For Immediate Release
Volume I, Number
Ira Cohen: Holy Smoke
Christopher Luna: from “it will be more than we can bear"
Sue Rhynhart and Randy Roark: She Just Came to Read
Joe Richey: Wrong house blues
Randy Roark: from "Poetic Apprentice"
Jackie Sheeler: Three Poems
Alison Carb Sussman: Two Poems
|Taking Tuesday back
or removing the black figure
from the constellation of Karma
would only condemn us to experience
again and again the time loop of history
as in the relentless barrage of TV sets
in a world without an audience.
"There is something in the air," you said
dreaming of a plane crashing into
the twin towers of Nostradamus,
nor was there any security when you took
your flight back across the Atlantic
a week later.
A shudder in the loins engenders there
the broken wall, the burning roof and tower
and Agamemnon dead…
Walking up the stairs the fire fighters
could not put out the fire from the heavens.
Black smoke encircled the crowns &
the heat passed even Dante's depiction
of the Inferno's daily routine.
What is the way to true Reconciliation?
What is it that we must reconcile
to break the chain of our own making?
How to lure the Lightbringer back to Paradise?
Don't expect answers from the man with the bullhorn.
Ask the Shambala Masters or David
Carradine, the Kung-Fu champion-
Remember Bamiyan & the blown up head of Buddha!
It will take detachment to detach.
Attachment will only take us straight into the trap,
there where all the bullion lies buried
below the 6,000 dead.
P.S. The money goes through Switzerland.
Sept. 17, 2001
|NB: Part I of "it will be more
than we can bear" appears in Volume I, Number I
of "For Immediate Release"
You can hear it..."The whole thing came
down like a glass house."
- Joe Calderone
A gaunt figure in filthy clothes floated through the crowd waiting on the hot subway platform, his voice echoing off the high ceilings at Sutphin Boulevard as he recited the Lord's Prayer. "Everyone is busy being busy. Slow down. Take the time to pray. Jesus loves you. Look at all the beautiful people going to work. Do you realize how lucky you are? You got up this morning. God gives and gives and you just take and take. Thank him. Jesus died on the cross for you. Say a prayer for your mothers fathers, sisters, and brothers. Ask him for forgiveness." He told us that the attacks were the work of the devil, and asked us to pray with him as he repeated the prayer. His voice was compelling and insistent, and I wanted to strike him.
United Airlines 11
United Airlines 175
candles and speeches and funerals
excuse me? excuse me - why did this thing happen?
American Airlines 77
United Airlines 93
9,000 truckloads removed
Memo from Comdisco, found in Red Hook, Brooklyn (Page 7, Revised March 7, 2001):
CHAPTER 2 - EXECUTION
A. DECLARATION OF A DISASTER:
3. A disaster may also be declared due to
technological failures, weather, and civil unrest
4. Assessment of the Disaster levels
The human brain tends to seek
We've had some people ask if it was God.
On September 10, a fifth-grader in suburban Dallas walked up to his teacher and announced: "Tomorrow, World War III will begin in the U.S., and the U.S. will lose." She said the boy is multiracial but that she does not believe his ethnicity includes a Middle Eastern background.
it is good to be alive and to be in love and to be
yours and . . .
My love, my darling, my one and only,
I have good news - Remember that family I was worried about? They're alive, all four of them. I was so happy when I saw them get on the E train this morning that I nearly exclaimed, "Hey! You're alive!"
- Sri Chinmoy
return again and again
"If I go to temple like this, I will get disrespected, but I have to live for my family."
Visions of the Unknown
(List of topics to be discussed in
a series of seminars to be held at
soon the list of the dead will grow
Whoever slays a soul
Now here was George Bush the Younger, like the father before him, holding up the badge of another dead cop.
"Write down why those planes
(Pilgrim Tract Soc., Randleman, N.C. 27317)
It was the only Bible I'd ever seen with missiles on the cover.
THERE IS ONLY
ONE WAY FOR AMERICA
|Hear the hummingbird's awful descent-
great whirling midnight moonlit choirs-
if they'd only arrive and stay here
like a warm coat of snow until the snow
is blackened by a sleek mink crossing the glen
like an undulation of spirit sleek and shy.
