?
the guy ahead of me
I step over him.
did she get him too?
I cut the middle fingernail of the middle
and I began rubbing along her cunt
as she sat upright in bed
spreading lotion over her arms
then she lit a cigarette:
"don't let this put you off,"
an smoked and continued to rub
the lotion on.
I continued to rub the cunt.
"You want an apple?" I asked.
"sure, she said, "you got one?"
but I got to her-
she began to twist
then she rolled on her side,
she was getting wet and open
like a flower in the rain.
then she rolled on her stomach
and her most beautiful ass
looked up at me
and I reached under and got the
she reached around and got my
cock, she rolled and twisted,
my face falling into the mass
of red hair that overflowed
from her head
and my flattened cock entered
into the miracle.
later we joked about the lotion
and the cigarette and the apple.
then I went out and got some chicken
and shrimp and french fries and buns
and mashed potatoes and gravy and
cole slaw,and we ate.she told me
how good she felt and I told her
how good I felt and we
ate the chicken and the shrimp and the
french fries and the buns and the
mashed potatoes and the gravy and
the cole slaw too.
I pick up the skirt,
I pick up the sparkling beads
this thing that moved once
and I call God a liar,
I say anything that moved
could never die
in the common verity of dying,
and I pick
up her lovely
all her loveliness gone,
and I speak to all the gods,
Jewish gods, Christ-gods,
chips of blinking things,
idols, pills, bread,
rats in the gravy of 2 gone quite mad
without a chance,
hummingbird knowledge, hummingbird chance,
I lean upon this,
I lean on all of this
and I know:
her dress upon my arm:
they will not
give her back to me.
the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
crawling in and out
the bone and the
for more than
there's no chance
we are all trapped
by a singular
nobody ever finds
the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill
against the wall, the firing squad ready.
then he got a reprieve.
suppose they had shot Dostoevsky?
before he wrote all that?
I suppose it wouldn't have
there are billions of people who have
never read him and never
but as a young man I know that he
got me through the factories,
past the whores,
lifted me high through the night
and put me down
in a better
even while in the bar
drinking with the other
I was glad they gave Dostoevsky a
it gave me one,
allowed me to look directly at those
in my world,
death pointing its finger,
I held fast,
an immaculate drunk
sharing the stinking dark with
she's young, she said,
but look at me,
I have pretty ankles,
and look at my wrists, I have pretty
o my god,
I thought it was all working,
and now it's her again,
every time she phones you go crazy,
you told me it was over
you told me it was finished,
listen, I've lived long enough to become a
why do you need a bad woman?
you need to be tortured, don't you?
you think life is rotten if somebody treats you
rotten it all fits,
tell me, is that it? do you want to be treated like a
piece of shit?
and my son, my son was going to meet you.
I told my son
and I dropped all my lovers.
I stood up in a cafe and screamed
I'M IN LOVE,
and now you've made a fool of me. . .
I'm sorry, I said, I'm really sorry.
hold me, she said, will you please hold me?
I've never been in one of these things before, I said,
these triangles. . .
she got up and lit a cigarette, she was trembling all
over.she paced up and down,wild and crazy.she had
a small body.her arms were thin,very thin and when
she screamed and started beating me I held her
wrists and then I got it through the eyes:hatred,
centuries deep and true.I was wrong and graceless and
sick.all the things I had learned had been wasted.
there was no creature living as foul as I
and all my poems were
style is the answer to everything --
a fresh way to approach a dull or a
to do a dull thing with style
is preferable to doing a dangerous thing
Joan of Arc had style
John the Baptist
style is the difference,
a way of doing,
a way of being done.
6 herons standing quietly in a pool of water
or you walking out of the bathroom naked
if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.
if you’re going to try, go all the
way. this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.
go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or
it could mean freezing on a
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
how much you really want to
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the
and it will be better than
you can imagine.
if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the
and the nights will flame with
do it, do it, do it.
all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
it’s the only good fight
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pur whiskey on him and inhale
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
stay down, do you want to mess
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
we are always asked
to understand the other person's
no matter how
one is asked
their total error
especially if they are
but age is the total of
they have aged
because they have
out of focus,
they have refused to
not their fault?
