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

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