Monday, July 28, 2014

"THE GYPSY'S CURSE"

"Que encuentres un cono a tu medida!"

Had a buddy, Harry,
who put that curse
in the mouth of Fernando,
one of his characters.
Harry came from the red clay earth
of rickets country, south Georgia,
grew up poor and learned to write
reading the Sears catalogue because
that's all he got of printed material
at his shack & allowed him
to make up stories
of escapes & other lives.
I grew-up in Coney Island, rich
compared to most middle-class folks
and learned to write because
I had to
or go crazy
in my silence.
He was living in Gainesville
and me in the Village
when we ran across each other
in a saloon across the street
from me, The Cedar Tavern.
At the time it didn't matter to us:
either the spike or the shot glass
made about as much sense
as anything else & we shared those
predilections
and our histories
in equal measure.
When the subject came to women,
I listened closely.
We each had more than our share,
but he seemed to have paid some heavy
love dues over a few of them.
I shook my head
pretending I knew
what he was talking about
& feeling, but I was really
just trying to keep up.
He was the better artist
and the better man
and I knew it.
One particular woman
had him upsidedown in love
and wouldn't quit
his system
no matter how many others he'd fucked,
no matter how much dope he shot,
no matter how many drunk tanks
he woke up in & no matter how
much notoriety he garnered.
I listened,
shook my head,
and knew
I'd never let it
get that bad.

Harry is dead.
And I've come close
a few times before
and since.
I know now
how he felt:
I cannot get
this certain woman
out of my pores.
Haven't seen
or really spoken to
or written her
in six months
& it feels
like six minutes.
Her breath, her body,
her movements, her insanities,
her sound, her inanities
& insecurities &
her beauty are branded
into me like a birthmark.
My pleasures
with others
are fleeting
& boring; my time
spent alone
is spent
talking
to a spirit--
a hollow echo
from church steeples
gone mad,
overthrown by a renegade Christ
& his disciples.
Admittedly, the sin
I committed was a love sin;
too much even I admit,
but love it was.
If you don't believe me
read the poems,
listen to the songs,
count the jelly beans,
the Swedish fish,
measure the ineffable,
read the emails,
eavesdrop on the conversations,
hear how she said my name,
watch her squirt her joy,
experience her laugh,
her wonderment,
her little girl
vulnerabilities & understand
her fears
and still
you'd be dumbfounded,
too.

How you couldn't matter
ultimately didn't matter.
All you know
at the end
is absence.

I've stripped layer after layer
of flabby ego off me
& will carve some more
before I'm done.
Maybe the next one--
if there is a next one
--will allow
the danger inside.
Who knows
anything
about that?
What I do know
is that I'm
as human as Harry now:
I'm paid up
& will,
if asked,
contribute
again.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

THE BLIND MAN


walks with a pretty
yellow Labrador.
The street sizzles
in the July heat.
Late seventies,
I make him out to be,
but neither he
nor the Lab
are fazed by the weather.
He's tall, rather handsome,
thin, wearing a white T,
cargo shorts & sandals;
the Lab wears a jacket:
"Please don't pet me,
I'm working." Her nose
sniffs the ground, her eyes
works the crowd and traffic.
I'm pretty sure
he's not Homer,
or Charles,
or Wonder,
or Milton,
but he might be.
But the kids who jostle past,
or look up just in time
to avoid him do not imagine
anything. The stare into some screen,
screens that tell them where they are
and who they are. For all they know
they might be studying one of his books
or compositions or paintings or theories
in class. He might be able to tell them
the history of their steps and who
they're stepping on.

But they need not stop.
They, too, are only trying
to find a little love,
a little knowledge,
in their time. One
never knows when either one
is going to leap up
and grab them around the throat.
What part imagination
and what part technology
plays in that strange brew
is something for Tiresias
to sort out.
As for me
I'll neither follow
the blind man
or the students--
I've got enough
blind spots
of my own.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

EVEN THE SIMPLE IS COMPLICATED ENOUGH


I take myself out
for a bite to eat
to the same Greek dive
I've been goin to for 35 years
now. Hell,
been livin in my pad for over 40--
but who's counting?
Nick & Paul,
the owners,
have seen me
in many different states
through many decades:
sober, drunk, young, wild,
old, wild, high, low,
indifferent, maniacal, calm,
pensive and apoplectic.
I've sat isolated
and speechless
or boisterous and boorish.
I've littered their booths
with the scents of women
and love and the smell of
defeats; defeats from jobs,
publishers, women, friends,
and body. What I do,
and who I'm with,
no longer raise their eyebrows
or lowers their lids.
I've eaten their eggs & ham,
bacon & sausages & pancakes,
homemade moussaka, bread pudding,
& brisket, drank their coffee
& stirred their little creamers
& watched their children age
& them grow old.
I've seen favorite waiters & waitresses
farmed out to pasture because their legs
cannot get rid of the water & have ballooned
as big as their waist. The only person
who didn't age
is me.
Neurotics don't age
but hold fast
& hold on.

