Monday, February 24, 2014


The Betty Poems

As soon as she saw the package,
she wanted to send it back.
The package might have
appeared older
in the northern light,
slower and less sure
of the footing,
or heavier
from the layers of clothes.
But she'd already committed
to trying it out
for eight days.
What the fuck
am I gonna do
with this for eight days?
she said to herself.
I know!
I won't fuck him.

I sent myself back
in five.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014


The Betty Poems

by two traumas:
birth and who
gave birth
to us.
Can't do much
about either.
If we're lucky
our caregivers
were hip
to that and allowed
our wounds
to scar
and fade
quickly. Most
of us
were not
and found ourselves
slugging it out
with ourselves
and life's consequences.
We played dirty
because life
played dirty.
took a beating
while others
bit back.
sought mercy
others sought symbols;
some suicided
and some killed
others instead;
some killed a different kind of pain
in error
or desperation.

Pass the salt

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014


For Felix & Felix's Mom

Felix is dying;
he has cancer:
His doctor,
as most doctors would
these days,
suggested to his mom
to get a second opinion
from an oncologist,
but did not offer
much hope.
They also discussed
other interventions:
diet, herbs, meditation,
laughter, and prayer.
I knew his mom
was a strong and willful woman
and would do
what she thought best.

I also knew
how this would effect her.
In her own private blizzard
of inconsistency,
Felix was her only constant;
a soft presence
who only knew
how to give,
and never took
what was not
He was there
through the hideous years
of a bad marriage
and never judged her;
he heard her words
and her silence
and listened
when nobody else
could hear her
or believe her.
He stood fast
when she crawled into bed
for a year. He smelled
her misery
and did not run
away from the odor.
He understood the pain,
the isolation,
the drugs and the drink
the just being able
to brush her teeth--if that--
and nothing more
for the day.
The world
might have abandoned her,
but not Felix.

Felix doesn't know
he's dying;
he doesn't feel pain
as pain,
or nausea
as nausea.
They're just part
of the whole deal
of being alive.
He only responds,
as we all do,
to love
and absence
of love.

I shouldn't have
not at this time,
but I did.
I came anyway.
I had to come.
I needed her
to love me.
My insecurities
demanded it.
I was led to believe
she wanted me there,
but she didn't. She understands
Felix's love,
but not mine.
She understands Felix's pain,
but not mine.
And Felix was fine.
He was active, alert,
full of play and full of love.
Licks and kisses was all he gave
and caresses was all he wanted.
His piss was as yellow as the sun
on the white snow. His nose
black and wet; his desire
to go at cats and rats
and squirrels boundless.
He was just fine...
for now.
She looked at him
and his leavings
more often than she looked at me.
And I was jealous.
I was in pain
and she
was the only thing
that could make it go away
and she couldn't
or wouldn't
do that.

It's harder
for some of us,
isn't it,
to love humans
for very long.
Especially for those
of us who believe
in our secret places
we don't deserve love at all
from other humans.
we got the feeling
that we're too ugly,
too damaged,
too mean,
too deranged,
too not good enough
to be good enough
for anyone
who believes differently.
We mistake kindness
for weakness;
we interpret everything
through the prism of ugliness
and suspect
or own suspicions.
Or, perhaps,
it's simply
Revenge on the parent
who tyrannized
or revenge on yourself
who has dared to enjoy?
Or, perhaps,
it's everything
and nothing?
Maybe it's autistic
or maybe it's bi-polar?
Or the disease
of the day
or the hour?

Whatever it is
she's unable
to love
things on two legs.
I'd thought
that because I'm ready,
or think I'm ready,
she's ready.
How stupid
and selfish
is that?
I'm an egotist
and dreamer--
a lethal

Felix, for the present,
is doing just fine.
It's the two of us
who're fucked.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


can be witnessed
in real time
your balls
or ovaries
clatter to the tracks
on the NYC subway
or probably
any third rail
in any urban hell
in any town
in any world.
You find yourself
amidst the slithering,
crawling, chirping,
and gurgling
Tourette's stoked dreams
of fellow citizens
in our tormented march
from one hole
to another.
No one
is far
from the caves
and Savannah's.

