Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems (4 page)

BOOK: Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems
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what an interesting way

to be alone!

Time is not money:

time is time.

And a man is a man, my brother,

and a crime remains

a crime.

The time our fathers bought for us

resides in a place no man can reach

except he be prepared

to disintegrate himself into atoms,

into smashed fragments of bleaching bone,

which is, indeed, the great temptation

beckoning this disastrous nation.

It may, indeed, precisely, be

all that they claim as History.

Those who required, of us, a song,

know that their hour is not long.

Our children are

the morning star.

Munich, Winter 1973 (for Y.S.)

In a strange house,

a strange bed

in a strange town,

a very strange me

is waiting for you.


it is very early in the morning.

The silence is loud.

The baby is walking about

with his foaming bottle,

making strange sounds

and deciding, after all,

to be my friend.


arrive tonight.

How dull time is!

How empty—and yet,

since I am sitting here,

lying here,

walking up and down here,


I see

that time's cruel ability

to make one wait

is time's reality.

I see your hair

which I call red.

I lie here in this bed.

Someone teased me once,

a friend of ours—

saying that I saw your hair red

because I was not thinking

of the hair on your head.

Someone also told me,

a long time ago:

my father said to me,

It is a terrible thing


to fall into the hands of the living God


I know what he was saying.

I could not have seen red

before finding myself

in this strange, this waiting bed.

Nor had my naked eye suggested

that colour was created

by the light falling, now,

on me,

in this strange bed,


where no one has ever rested!

The streets, I observe,

are wintry.

It feels like snow.

Starlings circle in the sky,


together, and alone,

unspeakable journeys

into and out of the light.

I know

I will see you tonight.

And snow

may fall

enough to freeze our tongues

and scald our eyes.

We may never be found again!

Just as the birds above our heads


are singing,


that, in what lies before them,

the always unknown passage,

wind, water, air,

the failing light

the falling night

the blinding sun

they must get the journey done.


They have wings and voices

are making choices

are using what they have.

They are aware

that, on long journeys,

each bears the other,



love occurring

in the middle of the terrifying air.

The giver (for Berdis)

If the hope of giving

is to love the living,

the giver risks madness

in the act of giving.

Some such lesson I seemed to see

in the faces that surrounded me.

Needy and blind, unhopeful, unlifted,

what gift would give them the gift to be gifted?
The giver is no less adrift
than those who are clamouring for the gift.

If they cannot claim it, if it is not there,

if their empty fingers beat the empty air

and the giver goes down on his knees in prayer

knows that all of his giving has been for naught

and that nothing was ever what he thought

and turns in his guilty bed to stare

at the starving multitudes standing there

and rises from bed to curse at heaven,

he must yet understand that to whom much is given

much will be taken, and justly so:

I cannot tell how much I owe

3.00 a.m. (for David)

Two black boots,

                  on the floor,

figuring out what the walking's for.

Two black boots,

                  now, together,

learning the price of the stormy weather.

To say nothing of the wear and tear

the mother-fucking


The darkest hour

The darkest hour

is just before the dawn,

and that, I see,

which does not guarantee

power to draw the next breath,

nor abolish the suspicion

that the brightest hour

we will ever see

occurs just before we cease

to be.



creates the situation,

and, then, the situation

creates imagination.

It may, of course,

be the other way around:

Columbus was discovered

by what he found.


Who knows more

of Wanda, the wan,
than I do?

And who knows more

of Terry, the torn,
than I do?

And who knows more
than I do

of Ziggy, the Zap,

fleeing the rap,

using his eyes and teeth

to spring the trap,

than I do!

     Or did.

Good Lord, forbid
that morning's acre,

held in the palm of the hand,

one's fingers helplessly returning

dust to dust,

the dust crying out,

take her!

Oh, Lord,
can these bones live?

I think, Yes,

then I think, No:

being witness to a blow

delivered outside of time,

witness to a crime

which time

is, in no way whatever,

compelled to see,

not being burdened with sight:
like me.

Oh, I watch Wanda,

Wanda, the wan,
making love with her pots,

and her frying pan:

feeding her cats,

who, never, therefore,

dream of catching the rats

who bar

her not yet barred

and most unusual door.

The cats make her wan,
a cat

(no matter how you cut him)
not being a man,
or a woman, either.

And, yet,
at that,

better than nothing:

nothing is not better than nothing:

nothing is nothing,
just like

everything is everything

(and you better believe it).


