Wednesday, April 30, 2014


The concrete holds
all the pain
of Rome.
No deed
goes unnoticed.
We are the military
disguised as doves.
As the anger of artists
are like farts
in a blizzard,
while white hot cauldrons
of hatred
are mistaken
for crucifixes
& pageants.
The night
sleeps peacefully
while your bones
& mine

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014


I remember this old Irish bitty
buttoned-up to the collar,
in all black,
who made us memorize
the multiplication table
in grammar school.
You'd never want to fuck her,
but you did fear her.
She terrorized our nights
should we not be prepared
for her day's
The next year
she taught me
how to type
on an old manuel,
built like a tank.
Over and over
hitting the letters
to the alphabet hard
and with purpose
until I didn't have to look
at the keys,
but looked at the written word
instead and now only have to listen
as the words form and fly
inside my head.

I memorized every word
my mother read to me
when a child,
and made her stop
when she missed one;
and I memorized her face
in her cardboard coffin
as rigid&angry in death
as in life--maybe more
--at all the living
going on around
and without her.
I memorized batting averages
and the way New Orleans looked
and smelled after a downpour;
I can recall maps
of migrating birds
and all the potential I held
strangled and muted
like the runny obsolescence
of forgotten and abandoned

I remember each terror
of finding myself
& knowing it will never
be any different
no matter how many arms
embraced & held me.

I have committed
to memory
all the infidelities
and every Lucky Strike
I ever smoked while
memorizing each Dylan song
until I believed
I wrote it.
I can still feel
each time I downshifted
the Porsche's buttered gearbox
and how cool
the breeze felt
easing into a turn at fifty.

I've committed the carnival
to memory and the quirky streets
of Greenwich Village and each time
"love" was on my lips,
and in my steps,
but never meant
to be heard
or seen.
I know each rendition
of Monk and every sip
of whiskey
I took down.

I can quote
every word
of every argument
with every woman
who mattered
and didn't.
How disappointment
was attached
to the hip
and on the breath
as we severed one
from the other.

But most of all
I remember this
afternoon: a chilly
day in April when
it should be warmer;
a thin light falling
across these magic
fingers flying
across the keys; smoke
from a Lucky blue
across the screen.
And you,
somewhere in the box
for me
to finish.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014


she asked,
one day.
I'd been ducking her
since the moment
I saw her working
next to me.
"You're too beautiful,
I replied,
"too young.
& I'm afraid
I'll say something
or foolish--
sound ridiculous,
or look like a horse's ass."
Her eyes
She blushed.
Then smiled.

It takes a lifetime
of experience
with the woman
to know exactly
what to say...
and when.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014


The time


you coming

& them


Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


not often
but sometimes
I can hear
a pure distillation
of love--pauses,
puffs of breath
(when speech
is another form
of agony)
--coming through
my phone
at work.
I'd be speaking
to one half
of a couple
whose other half
has horrendous problems:
a stroke has left them paralyzed
on one or both sides, aphasic;
or ALS is shutting down all their systems
(and will slowly, slowly, suffocate them);
heart disease, COPD, dementia
in all its permutations, lost, bewildered,
becoming aged
children needing
a young mother
a spirited father,
but the partner
is old, too,
or has to work
or has other children
to raise.
Each life
a nightmare
of varying proportions;
each looking
for a solution
which doesn't involve
giving up
and shelving,
their other
After doing this for awhile
there's a build-up
of callus that occurs
inside your ear
& in your heart
to life's calamities
except your own.
You have enough
of your own shit
to think of: your boss
only wants you to make
the next call,
the next sale,
and you know
the rent
is right
around the corner.

But every once in awhile
you hear a purer love,
a refusal to give in
to sickness, mess,
the loss of identity,
and sometimes
it happens
to the young, those under
sixty, those whose lives
are not supposed to go,
but do: wasting away
from a rogue gene, becoming
sightless and mute,
no longer able to hold a spoon
or a piece of toilet paper.
in all its indignities.
And I hear that,
that courage,
that determination,
that unwillingness
to have anything to do
with reality,
and it gets inside me,
wiggles around,
unclogs these cynical neurons,
bloodstream, veins and arteries,
pumps my heart with blood
and bucks up what is admittedly
a weak and cowardly backbone.

It takes some fucking courage
for one to do that
for another--
no matter who the fuck it is.
We call it "love"
but it's not really.
It's something that defies words
& precedes speech.
And it's something
that most of us
will never have to do...
or want to do.