Who brought all of this together-
Sometimes I think it's some kind of joke-
Imagine a bird who can imitate any other bird's
A silent touching of shoulder to find that words
My advice is to remember how a woman smells
It was a heavy waking, heavy like
but it isn't the greatest love song on earth
but the baby comes back when you taste some
that we are all lunar, linear, all too human,
I know there is a black bear
and in another time zone, stones dropped by
|Dateline early June, Roundtree
Court, Boulder, Colorado
Well I woke up this morning trouble all around my
I came home loaded the gun lying on the bed
Well I got me a lawyer , sez there's justice I
I live in the suburbs where all the houses look
Woke up this morning I had them wrong house blues
January 7, 1980: Met Ginsberg for the first time at noon today. He opened the front door himself, puffy looking, stooped, tired. He was cleanshaven, a bit distracted, quiet, nervous, had been ill, had just been told he had hypertension, just quit smoking. He asked me in and when I was inside he walked into the kitchen to fix tea while I waited in his large living room with a wooden floor and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, an important-looking library of dusty, tattered, faded poetry books. A large dark painting over the piano of Shelley by Gregory Corso. Allen clanked dishes and called out from the kitchen. I was too shy to follow him and didn't know whether to sit down or stand or walk into the kitchen so I just stood near the door trying to not be too obviously self-conscious. He asked me if I wanted green tea or some other kind of tea, if I wanted honey or sugar or lemon or milk, and I never really drink tea so I didn't know what the right answers were. He came out with a teapot on a tray and two china teacups. He mixed his tea with honey from a plastic bear that he squeezed to make the honey come out of the bear's hat. He fussed with his and I sipped mine. I sat on his sofabed; he sat at a small brown wooden writing desk, facing a window that looked out onto a green house next door and we kind of had a conversation half-turned toward each other and half-turned away. His floor and the rest of the house were dingy but very clean. He poured me another cup of tea and distractedly got up several times, asking questions quietly, sometimes so quietly I had to guess at what he'd said. At one point, in the middle of a story about a reading he'd seen by William Carlos Williams at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in the late forties, he suddenly leapt up and shouted the end of Williams's poem "The Clouds," which ascends through a series of comparisons, ending with "lunging upon/a pismire, a conflagration, a ....... "- and he ended with a gesture, a shrug of the shoulders, a confusion. Allen looked at me and said, "And I realized he was talking, just talking." Caught up in the excitement, I shouted out, "But beautiful talk!" Allen threw his hands over his head and bellowed. "No! You missed the whole point! It's not beautiful talk! It's just talk! TALK-talk!" Then he fell into his chair and banged his head against the desk in complete despair.
January 10: Tonight first Ted Berrigan/Dick Gallup class. Ted talkative, Dick quiet. Ted was funny. He said that Anne Waldman has had a swollen head for five years, ever since she wrote "Fast Speaking Woman," and joked that Allen couldn't remember anything any more ("I've forgotten again. What's a dactyl? Does anybody remember?) He also made fun of Allen's advice to drop the articles from poems saying, "He doesn't even do it himself except when he's got nothing better to do." Ted was very intense and told us several times that he was a great poet and a great reader.
Ted and I had a short conversation at the intermission. I didn't know anyone in class and so I was standing around in my usual awkward way, staring at and pretending to read the bulletin board while actually listening to the conversations around me when Ted walked over and stood beside me and looked at the bulletin board with me. Then before I said anything he said, "You're right. There's a lot of stuff for poetry here." Then he read a line from one of the posters, "'Working with your emotions.' Now that's an interesting thought." I said, "Yeah, sometimes there's too much happening here." Then Ted began talking really fast, "That's the way it is-sometimes there's too much happening and sometimes there's nothing. It's like telling someone to write a poem about the sunset . . . it's just too much. I'd probably write a better poem about my shoes if my feet were up and I was watching the sun set behind them, and I might even end up with a good sunset poem." And I said, "That reminds me of Tolstoy saying that the best way to describe the full moon is when it's reflected in a piece of broken glass in the gutter . . . it's the contrast." and Ted said, "Yeah, it's like Li Po when he was drunk and jumped into the river and drowned . . ." and then I got excited too and interrupted him, saying ". . . trying to hug the moon." And Ted stopped and looked at me solemnly. "No, he was trying to embrace the moon" and we looked at each other and understood.