Most of us
are weak
and know
we are weak
and stand
next to
can happen:
while donating
to a deaf and Jewish
Jesus; pushed
off the edge
while contemplating
suicide; fleeced
while being felt;
while hustling.

not too long ago,
we were apes
with clubs.
we are apes
still, but
with nuclear weapons.

En guard.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014


I got a bum left ear.
A week ago it just blew out.
Just like that:
one second stereo,
next mono.
I said,
what now?
I'm sixty-six
and say that
most every morning
tying my laces,
but it's mostly
I would like to think
I'm ready
for death;
it's these small fucking increments
that give me trouble.

things have broken apart;
I've been cracked-up,
been inside, done time,
busted, torn-up,
dazed, stupefied,
loony, stitched
together, re-wired,
with cat's guts
and party ribbons; and, yes,
most I've brought upon
myself and some
were bestowed from the gods
and a gene pool
of mongrels.
I've concerned myself less
with tomorrow
than today's immediacies,
but the ear
spooked me.
You see,
I'm in love,
for the first time,
I believe,
with a lady
as nutty
as me
above the border
of disorder
and she's been through
some shit, too.
The last thing she wants
is an old fuck
with more shit
than she has:
A body that requires
care and a mind
thinking he
deserves it.
For growing up sick
makes the body selfish
to its own needs,
narrows the brain
to go on
alone. And even though
you want to be loved,
you know that no one
the sick.

I'm a trickster;
sleight of hand sharpie;
a magician; an artist
of bullshit. I've kissed
the lips I've wanted to kiss and
have allowed many lips to kiss mine:
my fears
permitted everything:
I've downshifted Porsche'
going into a 25 m.p.h. turn
doing 50, a cigarette burning
my cheek, hands easy on the wheel
and the inside of a soft thigh;
I've put my name on thousands
of poems, novels, stupid
with arrogance and some
originality as I committed
suicide slowly
with what I thought
was style,
but I was wrong.
I was really drinking
and shooting coward's blood
in large enough quantities
to avoid forgiveness
for life's imperfections.
How I lived
is more a testament to science
and doctors
and luck
than I want
to admit.

And now you.

And now this:
little white tumors
springing up
in my brain
like lily's
in the rain,
shutting off
fucking with vision,
and balance, and whatever reason
I have left. What follows?
sloop drooling from my mouth?
pissing in my pajamas?
speaking in tongues?
My schized mother
angry because
I'm sick
and she
gave it
to me?
My father
depositing me
in a damaged can basket,
sold for a nickel?
a dime?
whatever you can get?

It's funny
the ways I've tried
to get rid
of my life.
I've failed.
And I'm glad.
If successful
I really
would have failed
by never knowing
you. I'd never know
what had caused me
to be so foolish
and reckless;
I never would have known
why I went on
when everything
was telling me
to stop.
I'd never know
that my ache
was your ache;
that what I thought
were my own whispers
were yours;
that my isolation
was locked
next to yours;
that my anger
was matched
with your defiance
and a bone china
I'd never know
how holding
another's shit
was like cradling
muddy diamonds
and how there is no
in love. Only love
in its mess
and imperfections
is love
at all.
This frightens you
as I know it should.
You're tired
from the responsibilities
of your own body.
Your largess
is limited
to specific places
and times. You'd rather
keep love,
this kind of love,
at arms distance.
And you will.
Even though
you know
you shouldn't.
We all lose,
finally. That can't
be helped
no matter
how well we scheme,
plot and plan,
and rationalize,
or twist ourselves
into tight little knots.

Take heart,
my love.
Enough to know
we've had a year of it.
And though I'm sure
that other's have had it too,
I'm also sure
that we've never had it
quite like this--
up 'til now.
So let your Greek Gods dance
and I'll allow my Jewish God
to sit back and grin;
once in a great while
they get things

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014


You hit sixty
and you start to smell
your expiration date;
and your culture--
if you live
in one of the world's
money jungles
--smells it, too.

