Saturday, February 25, 2012


you'd adjusted
to the cruelty
of your birth--
the brutality
of your father;
a derangement
of the senses
felt in the lash
or his absence;
just when you thought
you'd habituated yourself
to your mother's preference
for stray cats and dogs
or three-legged orphans
that you heard pawing
and clawing through endless nights,
tattooing the "no place like home" tapestry hung
inside your eyelids
and above the dinner table
where we're least blind;
just when you thought
you stopped believing
in conductors and teachers
and railroad escapes and streetcar conductors,
lawyers and doctors and magicians
and started having a limited faith
that your words made sense,
when you began to make them
yours, birthing them, nursing them,
raising them, teaching them
to sometimes behave;
and they, in turn,
trusting you
to come out
of hiding, jumping at you
from impossible angles,
through hoops and loops of memory,
across caterpillar armies,
until your defeats
became butterflies, their wings
intact, and beating like a tiny heart,
just then
you dreamt six numbers
and Ralph, the corner newsboy,
told you to check your ticket,
as he handed you a fresh deck
of smokes and you
became not you
and the words fled
not recognizing
who thought them.

It was a nightmare,
of course. Yet, I've dreamt
this often, in many forms.
And, occasionally,
I've even had "fuck you" money;
a parade of pussy;
an absence of bosses
or overseers. All I could do
was get high and drunk,
laid and lazy.
And the words split
to greener pastures.
I was a fraud, a criminal,
a squanderer of opportunity.

The hard part
is needing
the nightmare
to achieve
the other.
Some would not want
to do it. And most can't.
The old ones, like me,
who do this
without fame or money attached,
who are used to this,
this being ignored,
are dying off.
There are some good ones out there;
they are young
but so is the mortality rate.
My advice: dream rich
stay poor
while you learn the craft;
take the pricks and cunts
where you find them,
and can get them,
but don't go out looking;
let the game
come to you;
the gods are generous,
don't force their hand;
and know that most,
if not all advice,
is bullshit
to do with
what you

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012


Nobody who ever felt,
then heard,
the steel snap
around the wrists
can doubt our brotherhood
with the wolf
and the deer
and any other living thing
caught in the human jungle
of motive.
No matter the reason,
it's a ferocious defeat.

If I could,
I'd rather be the wolf,
gnawing my wrist or elbow
to the white sinewy bone,
my own blood dripping
from my own teeth,
pulling and snapping
until I was able to run
to where I either bled out
or healed.
That choice was not given me.
A policeman stood or sat
too near and watched my form diminish
as he pushed and prodded me
from the street to his cruiser to the station
to the cell
where bars replaced cuffs.
Still, those cuffs
were not the worst.
The worst were liquid.
The worst were sanctioned
by the state and the Feds
and were made to be drunk,
looking as inviting
as orange Kool-Aid.
Each morning,
I broke the night's skin
a bit dope sick,
a thin coat of clammy sweat on my skin,
I went in the ice and the furnace,
to a proscribed place to drink
a proscribed amount for
a proscribed time only
to get up and do it again tomorrow.
It is another form of poor white trash life,
of nigger life,
a dreamer's life
of hopelessness,
an indentured life,
a black faced vaudeville life,
where if you don't make them laugh
you will wait on line forever.
Nature can never be that cruel.
Having taken everything from you
they try to extract a little more.

Some people won't know
what the hell I'm talking about.
They won't think about rent,
or husbands or wives or children
or jobs or electricity or flat tires
or broken teeth with just enough money for soup.
They'll have come out and grown up pretty much intact.
They'll have read, they'll have watched and many have even understood.
But they've never have lost a pinkie or a hand
in the dope cooker;
they'll not have missed a meal
except on purpose.
They'll have been caught
only in the abstract.
Which might make
for good conversation,
but not so much
for anything else--
except our continuation,
which is not very much
to brag about.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Making your way
through this madness
there were people
you had to talk to,
others you must to talk,
and the few
you did talk to.
But even the ones you did talk to
were selected by circumstances,
not frequently by desire.

It's true:
most of us are boring
and somewhat limited
in how we see ourselves
and the world:
the common gain importance;
the old debates are debated again;
the sides might as well had been chosen
as randomly as kids choose-up pick-up ball games.