February 1: Today over Allen's house we were looking at a poem and came to a line that went something like "Icicles hang from the branches and frost covers the window, but it's warm beside my kitchen radiator." He stared at the line for a long time and then looked at me and said, "What should that be-"but" or "and"? I was caught by surprise and kind of panicked. I wanted to have the right answer, the best answer, but as I went through all the drawers in my head they were all empty. Finally a little voice said, "Well, read the line." So instead of looking in my head I read the line a couple of times and then I finally said, "If you use 'and' it's as if you have both sides, but if you use 'but' it's as if you cancel out the first half of the line." Allen leaned over and read the line again and said, "Yeah, you're right," and he changed the "but" into an "and" and we went on as if nothing extraordinary had happened.
March 1: Tonight in Ted's class we wrote a poem using 11 words that Ted had collected in a little notebook during the day. The words were: Africa, moon, weather, cloth, coat, flowers, shattered, clouds, heartbroken, mother, and snow. We were to write a poem 11 lines long, using one of the words in each of the lines in that order. Ted finished quickly and then joked quietly with the other students while he waited for the rest of us to finish. I wrote an okay poem but other than Ted asking me to read it twice & then changing one word he made no comment. Some were too weird for me but Ted had a good word for most. When it was Ted's turn he read a poem called "A Certain Slant of Sunlight"-
His voice began to shiver and he began to cry when he got to the line about his mother, who was very ill or maybe dying Rachel whispered to me. When he finished he told us how good it was and then began making jokes again, as if he hadn't just started to cry, or that it had happened and then it had gone away, completely.
March 21: I had written a little poem and in my excitement I immediately made two copies, which I put into Allen and Ted's mailboxes. The next day I was over Allen's house to work on some of his journals. He'd read the poem. "It's okay," he said, "but this line. It's terrible. Just get rid of it."
I looked at the poem. He was right. It was a little black and white movie until about two thirds of the way through where the "I" appeared, making an absurd comment about the scene. It was awkward and broke the surface of the poem. It turned the whole exercise into a joke. I immediately cut the line out, retyped the poem and rushed to the mailboxes, but Ted's copy was already gone.
When I got to Ted's class, we sat in his dining room around a large oak table and as we settled in Ted called out: "Roark!" He looked at me and stood up, gigantic, the poem in his hand. He pushed it across the table. "This is a fucking great poem. But this line"-and he pointed to The Line with his fat yellow finger.
I didn't really have to look, but I did, and all of my excitement evaporated. I'm surrounded by good advice on how to write a poem but I never seem to be able to access that part of my mind while I'm actually writing. To have Allen point it out privately is one thing, but here, in front of Ted's class, was something else again. I forced myself to look at Ted as my heart sank. "But this line," Ted continued, "this line is genius."
March 27: Ted said today that every artist goes through a black period. It may last two years or it may last ten, but sooner or later you figure out that what you're doing is carrying another artist's work one step further. Jackson Pollock said that his artist was Marcel Duchamp. "Now," Ted said, "if you know the work of Pollock and the work of Duchamp you'll probably think he's lying." And it's not necessarily even someone who's dead. Ted said he was continuing the work of Robert Creeley.
May 1: For the last session of his Basic Poetry class, Allen brought in three guitarists (including the poet Dick Gallup). The idea was that we would go around the room, spontaneously composing blues lyrics for "fun."