If any attention
was paid
to your youth
your youth
has been stamped
and paid for:
It's cruel
and harsh,
I know,
but really

I mean,
what can you
really offer?
except wisdom?
and we know
what the world
does with that.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014


and conscious.
What a miraculous thing!
No blockages.
No filters.
Just love
and misery
in the confines
of the heart.

Take that!
And that!
And that!


Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014


The Betty Poems

sitting in doctor offices
with just your thoughts
for company.
We are much older now,
but still so much
the same child
having the same fears
and the same tightening
in the gut
and the small
of our backbone.
still leaks
and puddles
around us.
We are past the age
of saying, "What?"
"What now?" is where we are.

Last night
to hear
if my hearing
will ever come back
to my left ear,
I thought of you.
I did as I always do:
watch others,
trying to figure
out who they are
and why they're here.
The waiting room was full
but no one sat as couples do,
no one was with anyone.
No one spoke
there was no "hand holding."
to our own consignment.
trying to make it
I turned to you
as a premenstrual teen,
not even a black hair
below your belly
creating the mystery
and magic of women.
there were forms to fill out,
or questions to answer:
each answer, a failing,
a rebuke from your body,
an abnormality,
an inference of disease;
a germ of anger
and later, defiance.

Waiting rooms
are designs in discomfort.
Every turn our mind makes
meets geometry. Things
are neatly placed; tones
modulated. Our confusion
is left to circulate freely
inside us.
There's a Lysol smell,
an antiseptic scrimmage
between fluids, but still
somehow you feel
death sitting on you
like a second skin.
And a sweet sickening odor
is matching your beautiful young body's
blossom. For who, when young,
diagnosed with disease
does not feel ugly
despite youth's beauty?
For as soon as the body
becomes ugly
the world
becomes hideous
And hostile,
and dangerous.

Those in the waiting room
with me were probably thinking
many things: what to have for dinner?
did she call? would he call?
my prick boss is a moron? what would
the church think? some hot cocoa
would be nice. I was thinking of you
and the hundreds of waiting rooms
we've been in; and the hundred of forms
we've filled out. We could do this
in our sleep: same disease, same medications,
same address, same previous doctors, same co-morbidities,
a year or two older, but same birth-dates. And mortality,
so foreign to us 50 years ago,
sits like a crow squawking
in our ear. In my case my right ear.

For some
we develop
a second skin
a third, a fourth
skin under that
that holds us dear
that allows no light
no other slights
except the ones
we will begin to do
to ourselves.
We learn to listen
and dismiss
all those authoritarian
who pretend to tell us
our own best interests.
We nod.
We try to smile.
We try to look serious.
And we want to play.
We want to be young,
but we know we're really not,
but we know we really are;
our directions
are fucked
trying to walk
a straight line.

we've accommodated
We made room,
found a space
that allowed
a spark to thrive.
all our attempts
to suicide out
our childish irrationalities
kept us alive:
there must be an answer,
there must be pleasures,
there must be more
to find out.
There must be a reason
for Zeus' thunderbolt
to have struck us now.
We go where we go
and take our learning slow.
We've had a great amount of patience
and luck.
We've shown courage
and discipline
beyond what we thought
we could.
Even our anger
kept us alive.

I will see you
very soon
and ask you
to the prom.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014


The Betty Poems

with words;
I love the danger
they create
on the page
over the distance
from body to body;
how they bring souls
nearer and reconcile
two people's suffering.
How even wisps
of sounds
are brought
to their brassy
din while worldly
dins become
and all
but disappear.

They have served me
no better
than bringing me
We've enjoyed
our word play
and have enjoyed
our bodies odyssey.
Our words have been spit
at each other; they've snarled
with fear and contempt
and righteousness; they've pulled us
from each other's orbit
and fastened each other's steel;
they've probed and retreated,
parried and thrust,
hidden and revealed,
they've grown fat
with complacency
and corroded
with fear; they've hidden
from their own meaning
and grew confused
by their own puzzle.
they've endured.
They've healed
and mended,
licked clean
the wounds,
and salved
those tired muscles
that have been
on high alert
from birth.

I've never had
a better year
of my own making.
I've never fought harder
to make the words mean
what I wanted them to
without trying to make
myself safer.

I've never said,
I love you, Betty,
out loud
when no one's

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014