I am asked to hide
for fear of their
age is no crime
but the shame
of a deliberately
among so many
the history of melancholia
includes all of us.
me, I writhe in dirty sheets
while staring at blue walls
I have gotten so used to melancholia
I greet it like an old
I will now do 15 minutes of grieving
for the lost redhead,
I tell the gods.
I do it and feel quite bad
then I rise
even though nothing
that's what I get for kicking
religion in the ass.
I should have kicked the redhead
in the ass
where her brains and her bread and
but, no, I've felt sad
the lost redhead was just another
smash in a lifelong
I listen to drums on the radio now
there is something wrong with me
washed-up, on shore, the old yellow notebook
I write from the bed
as I did last
will see the doctor,
"yes, doctor, weak legs, vertigo, head-
aches and my back
"are you drinking?" he will ask.
"are you getting your
I think that I am just ill
with life, the same stale yet
even at the track
I watch the horses run by
and it seems
I leave early after buying tickets on the
"taking off?" asks the motel
"yes, it's boring,"
I tell him.
"If you think it's boring
out there," he tells me, "you oughta be
so here I am
propped up against my pillows
just an old guy
just an old writer
with a yellow
walking across the
oh, it's just
Either peace or happiness,
let it enfold you
when I was a young man
I felt these things were
I had bad blood, a twisted
mind, a precarious
I was hard as granite, I
leered at the
I trusted no man and
I was living a hell in
small rooms, I broke
things, smashed things,
walked through glass,
I challenged everything,
was continually being
evicted, jailed, in and
out of fights, in and out
of my mind.
women were something
to screw and rail
at, I had no male
I changed jobs and
cities, I hated holidays,
algebra angred me,
opera sickened me,
charlie chaplin was a
and flowers were for
peace and happiness to me
were signs of
tenants of the weak
but as I went on with
my alley fights,
my suicidal years,
my passage through
any number of
began to occur to
that I wasn't different
others, I was the same,
they were all fulsome
glossed over with petty
the men I fought in
alleys had hearts of stone.
everybody was nudging,
inching, cheating for
the lie was the
weapon and the
darkness was the
cautiously, I allowed
myself to feel good
I found moments of
peace in cheap
just staring at the
knobs of some
or listening to the
rain in the
the less I needed
the better I
maybe the other life had worn me
I no longer found
in topping somebody
or in mounting the
body of some poor
whose life had
slipped away into
I could never accept
life as it was,
i could never gobble
down all its
but there were parts,
tenuous magic parts
open for the
I re formulated
I don't know when,
date, time, all
but the change
something in me
i no longer had to
prove that I was a
I didn't have to prove
I began to see things:
coffee cups lined up
behind a counter in a
or a dog walking along
or the way the mouse
on my dresser top
with its body,
it was fixed,
a bit of life
caught within itself
and its eyes looked
and they were
then- it was
I began to feel good,
I began to feel good
in the worst situations
and there were plenty
like say, the boss
behind his desk,
he is going to have
to fire me.
I've missed too many
he is dressed in a
suit, necktie, glasses,
he says, 'I am going
to have to let you go'
'it's all right' I tell
He must do what he
must do, he has a
wife, a house, children,
expenses, most probably
I am sorry for him
he is caught.