It didn't sound like much fun to me. As Allen made his way down the first row, I tried to think of a way to leave the classroom without catching anyone's attention. But I was in the back row and it would have been impossible. By the time he was in the second row, I had divided the elapsed time by the number of presentations to get the average time for each presentation, and then multiplied that figure by the number of students left to determine the chance that we might run out of time before it was my turn. But it was a 3-hour class and since it would have been unlikely, I began to compose my "spontaneous" lyric in my head. I watched Allen as he moved through the room, student to student-laughing, bouncing, shouting out encouragement-as if I was paying attention, but actually I was going over and over my "improvised" lyric in my head, cutting and polishing and rearranging the words.
Two hours later, he was finally in my row-and then he was three students away, and then he was two students away, and then I was Next. Susan Edwards sang her verse and Allen nodded and then he was standing next to me, and the guitar line was coming to an end, and Allen's fingers were on my shoulder. I tilted my head, gazed into infinity, and recited my memorized lyric as if I were composing on the spot: "Duh duh dah duh duh dah dah, duh duh dah dah dah . . . Duh duh dah duh duh dah dah, duh duh dah dah dah . . . um . . . dah dah duh duh dah dah, duh duh dah dah dah!" And I heaved a great theatrical sigh of relief. It was over, I'd done it. "No," Allen said, "Do another."
July 1: Gave Ted a ride home after his reading and we stopped at the 7-11 and I went in and bought him some Pepsi and Chesterfields. He's not feeling well. He wanted to know if I could get him any valium or something from the hospital. He was obsessed with dying, said "I'm the same age as Kerouac when he died. I mean right now." On the way back to his apartment I worked up the courage to ask him about something Larry [Fagin] had said that had really bothered me. I had told Larry how much I enjoyed Ted's book So Going Around Cities and especially two poems in it and Larry had told me that Ted had stolen both of them-the first from an article in the New York Times by James Dickey and the second from a psychology textbook. Ted was quiet a long time and stared out the window after I finished speaking and I thought I'd said something really wrong. Then he told me that the first poem had come from a James Dickey essay and when he'd read it he realized that there was a poem in it somewhere but that Dickey hadn't captured it, so he'd taken the article and cut out each individual word and spread them out on his bed and assembled the poem from the individual words. And he said that the second poem did come from a psychology textbook-it had listed all of the various kinds of phobias and delusions that people were afraid of in insane asylums-things like being afraid that their children were on fire-and Ted realized that he was afraid of some of those things too and so he made a list of the ones he was afraid of. What he had done, he said, was to take unpoetic material and turn it into poems. He said, "When you see a poem, or when you hear a poem, you make that poem. Whether you make it out of nothing or whether you make it out of something that already exists doesn't really matter-you make that poem. Without you, whatever that material is-whether it's something you overheard or something your read or something you saw, it would have disappeared without you. And the only reason anyone will ever care about the original material is if your poem is any good-then maybe someday some grad student will go back and find the original material and say it was already there-and it was, the same way a sculpture is already there inside the stone. But don't let people confuse you about that." When I pulled over in front of his apartment he took a long time to get out of the car. "The next time you're in New York stop by the apartment," he said. "Jim [Cohn] always does."
July 10: Saw Anne [Waldman] today for the first time, standing in the hallway, talking to some students. It took my breath away for a moment and I felt suddenly nervous and shy, wanting to look but not wanting to get caught staring. It was the first time I've heard Anne read in person. She read a long poem, not very distinctive, called "Boulder Discourse." She said, "I'm going to read a long poem" and Allen, who was onstage, laughed and said "How long?" When she said, "Well, long," he walked into the audience and sat behind me for the rest of the reading. Anne bowed to the applause when she finished.
July 14: Met with Larry Fagin today. He says my poems in general are timid, melodramatic, romantic, imprecise, corny, cliche, visually weak, and I enter into them and editorialize too much. I've had an odd depressing reaction to this but it's okay. He said, "Allen tells me you have a photographic memory," and I said, "No I don't, but Allen thinks I do."