Terry, the torn,

wishes he'd never been born

because he was found sucking a cock

in the shadow of a Central Park rock.
The cock was black,

like Terry,

and the killing, healing,

thrilling thing

was in nothing resembling a hurry:

came, just before the cops came,

and was long gone,


out of

while the cops were writing down Terry's name.


Birds do it.

Bees endlessly do it.

Cats leap jungles

cages and ages

to keep on doing it

and even survive
overheated apartments
and canned cat-food

doing it to each other

all day long.
It is one of the many forms of love,

and, even in the cat kingdom,

of survival:
but Wanda never looked
and Terry didn't think he was a cat
and he was right about that.

      Enter Ziggy, the Zap,

having taken the rap

for a friend,

fearing he was facing the end,

but very cool about it,

he thought,


what others bought

(he thought).

      But Wanda had left the bazaar

tricked by a tricky star.
She knew nothing of distance,
less of light,
the star vanished
and down came night.

Wanda thought this progression natural.

Refusing to moan,

she began to drink

far too alone

to dare to think.

I watch her open door.

She thinks that she wishes

to be a whore.

But whoredom is hard work,

stinks far too much of the real,

is as ruthless as a turning wheel,

and who knows more

of this

than I do?

and Ziggy, the Zap,
who took the rap,
raps on

to his fellow prisoners

in the cell he never left

and will never leave.

You'd best believe

it's cold outside.

wants to go where
nothing is everything
and everything adds up
to nothing.

Better to slide

into the night

cling to the memory

of the shameful rock

which watched as the shameful act occurred

yet spoke no warning

said not a word.

And who knows more

of shame, and rocks

than I do?


and Wanda, the wan,

will never forgive her sky.

That's why the old folks say

(and who knows better than I?)

we will understand it


by and by.

My Lord.

I understand it,


the why is not the how.

My Lord,

Author of the whirlwind,

and the rainbow,

Co-author of death,

giver and taker of breath

(Yes, every knee must bow),

I understand it


the why is not the how.

Le sporting-club de Monte Carlo (for Lena Horne)

The lady is a tramp

a camp

a lamp

The lady is a sight

a might

a light

the lady devastated

an alley or two

reverberated through the valley

which leads to me, and you

the lady is the apple

of God's eye:

He's cool enough about it

but He tends to strut a little

when she passes by

the lady is a wonder

daughter of the thunder

smashing cages

legislating rages

with the voice of ages

singing us through.

Some days (for Paula)


Some days worry

some days glad

some days

more than make you


Some days,

some days, more than


when you see what's coming

on down the line!


Some days you say,

oh, not me never—!

Some days you say

bless God forever.

Some days, you say,

curse God, and die

and the day comes when you wrestle

with that lie.

Some days tussle

then some days groan

and some days

don't even leave a bone.

Some days you hassle

all alone.


I don't know, sister,

what I'm saying,

nor do no man,

if he don't be praying.

I know that love is the only answer

and the tight-rope lover

the only dancer.

When the lover come off the rope


the net which holds him

is how we pray,

and not to God's unknown,

but to each other—:

the falling mortal is our brother!


Some days leave

some days grieve

some days you almost don't believe.

Some days believe you,

some days don't,

some days believe you

and you won't.

Some days worry

some days mad

some days more than make you


Some days, some days,

more than shine,


coming on down the line!

Conundrum (on my birthday) (for Rico)

Between holding on,

and letting go,

I wonder

how you know

the difference.

It must be something like

the difference

between heaven and hell

but how, in advance,

can you tell?

If letting go

is saying no,

then what is holding on



Can anyone be held?

Can I—?

The impossible conundrum,

the closed circle,


does lightning strike this house

and not another?

Or, is it true

that love is blind

until challenged by the drawbridge

of the mind?

But, saying that,

one's forced to see one's definitions

as unreal.

We do not know enough about the mind,

  or how the conundrum of the imagination

dictates, discovers,

or can dismember what we feel,

  or what we find.


one must learn to trust

one's terror:

the holding on

the letting go

is error:

  the lightning has no choice,

    the whirlwind has one voice.

Christmas carol


how does it feel

to be Paul?

I mean, tell me about that night

you saw the light,

when the light knocked you down.

What's the cost

of being lost

and found?

It must be high.

And I've always thought you must have been,

stumbling homeward,

trying to find your way out of town

through all those baffling signals,

those one-way streets,

BOOK: Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems
11.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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