Today,
I had a hamburger, fries, salad.
It was the same bottle of oil,
the same vinegar, the same tomato
& the same slice of onion; the burger
was thinner, the bun bigger; the fries
still frozen & pretty much
as tasteless as ever,
but the price has tripled.
And why not?:
the farms are dry,
crops roasted,
cows suicidal,
the beef chemical.
The half-buck & buck tip
is now two or three.
Nick & Paul tell me
they'll soon retire;
they're tired of working
for the landlord.
But not me. I can't
retire--I'm a poet.
And poets are not supposed to "work,"
they only have to "live"--
which is the harder,
and more complicated,
of the two
I think I know,
but will never ever
say.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

CREASED WITH EXPERIENCE


I like her scar
underneath her chin
from a bicycle mishap
when she turned seven
& her first blind corner.
I like how her ankle
curves into her shoe
when she wears heels
and the way she announces
her shapely calves to the
men
& women who follow
her. I like
how she questions
what she already knows
& expects to be disproved
or challenged.
I detest her poise
but take comfort
in her insecurity.

So far,
we're letting it
unfold like a good mystery
should--a real page turner
we're taking our time with
& savoring. Soon,
I'm sure, we will get up
on the cross
of ambivalence.

Until then
I'll pretend
& so will she--
like this morning:
freshly showered
she stepped from
the steam wrapped
in a towel,
smelling soapy,
hair dripping,
& tip-toed past me
into the bedroom;
we caught each other
from the corners
of our eyes
I'm sure,
small grins
played across
our lips
but kept
our mouths
shut.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

LIVING & DYING IS EASY...EXCEPT WHEN YOU'RE DOING THE LIVING & DYING


The Terminal Hotel stays busy:
arrivals/departures:
overnight stays, hour stays,
fifteen minute stays,
a week at a time,
a month,
or years.
Always booked.
All the time,
everyday, every minute,
every hour on the hour some
come in, others
go out.
It's the first stop
or the last.
Some arrive
or depart
with fanfare: trumpets
& flags & heads
of state or captains
of industry
and are lingered over,
gossiped, groped
or drooled on,
but most
barely make a ripple
unless
they wash
over your shores
and create
a tidal wave
that carries you
or carries you over
any and all coastlines:
mothers/fathers/lovers
& the like.
They are our sea-gods,
our Neptune's
sometimes and sometimes not
devouring their own children.
The stone deepens,
widens, asserts itself,
intertwines with the fibers
of god, and with them,
turns love into grief,
grief into longing,
longing into pain,
and all to reminiscence
which overwhelms
& hardens
& becomes
a stew of regret.

Each day
one goes through it:
arriving/departing.
Some react quietly
others not so. Some
feel undeserving
of succor & seek
none; others yammer
for days on end
& find a kind of relief.
What balances one,
tilts the other.
And sometimes "love"
is too selfish
to share.

Births are supposed
to make us happy
while death is supposed
to make us sad. So easy
to think
like that.
I know that as I write this
there are those caught
in a place between words
and have not a hand
to hold.
I can manage
another's life
very well--
it's mine
I have a problem with.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

GEOGRAPHICAL CURES & QUICK FIXES


We're in pain;
we're desperate.
We've all done it
thinking:
if I get away,
if I change it,
change something--
it's gonna lift,
the pain will ebb,
the desperation
will flame
out & only the sick
damp smell of
an extinguished fire
remain
and that, too,
will go away if
we just get out
get away
from the place we're at
it's gonna change
the place we're in.

I've done it
a million times
& seen it done
a million more.
I've gone from scotch
to vodka to gin to cognac
to anisette to wine to beer;
I've switched from dope
to coke to reefer to pills
& back again; I've backed-up
the woman I was with
to a woman waiting; I've gone
from New York to New Orleans
to San Francisco to Los Angeles
to upstate downstate in state out of state
to nuthouse in house jail house to ping-pong
to amnesia & nothing helps. Nothing.
Especially with love.
Don't be fooled:
love is a substance
harder to kick
than any substance I know.
It messes with the cool runnings
of the system, fucks
with your heartbeat
because it is your heartbeat.
I can take any addict,
any booze hound
& get them off the shit
in a matter of days. Easy.
But love, uh ugh. No.
Not real love.
You could be fucking someone else
tomorrow & it don't matter.
Real love loves
the imperfections
as well as the hook:
it's a molecular thing:
the scent, the smell, the taste;
the small dick & stubby fingers,
floppy tits, protruding belly,
insane pretentions, narcissism,
perfectionism, isms up the ass--
you still love them.

But try it.
By all means try it.
Try any goddamn thing.
I'll go to Kentucky
& become a redneck,
chew tobacco, shoot guns,
pray to a Confederate god;
or go to Australia & fuck
a Kangaroo. Around the world
& in the world.
Your mind,
if you have one,
does what it does,
perceives what it will,
connects what it connects
pretty much
without your help.
It's not even a matter
of standing your ground
& fighting. No.
You need not do anything.
Staying alive
is enough.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Saturday, July 12, 2014

THE SUN, THE SURF, THE SEA...& ME


I'm getting picked-up
in an hour
& being taken
to her home
on the island.
I've bought
an old man's bathing suit,
and I'll put my old man's body
inside and trudge through
the hot sand, oiled up,
uncomfortable, a bit lost,
a bit disorientated, on scarred legs,
thinning arms, balding head,
to sit in an unforgiving sun & play
a young man's game--
seducing & allowing
her to seduce.
It's like watching
that old kid's show:
Let's Pretend.
And thank the gods
the poet still does.

It's been easy with her
so far.
No inkling
of the whirlwind
destruction
of the last one.
She takes what is
& doesn't bother
with what isn't--
so far.
I'm still
jumpy,
but that, too,
will pass--
maybe,
if what I see
is,
& what I don't see
isn't.

That's the best
I can do--
right now.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014