July 16: Yesterday Corso, Ginsberg, Orlovsky, Clausen, and Micheline read. Corso was drunk and obnoxious. He walked onstage with about a tenth of a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand. Later someone from the stage crew stole the bottle while Gregory's back was turned and dumped it into a vase onstage. Corso's hair is gray. He has rectangle reading glasses on a simple string that he hangs around his neck. At 2:15, Allen told the audience the reading would start in 10 minutes. Corso left the stage and sat in the audience and said it should begin now since it was scheduled to start at 2. He kept yelling, "There's no Trungpas here." Anne was giving the introductions and Gregory kept interrupting her with abusive comments about her, about what she was saying, or about Allen. Once he said, "I'm water and Peter's fire and Allen's air. I put Peter out and Peter turns me into Allen." I felt sorry for Anne, but she carried on with humor and good spirits. Allen read first-he read a love poem in heroic couplets about getting old, his "Ode to Failure" which is terrific, and his anti-draft Warrior poem, & then sang his setting for the 15th-century lyric "I Sing of a Mayden." He read his heroic couplet poem in a very soft voice and people started yelling "Speak up," "Turn up the mike," and "Diction!" Gregory read "Hunch Poem" which was awful & several other good ones including "The Whole Mess . . . Almost" and one about going to visit the muse who was pissed off at him for wasting his talent, which was terrific. Peter sang "Feeding Them Raspberries to Grow," and read his poems to A.J. Muste and a poem to his mother. Peter was very relaxed and played the banjo remarkably well. Glen Edwards played trumpet for Andy Clausen and Jack Micheline, who both got a great response from the crowd even though I found their material indistinct and mediocre.
Anne stayed onstage, looking radiant and very pregnant. She has a magnificent Mediterranean profile. As if in slow motion her hair follows every movement, seemingly floating in the wind a single strand at a time. She has almond amphetamine eyes and a delicate cheek, slender shoulders, the material across her breasts swells and ripples when she laughs. Her stomach is round and full-a pregnant sparrow belly and a robin breast.
But people kept continually walking around onstage, talking while the readers read. Corso rustled papers in a black plastic briefcase four inches thick with unpublished poems and then leapt up, walking offstage several times and coming back again. Once he interrupted Micheline, insisting that he had a poem that had to be read "right now!" Allen was dressed all in white, even white patent leather shoes. Once he stopped mid-poem to scold Corso for rustling pages while he read. Gregory asked the audience whether or not they were bothered by him rustling pages and when they said no he turned to Allen and said, "Stop fucking with me, Allen."
July 28: Today Allen was extremely difficult. He arrived early and insisted on using the room we'd used the week before that we'd only had as a temporary arrangement for that Monday and now it was Thursday and no longer available. He insisted we were given the room for BOTH days for the rest of the term. He said for me to "check it out with the girl!" And then he complained that the input jack wasn't working on his tape recorder even though I'd previously tried to convince him that there was a problem and that we should substitute a different plug that I had at home that worked fine. Then the teacher who'd been assigned the room on Thursdays showed up and very politely introduced himself and Allen yelled at him and then yelled at me ("Talk to the girl!") & so I went and found "the girl" and she nicely agreed to go back and explain the situation to Allen and she started the conversation by saying "You were in another building first, weren't you?" (which was true) and Allen yelled "No! We were always here!" Then she asked him how many students were in his class and he said "50" (which is about twice the number of students actually registered). I just keep telling myself that the summer is almost over. I set everything up for the recording but Allen ineptly changed the microphone hook-up and placement. He has two sides-there's the irate, spoiled irrationalist and then (like today) he'll turn to me suddenly and say in a baby voice, "Am I being too insistent?" Of course I lied and told him that he wasn't.
