Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I used to watch my old man smoke
those Chesterfield shorts.
How he'd shake one
out of the pack,
flip it nimbly in his fingers,
and light it from a match
he cupped in his fist
whether he was against the wind
or not.
He'd hold the smoke deftly,
like a good pool shooter would hold his cue,
inhale deeply,
and while letting go
that first drag,
smoke coming out of his mouth and nose,
take another
down into his lungs
which seemed to satisfy him
for a few seconds.
Sometimes I'd be with him
and a few of his Mafia cronies
and they, too, would smoke unfiltered's:
Camels, Pall Malls, Chesterfields,
and Lucky's. I'd see them dry lip
the ends and then flick their tongues
to get at the specks of tobacco
that snuck aboard or sometimes
pinch their lips to remove them.
It was as cool and natural to them
as it was to Bogey
or Frank
who they idolized.
It went with the doing;
it went with the getting done.

I musta been eleven or twelve
when I stole a few Chesterfields
and a bottle of gin
from the liquor cabinet
and took them
and a pack of matches
to the beach.
Stealing was a delicious act,
but crossing into their world was tastier.
I got to the beach in Coney Island,
sat on the wet sand
my form lit from an old street lamp
forming a question mark
on the boardwalk.
I put the Chesterfield between my lips,
tasted a sweet bitterness that stung
the tip of my tongue
and tried to cup the match,
burned my fingers,
tried again,
and again,
and again,
finally lighting it from the side.
I took a drag
and coughed;
took a sip of warm gin
and gagged.
I smoked three cigarettes quick,
and sipped what tasted like hair tonic
just as quickly.
Light headed and a bit looped,
I made it home,
snuck around the back
eased the door open
and up to my room
and found my old man
sitting on my bed
waiting for me.
Come here you little bastard,
and close the door.

In a short amount of time,
Chesterfields tasted too stale,
Camels too thick,
Pall Malls were too long,
but Lucky's fit fine.
circumstance would dictate
what was smoked and what was drunk,
or ingested,
but who knew that

there is a filter
on my cigarette,
and coffee in my glass.
Sometimes that reality
gets me sick
if I think about it
too much.
I fear,
the cigarettes,
and my lungs,
will have to go,
"Love" does not now,
never did,
and never will,
conquer all.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012


I was a shy kid
before I knew
what the word meant;
my body knew
before my head
that when I wanted something,
really wanted it,
I stuttered
until I thought I'd die
or just give up on it.
Early on
my body betrayed me,
leaving me to live
inside my head
where I cultivated
my heroics and myths
and turned them
into art.

Luckily, I was smart
and learned to lie
even while
the body remained dumb
obeying a linearity that punished
speech. It is all I need to explain
this writing jones.

But dating in my youth
was fraught
with danger
especially if the object
was beautiful and smart.
Those I'd desire,
dream about,
casually walk home with,
sharing a smoke with
and exhaling
before we rounded
the corner of our homes,
made me wish
for a peaceful death--
hers or mine--
before I'd reveal
any intention at all.
I'd have to sidle up,
playing angles, bank-shots;
not wanting to be obvious,
I'd arrange a neutrality
before arming the troops.

My head made up
from what my body lacked
and did all right with the girls:
all of them liked to talk
about themselves
and their parents
and their current boyfriends;
I knew none of them
met their needs because needs
once met
are either taken for granted or
are discarded
and left at the curb's edge
for the next handsome collector
who can talk talk talk
and is funny.
I pretended to be a rogue's rogue:
played hookey, drank,
stayed out late,
smoked Lucky's,
and memorized
Lenny Bruce.
It was
my calling card.
And so I fumbled
with bra's built like Humvees,
listened as they unlocked
those dead-bolt clasps
and watched
as their miraculous breasts
splashed across their chests
and I learned and learned well
their likes
and dislikes
realizing that although the drug
might be the same
each of us get high differently.

Then it became easy:
dating disappeared
in certain circles
somewhere in the sixties.
No longer did you have to ask
a young woman out,
you merely had to be there.
Except now the smart and beautiful ones
became smarter and more beautiful
and my stutter remained.
But now heroin
brokered the aggression.
Jazz joints
and jazz poems
did most of the talking.
I was good
and lucky.