I walk onto the blazing
the whole day is
(the whole world is at the
throat of the world,
everybody feels angry,
everybody is despondent,
I welcomed shots of
peace, tattered shards of
I embraced that stuff
like the hottest number,
like high heels, breasts,
(don't get me wrong,
there is such a thing as cockeyed optimism
that overlooks all
basic problems just for
the sake of
this is a shield and a
The knife got near my
I almost turned on the
but when the good
I didn't fight them off
like an alley
I let them take me,
I luxuriated in them,
I made them welcome
I even looked into
once having thought
myself to be
I now liked what
I saw, almost
a bit ripped and
but all in all,
not too bad,
better at least than
some of those movie
like the cheeks of
and finally I discovered
real feelings of
like this morning,
as I was leaving,
for the track,
i saw my wife in bed,
her head there
centuries of the living
and the dead and
but his music still
there in the
room, weeds growing,
the earth turning,
the tote board waiting for
I saw the shape of my
she so still,
I ached for her life,
just being there
I kissed her in the
got down the stairway,
got into my marvelous
fixed the seatbelt,
backed out the
feeling warm to
down to my
foot on the gas
I entered the world
drove down the
past the houses
full and empty
I saw the mailman,
call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the
there wasn't any money but there was
plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or
it would RAIN for 7 days and 7
and in Los Angeles the storm drains
weren't built to carry off taht much
and the rain came down THICK and
and you HEARD it banging against
the roofs and into the ground
waterfalls of it came down
and there was HAIL
big ROCKS OF ICE
exploding smashing into things
and the rain
and all the roofs leaked-
were placed all about;
they dripped loudly
and had to be emptied
the rain came up over the street curbings,
across the lawns, climbed up the steps and
entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels,
and the rain often came up through the
toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling,
and all the old cars stood in the streets,
cars that had problems starting on a
and the jobless men stood
looking out the windows
at the old machines dying
like living things out there.
the jobless men,
failures in a failing time
were imprisoned in their houses with their
wives and children
the pets refused to go out
and left their waste in
the jobless men went mad
their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments
as notices of foreclosure
fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans,
bread without butter;fried
eggs, boiled eggs, poached
eggs; peanut butter
sandwiches, and an invisible
chicken in every pot.
my father, never a good man
at best, beat my mother
when it rained
as I threw myself
the legs, the knees, the
"I'll kill you," I screamed
at him. "You hit her again
and I'll kill you!"
"Get that son-of-a-bitching
kid out of here!"
"no, Henry, you stay with
all the households were under
seige but I believe that ours
held more terror than the
and at night
as we attempted to sleep
the rains still came down
and it was in bed
in the dark
watching the moon against
the scarred window
most of the rain,
I thought of Noah and the
and I thought, it has come
we all thought
and then, at once, it would
and it always seemed to
around 5 or 6 a.m.,
but not an exact silence
because things continued to
and there was no smog then
and by 8 a.m.
there was a
blazing yellow sunlight,
Van Gogh yellow-
the roof drains
relieved of the rush of
began to expand in the warmth:
and everybody got up and looked outside
and there were all the lawns
greener than green will ever
and there were birds
on the lawn
CHIRPING like mad,
they hadn't eaten decently
for 7 days and 7 nights
and they were weary of
they waited as the worms
rose to the top,
half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them
and gobbled them
blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to
drive the sparrows off
but the sparrows,
maddened with hunger,
smaller and quicker,
the men stood on their porches
they'd have to go out
to look for that job
that probably wasn't
there, to start that car
that probably wouldn't
and the once beautiful
stood in their bathrooms
combing their hair,
trying to put their world back
trying to forget that
awful sadness that
wondering what they could
and on the radio
we were told that
school was now
there I was
on the way to school,
massive puddles in the
the sun like a new
my parents back in that
I arrived at my classroom
Mrs. Sorenson greeted us
with, "we won't have our
usual recess, the grounds
are too wet."
"AW!" most of the boys
"but we are going to do
something special at
recess," she went on,
"and it will be
well, we all wondered
what that would
and the two hour wait
seemed a long time
I looked at the little
girls, they looked so
pretty and clean and
they sat still and
and their hair was
in the California
the the recess bells rang
and we all waited for the
then Mrs. Sorenson told us:
"now, what we are going to
do is we are going to tell
each other what we did
during the rainstorm!
we'll begin in the front row
and go right around!
now, Michael, you're first!. . ."
well, we all began to tell
our stories, Michael began
and it went on and on,
and soon we realized that
we were all lying, not
exactly lying but mostly
lying and some of the boys
began to snicker and some
of the girls began to give
them dirty looks and
"all right! I demand a
modicum of silence
I am interested in what
during the rainstorm
even if you
so we had to tell our
stories and they were
one girl said that
when the rainbow first
she saw God's face
at the end of it.