Nothing frightens me
as much
as the human

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014


for elephants. Actually,
for stupid elephants; elephants
that were left back,
never made it out of grade school,
dimwitted elephants, schized elephants,
moronic & crazy elephants;
elephants who were too smart
for their own good, rebellious
elephants, boozing elephants,
dope shooting elephants,
jazz playing elephants;
elephants whose tusks
are chipped, broken, stained
with jungle nicotine; bull elephants
who can no longer bull their way
into elephant snatch; lady elephants
who no longer emit an inviting odor;
old fat wrinkled & almost
used up elephants;
to a nub
but elephants who
can still dial
a phone...
& still sell
whatever shit
you put
in a brown paper bag...
circumcised elephants
with a merchant's soul,
a survivor's bloodline;
blind wanderers
with busted suitcases
filled with,
and leaking,

They are
as crazy
as shit-house
rats, who can smell
you once
& remember you
A very hip

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014


was here with me
watching the Pacquiao/Bradley fight
while I was fooling around
with words on the Mac
when my old girlfriend's email
landed in my in-box.
I read it.
And read it again.
"C'mere," I said,
"I want ya ta read this."
She pulled herself away
from the blood letting
and into another ring.
She read it.
And read it again.
"I don't know," she said,
"nobody knows anybody."
I smiled.
"That's what Roth said;
wait here, lemme read it ta ya."
I got up and got "American Pastoral"
and sat in my desk chair. She
was sitting underneath me,
her head swiveling
to the other fight
"Listen to this:
“You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion. ... The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that -- well, lucky you.”
"I like it when you read to me, baby.
Let's get under those flannel sheets
and watch the rest of this in bed.
At least tonight we don't haveta fight--
we'll get it as right as we can."

maybe in a week, a month, a year
--she'll dislike me, too. Maybe
even hate me?
And maybe,
if I'm lucky,
I'll be
long gone
by then?


Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014


was half Cuban
and half African,
but all woman;
she was also
on the skids.
I'd see her
from time to time
when I came out
of my captivity
to have a smoke.
At first,
she came to me
& demanded one
then modified
her approach,
and I'd give her one
and, always the gentleman,
light it as well.
She always looked better
from a distance; a little long
in the tooth up close
and a little beaten-up
around the edges.
I found out she lived
in a city shelter
around the corner
and sometimes
performed acts of charity
with men
inside the subway entrance
on the corner.
She was smart
in the ways
that most women are:
she could size-up
a man
in seconds,
but instead
of thinking
in years
she measured
only minutes.

After a time,
we got friendly
enough, so that
a real coffee
& a danish
went with the cigarette,
but the other day
she had the sadsads.
I didn't have to ask.
"It's my fucking birthday,
she said,
not one fucking person
gives a shit if I'm alive
or dead...and I don't give a shit either."
I felt like that
once or twice myself.

"How old ya gonna be?"
"I'm twenty years your senior."
"You don't look that, daddy?"
"Neurotics don't got a dress?"
"I got a dress."
"You like Italian?"
"Yeah, I like Italian."
"You wanna eat Italian tonight?"
"You takin me out?"
"Why not? Everybody should have a birthday."
"An old Italian joint near my pad. Been there
for a hundred years; older sophisticated crowd--
we'll fit right in. How's eight?"
I scribbled down the address for her
and met her out front.
She cleaned herself up and looked good.
Real good.
She knew how to order, knew what she wanted,
knew how to sip wine and knew how to eat.
We were finishing up
with espresso
when she leaned in close
and said,
"I got something I need to tell you."
"Yeah, what's that?"
"My real name. It's..."

I thought that
was a start.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


You got plenty of trouble,
I know;
and I got plenty myself.
I'm not comparing here,
I'm just sayin.

I see where
you're reading my early stuff
& I can understand that--
it was raw, alive,
nerves on fire.
I'm happy to say
they still are (on fire)
& I still am (raw & alive),
but have taken on
much shit as I've gone on.

Better to burn,
I think,
while you can,
and leave a stain
in your wake,
then to wake up
without needing

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Thursday, April 10, 2014


This poem is for Katsuho--if she wants it.

She helped me see things I saw,
but never took the time to see.

She was subtlety and nuance
amidst my bluster and bluff.

I took her age as leverage
until she turned me over and pinned me.

She left Japan for passion
yet remained passionately Japanese.

I need to see the Cherry Blossoms. Take me
to the park.

I laughed at all things
natural; disparaged beauty,
encouraged chaos and hid
inside a tear.

She knew that terror.

She nurtured those feelings
and raised herself instinctually
while I was busy learning
basic medication
and mendacity.

Look at the flesh,
she said, feel the petals blush.
At first, I pretended I knew
what she meant
until she gave me back
my childhood.

I married her,
then fell in love with her.
Became frightened of her
and what I had with her,
twisted and subverted her
until she became undone
and we became history.

