Here’s a poem I wrote for Robin Behn’s workshop this month.  That “Fish Out of Water” workshop was the highlight of the residency.  Great stuff.




Cymbal sheen and cymbal swirl,

Sheets of sound unfurl with a jukebox dimed

In the back, Coltrane.

Giant steps in seven league boots with

Miles to go before he sleeps, before he sleeps.

Miles away.


Hot New York night, black rain, white light,

June 1956.

Last call at the Cedar Tavern,

The artists water here,

Light inside, cool smoke.


The artists argue in green leather booths, torn and sprung

With rusted springs that catch cheap trousers

And run holy nylons.

Poets listen from the bar, catch a riff,

Writing of art, Kaddish and a mapless road.


Subterranean vent, steaming manhole,

Four AM, drunken Bleeker street, down

Urine stench and whiskey blanched crumpled

Dollar bill dropped in grimy gutters

Black and shiny like a move-set freshly rained.


Marooned on the San Remo’s dark sodden beach

Writers roost, purple crows on bourbon slick tables

And gossip with clinking glass and unfurled newspapers.

Artists listen and slap thick paint on invisible second-hand canvas.

Do artists paint of poetry?  Is the theatre really dead?


Now.  New York night, hot Garden rain, June 1972, tumbling down,

Five hundred miles an hour on a torn and frayed map of America,

Chicago, New York and Detroit—all on the same street.

Rip this joint, shining, tongues loll and lap

Sound screaming like jet fuel through twin Pratt and Whitneys,

Swamp-ash guitars roaring like a dented forty-nine Hudson at thirty thousand feet

Over Memphis, high up on the ridge.


Next night.

Gretsch skins with mahogany rims,

Flicker Ludwig sticks, hummingbird blur,

Snapping snares like windshield wipers slapping time

Going to find some home of mine.

Drums sparkled with blue green flecks of rain washed rainfall,

Mississippi mud of Clarksdale, Natchez, Port Allen, Port Allen.

Levee wall, levee wall.


Great black body of the road,


Towns strung out ahead like blown bulbs

On a darkened marquee moon,

Road to the next town, lost in the crease of a worn-out map folded wrong.

Gotta go and never stop, we gotta go

Plugged in, flushed out.

No map.

Just amped.


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