only she didn't say which end.
one boy said he stuck
his fishing pole
out the window
and caught a little
and fed it to his
almost everybody told
the truth was just
too awful and
embarassing to tell.
then the bell rang
and recess was
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very
and tomorrow the grounds
will be dry
and we will put them
most of the boys
and the little girls
sat very straight and
looking so pretty and
their hair beautiful in a sunshine that
the world might never see
some people never go crazy.
me, sometimes I'll lie down behind the couch
for 3 or 4 days.
they'll find me there.
it's Cherub, they'll say, and
they pour wine down my throat
rub my chest
sprinkle me with oils.
then, I'll rise with a roar,
rant, rage -
curse them and the universe
as I send them scattering over the
I'll feel much better,
sit down to toast and eggs,
hum a little tune,
suddenly become as lovable as a
some people never go crazy.
what truly horrible lives
they must lead.
To end up alone
in a tomb of a room
just a lightbulb
and a potbelly,
and glad to have
...in the morning
they're out there
and you turn over
to your left side
to get the sun
on your back
of your eyes.
from "All's Normal Here" - 1985
when Whitman wrote, "I sing the body electric"
I know what he
I know what he
to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.
we can't cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take
it will have known a victory just as
out of the arm of one love
and into the arms of another
I have been saved from dying on the cross
by a lady who smokes pot
writes songs and stories
and is much kinder than the last,
much much kinder,
and the sex is just as good or better.
it isn't pleasant to be put on the cross and left there,
it is much more pleasant to forget a love which didn't
as all love
doesn't work ...
it is much more pleasant to make love
along the shore in Del Mar
in room 42, and afterwards
sitting up in bed
drinking good wine, talking and touching
listening to the waves ...
I have died too many times
believing and waiting, waiting
in a room
staring at a cracked ceiling
wating for the phone, a letter, a knock, a sound ...
going wild inside
while she danced with strangers in nightclubs ...
out of the arms of one love
and into the arms of another
it's not pleasant to die on the cross,
it is much more pleasant to hear your name whispered in
don't undress my love
you might find a mannequin:
don't undress the mannequin
you might find
she's long ago
she's trying on a new
and looks more the
she is a
and a mannequin
I can't hate
she didn't do
I only wanted her
the cockroach crouched
against the tile
while I was pissing and as
I turned my head
he hauled his butt
into a crack.
I got the can and sprayed
and sprayed and sprayed
and finally the roach came out
and gave me a very dirty look.
then he fell down into
the bathtub and I watched
with a subtle pleasure
because I paid rent
and he didn't.
I picked him up with
some greenblue toilet
paper and flushed him
away. that's all there
was to that, except
around Hollywood and
Western we have to
keep doing it.
they say some day that
tribe is going to
inherit the earth
but we're going to
make them wait a
I don't know how many bottles of beer
I have consumed while waiting for things
to get better
I dont know how much wine and whisky
I have consumed after
splits with women-
waiting for the phone to ring
waiting for the sound of footsteps,
and the phone to ring
waiting for the sounds of footsteps,
and the phone never rings
until much later
and the footsteps never arrive
until much later
when my stomach is coming up
out of my mouth
they arrive as fresh as spring flowers:
"what the hell have you done to yourself?
it will be 3 days before you can fuck me!"
the female is durable
she lives seven and one half years longer
than the male, and she drinks very little beer
because she knows its bad for the figure.
while we are going mad
they are out
dancing and laughing
with horney cowboys.
well, there's beer
sacks and sacks of empty beer bottles
and when you pick one up
the bottle fall through the wet bottom
of the paper sack
spilling gray wet ash
and stale beer,
or the sacks fall over at 4 a.m.
in the morning
making the only sound in your life.
rivers and seas of beer
the radio singing love songs
as the phone remains silent
and the walls stand
straight up and down
and beer is all there is.
we like to shower afterwards
(I like the water hotter than she)
and her face is always soft and peaceful
and she'll watch me first
spread the soap over my balls
lift the balls
then wash the cock:
"hey, this thing is still hard!"