I could go on
and tell you
how ill-equipped I was
in my later years
to handle arm-to-arm combat,
but I won't. Suffice it to say,
I surrendered.
Now I choose to take my tragedies
as well as my success'
and anything in between
Not that I have anything against booze
or dope or dating, I simply
can't afford them
both from the pocket
and in the soul:
they cannot take what's not there,
and I'd like to save what is left of the other.

And so, if you knock late one night
and I don't answer,
I'm not singling you out--I'm not
holy. It's just I now know better
than to believe
it's just a matter of wanting
what is absent; it's really because
of your absence
that I desire you.
Leave it that way.
It will be easier
for both of us.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012


"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

I'm gonna miss ya mama.
I'm gonna miss ya.
I always loved whores,
those angels of kindness,
those nighttime angels,
and mama,
you were one of the grandest,
one of the best, in your face whores
I've ever had the pleasure of tumbling with.
You mighta been born Jamesetta,
but quickly became Peaches
to me and many other
one nighters; mighta been fathered
by a pool stick hustler,
but everyman who ever laid down a bet
or grabbed what they could,
when they could,
had a piece of your action
and wanted more--
didn't matter the cost,
didn't matter the price.

I fell in love with you
when your body shimmied
and when it fell,
when your hair was dyed
a black rooted whore's blond,
or when it sprouted red
like a cockscomb,
when your eyebrows arched
and when your lipstick ran
into your mouth's cauldron;
I loved you when your tits where giving
and then when your thighs and ass
was as big and thick as a Montana mule's.

And through everything,
you felt the painfulness of air
against which you rubbed
and made it sing.
I know nothing
made sense
unless you were singing
and sometimes, probably,
not even then.
There was drink
and there were men,
to get you through,
but never enough
and never for long:
drink took too long
to work
and most men took too long
to come and go.
The ones you fucked,
and wanted to fuck and stay
never stayed
for long. But you knew
that no one
can ever stay
for that long.
At some point,
the point that rusted
the place
in your heart,
you didn't know
who you were fucking
or why. The only thing
that was important
was the time
eaten up
between shots.
By then you knew
what it took
to survive
and went about
the business
of forgetting.
Your arms became
and your hands
blew-up and swelled
by the wasted dope
that missed your veins.
And that was all right,
with you, too.
Unless there was none
left. But by then
was welcomed
as much
as flying.
Each offered escape
from the repetitious
You fell
and got up,
and fell some more.
And landed better.
You were Beckett's queen:
A real queen.
A real whore:
perfumed, dolled-up,
and regal.

At the end
you didn't know
who you were
or where you were,
and that
was a good thing.
who could be sure
of such things?
This country
and this life
makes fools of us all.
But even most of us fools
knew the wrong star shone
inauguration night
and starting tonight
will not come out

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012


There are all manners
of signs
given to hulking beasts
whether the ring is canvassed
and squared, round,
or borderless.
Yet one thing is certain:
feelings precede
(and might even predict)
We might not know,
but our bones do.

Our stage
could be a stage,
or letters
in our fingers
or on a keypad;
it could be notes
that settle
in the flesh
of our inner
or outer
ear that turns
away from us
before we are able
to sing it.
of a certain intelligence
disbelieve and fight
against it,
hoping the opening
will once again assert
and present itself.
We remember
how we danced,
of a certain grace,
able to jab
with precision,
hook and right cross
at will, stayed on our toes
for the full fifteen rounds
and took punches
that no man
had a right to take
and still stand.

we know
what we want to do,
but can't.
A beat slow.
It comes to each
at a different time
and at a different speed,
but it comes
all the time.
You fight it,
of course.
Better, I think
to be like the majestic elephant:
a bone feeling
and a walk
to the graveyard
They know
and do not look
unhappy. It's simply
part of it.
They do not want
to make a mess
or feel embarrassed.
If I could,
I'd attach my hand
to one of their tails
and go with them.
Unlike most humans
they have

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2012