July 30: Today met Burroughs for the first time. He was standing next to Allen and Corso in the Assembly Hall, staring into the floor, leaning on a cane, very British looking in a suit and tie, listening intently to something Allen was saying and nodding his head. He slowly made his way through the crowd to the stage with his head bowed, no one really knowing who he was until he'd passed them. He sat onstage and made funny fidgety movements with his head and hands, shuffling papers. Allen introduced him and he began to talk with odd hesitations in his speech, accenting peculiar words, sitting up and then slumping over with his arms crossed on the table. I was surprised by how funny he was and how dramatic his reading was, like a radio play with him playing all the parts. Afterwards he was going to be interviewed in one of the offices and Allen knew I was a fan and noticed the books I had in my hand and said immediately, "Do you want those signed? Come on." And he took the books from me and took my hand and led me into the backroom where there were a lot of hangers-on standing around in a very small office. Everyone seemed to be talking too loudly and self-consciously performing, while Burroughs sat in a chair by the door, his head bowed, nodding occasionally even when no one was speaking directly to him. Allen got into a conversation with someone and I felt nervous and self-conscious standing by the door so I slipped out and was looking at paintings in the hallway when Allen suddenly appeared, yelling at me, "Where are you? You can't just walk out. He's ready to sign your books - he wants to know who he's signing them for!" So we went back and Allen introduced us and Burroughs looked up and he was smiling and for a moment he looked into my eyes with the most incredibly bright blue transparent eyes that seemed so kind and placid but also seemed to be searching behind my eyes for all the secrets in my skull. He reached out to shake my hand and I noticed that one of his fingers was shorter than the others, as if it's been cut off at the second knuckle. He asked me a couple of questions while he was signing the books-How did I want them signed, what did I think of them, how did I know Allen? I stuttered and stammered my way though the answers, both of us looking down at the books while he signed them. Then he sat back and said into the room, not looking at me again, "Well, thank you, thank you very much," as if I had done him a favor. Later, during the interview, Burroughs got very upset at one point and said, "The smell of a woman is as impossible to separate from her as stink from a bear."
August 1, 1983: Walked downstairs to the poetics office at Naropa today and unexpectedly ran into Gary Snyder, who was trying to read some students' work before class. I began talking to him about his arrangements and expectations and such when, all of a sudden, in the middle of an ordinary sentence, I suddenly sat down on the floor, pouring my heart out to him-about how miserable I was giving poetry readings. About how I would read these texts and they were structured in such a way that people laughed where they were supposed to laugh and were silent when they were supposed to be silent and applauded when they were supposed to applaud and it was so lifeless, like a computer program. I felt like some miserable puppetmaster and I was putting the audience through these predetermined paces and how I didn't want to do that any more. Life was so huge, just sitting in the room with them, there was so much happening that poetry seemed insignificant. Maybe something was going on in my personal life but I'd go to the reading and wait my turn and get up and read these scripts that had absolutely nothing to do with my real life at the moment and it was so dead to me. I told him I'd decided to destroy all of my poetry and get up at the podium with nothing to read and by that gesture alone-by being real in that situation-maybe I could bring everyone's attention into the moment, into the room-how tall the ceilings were perhaps, or how they were sitting behind someone and sitting next to someone and that that was all a part of it somehow, that that was what was really going on and to lead them down this phony path with a text and a script and poem was somehow essentially wrong, it was almost evil, and I didn't want to do that anymore. And when I wound down and shut up, Gary said very calmly, "Well, you can do that. You can destroy all of your poems. But you don't have to. Imagine an actor getting up onstage 200 nights in a row. If he's not really there he's not doing his job."