Never trust
the crowd
I knew
early on.
My degeneracy
was elitist.
I cultivated
and quacks,
who had an early taste
of death
showing those invisible scars
that parents and gods beat into them.
We managed to find each other
in places were the deranged gathered:
schools, odd jobs, pool rooms,
gin mills and shooting galleries.
It took me more years
to discover
that most of them
weren't smart either.

None of us is simply
that smart.

But in these six decades
I've been around the world,
sometimes in a day.
Age has tempered me,
wised me up,
the rocks have smoothed
and no longer leave me
bloody from memory.
Each person is a person
I could like, if not love,
I could smile with, if not laugh with,
they have warmth and compassion
wrapped around their failures
and the failures of others they love
and do not judge themselves
and me too harshly.
And since my jar
had remained purposely empty
all these many years
I am thirsty for this kind of humanness.
And surprisingly,
they see something in me
that would have turned me away
in years past, but they don't turn away
they just make the lamp brighter
and push their way
into the dark.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2012

Friday, February 3, 2012


I'd just hit
double digits
and was home
from school
because of a blizzard.
I'd stayed up
most of the night
huddled in my bed
under the covers
listening to my little Panasonic
for it to announce
school closings,
while every few minutes
(which felt like hours),
I'd poke my eyes
through the wooden slats to see
how much of God was on my side.
Early that morning
He finally decided to do the right thing,
and schools shuttered.
My father, too,
stayed home,
but not from a childish reverie,
but because of a hacking nasty chest cold
he'd been fighting for days.
He hated staying home.
I loved it.
He'd always had an easier time
being away from his family
than around them,
and had an even worse time
dealing with sickness
of any kind.
I was still too stupid
to get the Hell out of Dodge.
he called out to me,
come in here.
I went into his bedroom
and there he was,
Moby Dick,
thrashing around
in his blue blanket sea,
Kleenex like whitecaps
strewn across the ocean.
I want ya to go the drugstore
and tell him to give ya a bottle
of G.I. Gin.
Tell him to give me what?
I asked.
Just tell him you need some G.I. Gin,
he'll know what that is, even that idiot will know that.
Take five from my bill fold, but it ain't gonna cost you that,
and get it for me, will ya?
This fuckin cough is gonna kill me. Hurry up,
before I die.

I got dressed,
bundled up for the elements,
feeling like a soldier given a mission,
for his General,
a General who was sick,
and made my way to Mr. Markowitz's store
on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island
a few blocks from my home.
Snow has a way
of quieting things,
slowing things down,
even those inchoate surges
that were already so much a part of me.
The inverted fin of his '57 Caddy
had an inch or more on it,
almost two feet on the ground itself.
Nothing moved
except the white free fall.
I trudged through it,
enjoying the effort,
getting to the goal.

Mr. Markowitz was there
in his whites
and seemed surprised
to see a customer
when his bell rung
and I came in.
Mr. Markowitz,
I said,
after I clapped my hands
to shake the snow from my gloves
and took off my beanie
covered with ice.
I need a bottle of G.I. Gin.
Who needs a bottle of G.I. Gin?
(Mr Markowitz was an idiot.)
My father needs it Mr. Markowitz.
I don't even know what it is, what is it?
Cough medicine. It's cough medicine:
mostly Turpin Hydrate and codeine. Soldiers drank it
in the war. Tastes disgusting--but it works.
He went into the back, where he mixed up his pills and medicines
and came back and handed me a cough syrup bottle with a clear
but viscous brew inside it.
Three dollars, he said. Tell your father I hope he feels better.
Yeah, sure, I said and left.

My hand was icy and wet when I handed him the bottle.
He chugged
almost a quarter of it,
let out a roar of disgust,
and lit a cigarette.
Tastes like shit,
he exclaimed,
but it works.
And pressed it against his chest
like a third tit
as he fumbled for an ashtray.
What a fuckin life
this is,
he opined,
I'm home one fuckin day
and there ain't nothin on TV to watch:
no movie, no nothin.
You feel like playin gin or casino?
Anything is O.K. with me. Either one.
Get a deckacards and somethin to keep score with--
I'm gonna whip your ass.

I don't know about him,
but it was a good day for me
so far;
the best I'd had
in quite a while.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2012