It's been well over a decade
since I've seen, spoken to,
or wrote her.
But I saw the Cherry Blossoms
on the news tonight. And now
I see her books on my shelves
and hear her music in my head
and see her art on my walls.
We spent ten good years together
and shared all manner of things
that make nutty people like us
fall in love with other nutty people:
Monk, Miles, Billie, Dinah,
Nina, Murakami, Roeg, Godard, Andy,
Buk, Selby, deKooning, Pablo, Bach,
Yo-Yo, Bee, Celine, the Yanks, Knicks,
ping-pong...but it was the opening
in our bodies, bodies that bled
into each other
that etched and imprinted, cemented
each to each...

I will go
to Central Park
this weekend.
Winter is finally
in our rearview mirror and
I know where
the Cherry Blossoms are
and how soon they'll fall.
I will allow
my soul to drift
and be slowed
and attuned
to other rhythms
and I'll meander
under the trees,
in the grass,
to their music
and thank you,
my dear,
once again.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


I got up this morning
early as usual
after a nighttime of battles
remembered and otherwise...
and nothing ached.
I swung my legs easily
out of bed
& stood up
without wobbling.
Jabbed my finger
with a pen-let
to take a blood sugar test
and it was quite within normal limits
then went to the john
to take a piss
& took it
standing up.
Very strange,
I said to myself,
and glided into my kitchen
& got the coffee started
without the old pot exploding
or shorting another fuse...
jumped into the shower
and regulated the hot&cold
without singing my balls
or freezing to death
with aplomb and sophistication.
Plenty of soap,
plenty of lather,
plenty of shampoo
to do what shampoo does.
Huh? I muttered
as I toweled off.

I fully expected
my pad to blow-up
before getting back to my desk
with coffee in hand,
or disappear
into the cracked linoleum,
but it didn't happen.
Still, there was hesitation
in my hand
as it raised
the bent&broken venetians:
holy shit,
still there,
all of it: New York City's vital signs:
the light the air the buildings the noise;
the cars, the trucks, the buses&trains,
stores open while their industrial ghouls
sucked the blood from a battered and numbed
populace; death
in all its petty permutations
perched like a peacock
preening a black plumage.

I lit a smoke
took a sip
and stared
at a very normal
and banal offering: humans
everywhere going this way
and that, locked
into their own particular dance,
clutching their cells
like ambulatory prisons,
talking, texting, sexting,
listening, surfing, imagining,
hoping, planning, measuring,
mediating something silly
or momentous
on their way
as the sirens wailed,
and bedsprings rattled,
as first breaths
became last breaths,
and fighters ran hills
and butchers cut loins
and Korean grocers shelled
peas while I
am not dead,

but soon

will be.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014


were sung scared
like sparrow chirps
and hung in the air
and strung across
tenement houses
and abandoned buildings throughout
the lower east side
like clothes-lines
from the time I began copping dope
in the nineteen sixties
to the time I finished
in the early two thousands.
"Beware" brother
was sung by pimply-faced adolescents
who were stationed like city-sentries
near the spots that sold "D&C"--
dope and coke
--in nickel and dime bags
in outdoor supermarkets
or hollowed out buildings
They knew when the cops
were about to roll-up on you
for big busts; and they knew
when the plainclothes would sneak
into your ass; and they made sure
you would have time to scurry
into the next hole and,
more importantly, their bosses
to get their ass
and their product out
and gone.
"Cuidado! bro,"
and everybody stopped.
Our bird heads
and our bird brains
attuned for the kind of danger
being caught
Yes, it was nothing less
than "cops and robbers,"
but it was love, too.
We were renegades
living behind
a renegade mask.
The volume pumped
up as the flesh
heated over the Bunsen burner city
melting us on sidewalks, in cars,
on rooftops, in beds in hospitals
and jail cells, in this dance
of death.

I've just finished
another dance.
This one
far more dangerous: love
between humans dripping
with neurosis.
It was a complicated
dance. In this
I wanted
to get caught; I wanted
to be exposed; I would have gladly
served time.
In the year
this dance lasted
I heard the word, "Cuidado,"
often enough,
in a sigh or
in a wail,
but each admonition
in my own voice hard
to discern and so
easily swallowed
and stilled.

Things have changed out there:
outdoor drug supermarkets
are gone; abandoned buildings
have been turned to upscale condos;
white drug addicts have delivery services.
They've even tried to sanitize "love."
Handjobs aren't love; blow jobs aren't love;
eating pussy isn't love; monogamy is
optional. "Shell shock" is "battle fatigue"
is PTSD. Give it a different word or phrase
and you put distance between you and the world.
It becomes less
and less real.
Nah, I pass.
I'd rather have the down and dirty,
the rough and tumble, the blood,
the grit, the dirt that's supposed
to clog the veins, gum-up the machinery,
make you unable to get out of bed
the next morning.
I would like a woman
to whisper, "Cuidado"
in my ear

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014


There used to be
a million of em--
cheap Cuban/Chinese joints
in Chelsea,
not too far
from my pad.
The chicken was cut
in small pieces
& deep fried
on the bone
until the skin
gleamed and crunched
when you bit into
its moist white flesh.
You might want to
put a little salt & pepper on it,
or squirt some fresh lemon over it,
but you really didn't need to do nothin
except eat it,
each bite complimented
by the rich yellow rice
& fragrantly sweet black beans
kicked into gear
by their best friend, Tabasco.