December 18, 1983: Yesterday went over to see Allen for the first time in many months. His new house is very homey. A long front room with a tv (!), coffeetable and couch, and then Allen's long work table and desk, and behind it a wall-sized cabinet with a nice stereo and glass-doored bookcases. A poster of Keith Richards from the 1975 tour nodding out in his COKE jumpsuit underneath a sign in Customs that advertised for a drugfree America. A long study with new bookcases (Brian had built them) and a small kitchen. Allen spent some time looking through his mail including some newly arrived nice Fifties Paris photographs he'd taken of Peter, himself, and Gregory (including them meeting Man Ray) that had been lost and just rediscovered, and then we sat down with the Blake transcriptions I'd completed, which Allen enjoyed, especially one loop of Blake to Kerouac and back to Blake. He played records while we talked and we listened to four sides of Ma Rainey and then some Bach organ music and then some Thelonius Monk recorded by Harry Smith. While we talked Peter served us a dinner of broccoli and pork chops. We got to talking about how sad it was to grow old and I told Allen the story about how Basil Bunting as a young man took a bus several hundred miles to London to visit Henry James at the end of his life and then stood shyly at the gate staring up at this manor house most of the afternoon until it got dark, unable to raise the courage to open the gate and walk up the long driveway to the house, and so eventually he just walked back to the bus station and went home. And how Bunting had once told this story many years later at a dinner party and one of the guests was frowning at him and got gloomier and gloomier as the story went on and Bunting panicked because he couldn't figure out what was wrong-he was telling a funny story at his own expense and had somehow made this stranger very unhappy. Bunting hurried the story to a close and when he finished the man spoke up: "Mr. Bunting, I happen to have been Mr. James' secretary at the time and at the end of his life he was a very lonely and a very depressed man and would have enjoyed nothing more than to spend an afternoon with a young enthusiastic writer." I'd also been reading quite a bit about jazz musicians and told Allen stories about the incredibly sad and lonely last days of several of them including Billie Holiday, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins. Allen told me how peculiar he felt backstage at the recent Grateful Dead shows, talking to Weir about the early Trips Festivals where they last met and realizing that fifteen years had passed. Then we went back to the Blake material. As I was leaving he gave me Blyth's four-volume Haiku set to read. We hugged and kissed goodbye. I was very sad and deeply moved and told him "I'm going to miss you, Allen." And I already do.
March 2, 1997: I called Allen tonight and was surprised when he answered the office phone at 1:30 in the morning, 3:30 his time. I called to invite him to participate in the James Joyce reading I'm organizing at the Boulder Book Store. I finally gotten around to checking his schedule and realized that he would be in town that night. I expected to get his answering machine but he answered the phone. "Allen?" "Hello, Randy." "What are you doing up?" "Oh, puttering around the office." He told me he loved his new apartment, was writing lots of poems. He'd spent the previous two days with Bono from U2, who were in New York doing PR for an upcoming tour. They'd gone to Chinatown the day before for lunch, and VH1 had filmed Allen wrapped up in a blanket like a retired Jew in a lawnchair reading Bono's poem "Miami." Allen was obviously touched and proud that a messenger had arrived later from Bono to deliver an autographed copy of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windemere's Fan-the only one in Manhattan he said. Allen had arranged for an MTV Unplugged performance in late June and had already gotten assurances from Elvin Jones on drums, Paul McCartney on bass, Beck and Dylan on guitars, and Philip Glass on piano. He said at first Dylan had said maybe but then called back about five minutes later and said he'd definitely be there. And Ornette Coleman, who was composing a symphony, would appear if he could. Allen told me his single, "Ballad of the Skeletons" had been voted number 8 in an Australian year-end music poll. And he'd just sung at a rock concert produced by Hal Willner between Evan Dando and the Lemonheads and Beck at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. He didn't think the kids actually listened to any of his lyrics but it was great, he said, to look out at 10,000 teenagers slam dancing to rock poetry.
I sat on the stairs leading to my basement and stared at my shadow on the wall. It was now 2:30, 4:30 his time. I wanted him to go to bed. Like I had since the mid-eighties, I told him I loved him before I hung up, I told him how much he had meant to me, how much I'd learned from him, how he had made certain ways of being in the world real for me that I had always wanted to be true, how I had modeled my behavior on him the way a young bird learns to fly by watching his father. "Well, I wish you'd learned some of my gregarious," he said. "You're too timid! You're adrift, you've got to get moving. You're not a kid any more, you know." Then he hung up and we both went to bed.
They believe he was a killer
His wife, who did not believe that he was a
So we killed them
Now, knowing that no one must kill
Teeth to the wheel-
*where ammunition & communication collide…
Black and broken
Feathers, I think
There is this old leather chair
Lights in the eyes, the whole world
The eye doctor badgers me with
When I am seven I have a Barbie doll who I
I make pain into pleasure. I pretend I am a
In the street, after an eye doctor appointment,
When I am a teenager, I whisper my way
Now, my husband is watching
Victim and torturer,
© Alison Carb Sussman
I Like Them Young
I like them young.
© Alison Carb Sussman