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

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