then get all the hair down there,-
the belly, the back, the neck, the legs,
I grin grin grin,
and then I wash her. . .
first the cunt, I
stand behind her, my cock in the cheeks of her ass
I gently soap up the cunt hairs,
wash there with a soothing motion,
I linger perhaps longer than necessary,
then I get the backs of the legs, the ass,
the back, the neck, I turn her, kiss her,
soap up the breasts, get them and the belly, the neck,
the fronts of the legs, the ankles, the feet,
and then the cunt, once more, for luck. . .
another kiss, and she gets out first,
toweling, sometimes singing while I stay in
turn the water on hotter
feeling the good times of love's miracle
I then get out. . .
it is usually mid-afternoon and quiet,
and getting dressed we talk about what else
there might be to do,
but being together solves most of it
for as long as those things stay solved
in the history of women and
man, it's different for each-
for me, it's splendid enough to remember
past the memories of pain and defeat and unhappiness:
when you take it away
do it slowly and easily
make it as if I were dying in my sleep instead of in
my life, amen.
you may not believe it
but there are people
who go through life with
they dress well, eat
well, sleep well.
they are contented with
they have moments of
but all in all
they are undisturbed
and often feel
and when they die
it is an easy
death, usually in their
you may not believe
but such people do
but I am not one of
oh no, I am not one
I am not even near
but they are
and I am
I read that he lost a suitcase full of manuscripts on a
train and that they never were recovered.
I can't match the agony of this
but the other night I wrote a 3-page poem
upon this computer
and through my lack of diligence and
and by playing around with commands
on the menu
I somehow managed to erase the poem
believe me, such a thing is difficult to do
even for a novice
but I somehow managed to do
now I don't think this 3-pager was immor-
but there were some crazy wild lines,
now gone forever.
it bothers more than a touch, it's some-
thing like knocking over a good bottle of
and writing about it hardly makes a good
still, I thought somehow you'd like to
if not, at least you've read this far
and there could be better work
down the line.
let's hope so, for your sake
waiting for death
like a cat
that will jump on the
I am so very sorry for
she will see this
shake it once, then
it's not my death that
worries me, it's my wife
left with this
I want to
let her know
that all the nights
even the useless
and the hard
I ever feared to
can now be
death wants more death, and its webs are full:
I remember my father's garage, how child-like
I would brush the corpses of flies
from the windows they thought were escape-
their sticky, ugly, vibrant bodies
shouting like dumb crazy dogs against the glass
only to spin and flit
in that second larger than hell or heaven
onto the edge of the ledge,
and then the spider from his dank hole
nervous and exposed
the puff of body swelling
not really quite knowing,
and then knowing-
something sending it down its string,
the wet web,
toward the weak shield of buzzing,
a last desperate moving hair-leg
there against the glass
there alive in the sun,
spun in white;
and almost like love:
the closing over,
the first hushed spider-sucking:
filling its sack
upon this thing that lived;
crouching there upon its back
drawing its certain blood
as the world goes by outside
and my temples scream
and I hurl the broom against them:
the spider dull with spider-anger
still thinking of its prey
and waving an amazed broken leg;
the fly very still,
a dirty speck stranded to straw;
I shake the killer loose
and he walks lame and peeved
towards some dark corner
but I intercept his dawdling
his crawling like some broken hero,
and the straws smash his legs
above his head
looking for the enemy
and somewhat valiant,
dying without apparent pain
simply crawling backward
piece by piece
leaving nothing there
until at last the red gut sack
and I run child-like
with God's anger a step behind,
back to simple sunlight,
as the world goes by
with curled smile
if anyone else
saw or sensed my crime
he came to the door one night wet thin beaten and
a white cross-eyed tailless cat
I took him in and fed him and he stayed
grew to trust me until a friend drove up the driveway
and ran him over
I took what was left to a vet who said,"not much
chance...give him these pills...his backbone
is crushed, but it was crushed before and somehow
mended, if he lives he'll never walk, look at
these x-rays, he's been shot, look here, the pellets
are still there...also, he once had a tail, somebody
cut it off..."
