Sunday, March 18, 2012


I've lived in Greenwich Village
in the same pad--as big
as a postage stamp--
for thirty-eight years now.
I had "fools luck"
falling into this one:
rent stabilized.
A beautiful, tree-lined street,
scaled for humans,
off 5th Avenue where NYU's tentacles
keeps it clean and safe
for those little tykes
living on daddy's dime.
You hardly ever hear
of a kid thrown against a wall
or a stray bullet
going where it shouldn't.
The minorities that pass through
are most often going to class
or selling reefer in the parks.

In the early sixties
after I'd sucked all I could
out of the poolrooms
and bowling alleys
I cut high school and come here.
And even though it's best days
were over, there still was a faint whiff
in the air, in the bookshops
that held broadsides and mimeo rags,
and record stores that played
the classical long hairs, death operas,
be-boppers and avant-garde hipsters
and the old and young eccentrics who sold the stuff
and who seemed to know
much more than I did,
but kept it quiet
unless asked.
Most of them
have either died
or been run off
by capitalism's geometry,
perfect in its greed
and knowledge of space
and real estate.
This part of the city lives
now as all others do:
on myth and nostalgia's commerce.
The apartments change bodies
as quickly as semesters
as the monthly swag rises.
I know no one
in my brownstone--five floors
of coffin shaped studios--
and no one knows me--
except as a kind of calendar
telling them
what time it was.

A few years ago
a five floor brownstone was bought
by the owner of a hedge fund who,
rumor had it, paid five million
and change. Rumor also had it
he was sinking seventeen million more
into "refurbishing" the structure.
Can you believe, he's building an indoor pool,
a rock garden, spa, steam rooms...My God...
went the whispers from my neighbors
above the age of forty
loud enough to make a contented god
jealous. It was too rich
for this block to contemplate. Hell,
Dylan Thomas drank here
and died a few blocks away;
Delmore Schwartz dreamt here;
Melville and Twain wore down their boots here;
Pollock and deKooning had fist-fights around the corner
while Rothko contemplated colors and suicide
and Klein thought of the black and white firmament here.
Even Eleanor Roosevelt
put on her brassiere across the street
and thought about saving the world,
her husband's infidelity
and pussy.
My neighbors though were not here
to discuss old masterpieces;
and Eleanor's tits had long ago sagged; our new neighbor
was creating a new masterpiece for the ages:
an indoor pool.
Two years later
he and his family
were ready
to dive.

Spring has been weird
this year
on the east coast: mild,
even warm. I went out
to breathe in the freshness
and smelled dog shit instead.
What the hell, lemme go across the street,
sit on a stoop, have a smoke and then run my errands.
I saw groups of young folks
walking past with green nylon wigs, big stove-pipe hats,
green t-shirts, shorts, knee socks, shamrocks, sipping
beer from cardboard containers or bottles:
St. Patrick's Day makes idiots
out of idiots who love any excuse
to take their idiocy for walk
and make it public. Soon, I knew,
you'd have to sidestep their puke
to make it back home.
The hedge fund owner was sitting
on the next stoop, one kid dangling
from his ankle and another tot
a few steps above holding on
for dear life the hem
of his mother's running shorts.
The hedge fund owner looked
out of it, somewhat dejected, staring straight out
to where Eleanor used to get dressed.
I knew that look.
It was the look you get
between battles. It's the long stare.
It's shell shock. You don't believe
you can go on,
but you know you will,
you have to.
I need some down time, she said.
And me?, he replied, barely above a whisper, what about me?
Raising children is no picnic,
she said in perfect english.
He tried to swivel his head up
to meet her eyes,
but he knew in his heart
he was fucked. But that's why, he began, you have help,
goddamnit--a nanny, a cook, cleaning girl.
You're out all week. They're yours today.
The kids grip tightened with each syllable.
Jesus, Cath, I need a run, he began...
Not today--you need a run today? run the kids to the park;
I've got to get dressed. Take her.
She gripped her daughter's hand and brought her down
to where he sat, staring out
once again,

The whole scene
played out in two minutes,
but would be replayed constantly
for years to come
until it played itself out
one way or another.
The hedge fund owner
will be happy
to get to work Monday
and take it out
on nameless, faceless people
and make even more money.
The poor have it
no differently
in the love game,
but being poor
kill less souls.
Scramble two.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2012

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