The whole deal: $6.95.
You could have a couple of beers
with it
and cafe con leche
after it--
and if you felt like treatin yourself royally,
a little flan
caressing your mouth
and your stomach
like lovers
who knew
where the bones
were buried.

You had to push yourself
away from the table
but not before opening
each other's fortune cookie;
if it was somewhat serious you Oud&Ahd
if it was sexy you looked into the eyes
of your lover playfully
and smiled then walked back out into the world
of horrors and madness
you left only a few hours ago
with your lady--the one you've known
for ten years
or ten minutes
--on your arm
and lit a smoke.
There is a calmness about you.
Your words come out easy...
Pretty good, huh?
you say.
She doesn't say anything,
and doesn't have to; she
just squeezes your upper arm
while bringing it closer
to her breast
and keeps it there;
it feels like heaven's pillow
and you walk
a shuffle really,
a King
despite yourself,
and nothing
for a little while
is going to come between
you, your Queen,
or your Kingdom.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Saturday, April 5, 2014


I've come to expect
sidewalks to open up
and swallow me
each time I go out
to buy a pack of smokes
or container of coffee.
If I make it
out of the chasm
and into the store,
the tobacco I'm handed
needs to be cured
and the coffee
is left to be ground.

Just the other day
I waited on the tracks
for a train to take me home.
I entered from below
the trestle
to cane-backed seats,
dry heat and shoulder straps.
Everyone was polite.
No one spoke.
It was like an limited truce
among barbarians. A limited peace
between warring lovers
knowing the divorce will arrive
at the next stop.

But I was on the wrong track
and now on the wrong train,
going down when
I should be going up,
staying on
when I should be getting off.
Yet I was home.
Coney Island shone
like it once did
when three roller-coasters
rock 'n rolled into a fireworks sky;
when there were fortune tellers and
do-wop artists giving it away;
when sailors were be hustled
or rolled by gum-cracking dolls
and head-bashing Italians;
there were bumper-cars
and batting ranges, miniature golf
and water-gun races, nickel and quarter
pitches and Baby Doll lounges and smells
of life lived for a minute
around the edges;
when Nathan's was three deep
at every counter
and there were fresh clams
and fried shrimps
for 75 cents and a buck,
a chow mein sandwich,
and barbecue, a lobster roll
with real lobster meat
for a buck and a quarter
and franks were just a quarter
and fries were a dime;
when there were bowls of mustard
and big thick wooden tongue depressor sticks
to slather it on before you were afraid
of disease and saliva and sickness
of intent.
And there was my girlfriend,
her cat's green eyes
narrowing on me in the crowd,
fixing me,
before her demons took aim,
and bringing me to her side
of the day's smile.

I was crazy then.
It's easy
to admit that.
Maybe too easy
because craziness then
was absorbed
into youth's blotter
and forgiven,
and sometimes even prized
mistaken like the gift
of personality and courage,
recklessness and character,
even an intelligence
of despair and defiance
and, in fact, I can argue,
still is...except...
except I knew
I was lost then,
but also knew
I'd always
be found--a contradiction
of convenience. Juggling
became my art.
If I could get there,
if I could just make it there,
any time of the day or night,
in any weather in any season,
a greaser a gangster a Jewish granny
Italian mama or a Jesuit, guinea, mick, nigger
or spick hanging out in a kitchen, poolroom,
Faber's Fascination, cheese box basketball court,
poker action, luncheonette, bar or bagel store,
I'd find somebody
to take me in.

I took comfort
that all the trains
led to Coney Island, a.k.a. Stillwell Avenue,
a.k.a. Norton's Point.
There was even a hotel, The Terminal Hotel,
across from the graveyard
for iron horses; and should I ever stumble
enough there's
a place of red lights
and brown paper bags,
of Kings and Queens fallen
through their own sidewalk's
cracks and fissures
into a Hellish Oz
that would catch me,

But now,
a little bit older
and a little bit crazier,
I have to remember the future
to make it
back to the past
and mistake that
for the present
so I can know it
and rest.

Gimme another,

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


when fire
lit paths
and wheels
were still
to be imagined,
I knew a woman
beneath her bones.
She was a little feral monkey:
took what she wanted;
ate what she wanted;
and shit where and when she wanted.
She was
a Hell of a gal, but
all things considered
is better off--
way better off
--with you.

I'll tell you
another story
I promise.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2014