I took the cat back, it was a hot summer, one of the
hottest in decades, I put him on the bathroom
floor, gave him water and pills, he wouldn't eat, he
wouldn't touch the water, I dipped my finger into it
and wet his mouth and I talked to him, I didn't go any-
where, I put in a lot of bathroom time and talked to
him and gently touched him and he looked back at
me with those pale blue crossed eyes and as the days went
by he made his first move
dragging himself forward by his front legs
(the rear ones wouldn't work)
he made it to the litter box
crawled over and in,
it was like the trumpet of possible victory
blowing in that bathroom and into the city, I
related to that cat-I'd had it bad, not that
bad but bad enough
one morning he got up, stood up, fell back down and
just looked at me.
"you can make it," I said to him.
he kept trying, getting up falling down, finally
he walked a few steps, he was like a drunk, the
rear legs just didn't want to do it and he fell again, rested,
then got up.
you know the rest: now he's better than ever, cross-eyed
almost toothless, but the grace is back, and that look in
his eyes never left...
and now sometimes I'm interviewed, they want to hear about
life and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed,
shot, runover de-tailed cat and I say,"look, look
but they don't understand, they say something like,"you
say you've been influenced by Celine?"
"no," I hold the cat up,"by what happens, by
things like this, by this, by this!"
I shake the cat, hold him up in
the smoky and drunken light, he's relaxed he knows...
it's then that the interviews end
although I am proud sometimes when I see the pictures
later and there I am and there is the cat and we are photo-
he too knows it's bullshit but that somehow it all helps.
I see you drinking at a fountain with tiny
blue hands, no, your hands are not tiny
they are small, and the fountain is in France
where you wrote me that last letter and
I answered and never heard from you again.
you used to write insane poems about
ANGELS AND GOD, all in upper case, and you
knew famous artists and most of them
were your lovers, and I wrote back, it' all right,
go ahead, enter their lives, I' not jealous
because we' never met. we got close once in
New Orleans, one half block, but never met, never
touched. so you went with the famous and wrote
about the famous, and, of course, what you found out
is that the famous are worried about
their fame -- not the beautiful young girl in bed
with them, who gives them that, and then awakens
in the morning to write upper case poems about
ANGELS AND GOD. we know God is dead, they' told
us, but listening to you I wasn' sure. maybe
it was the upper case. you were one of the
best female poets and I told the publishers,
editors, " her, print her, she' mad but she'
magic. there' no lie in her fire." I loved you
like a man loves a woman he never touches, only
writes to, keeps little photographs of. I would have
loved you more if I had sat in a small room rolling a
cigarette and listened to you piss in the bathroom,
but that didn' happen. your letters got sadder.
your lovers betrayed you. kid, I wrote back, all
lovers betray. it didn' help. you said
you had a crying bench and it was by a bridge and
the bridge was over a river and you sat on the crying
bench every night and wept for the lovers who had
hurt and forgotten you. I wrote back but never
heard again. a friend wrote me of your suicide
3 or 4 months after it happened. if I had met you
I would probably have been unfair to you or you
to me. it was best like this.
god I got the sad blue blues,
this woman sat there and she
are you really Charles
and I said
I do not feel good
I've got the sad sads
all I want to do is
and she laughed
she thought I was being
and O I just looked up her long slim legs of heaven
I saw her liver and her quivering intestine
I saw Christ in there
jumping to a folk-rock
all the long lines of starvation within me
and I walked over
and grabbed her on the couch
ripped her dress up around her face
and I didn't care
rape or the end of the earth
one more time
to be there
her panties were on the
and my cock went in
my cock my god my cock went in
I was Charles
shot in the eye
shot in the brain
shot in the ass
shot like a flower in the dance
amazing how death wins hands down
amazing how much credence is given to idiot forms of life
amazing how laughter has been drowned out
amazing how viciousness is such a constant
I must soon declare my own war on their war
I must hold to my last piece of ground
I must protect the small space I have made that has allowed me life
my life not their death
my death not their death...