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Down and in

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I could swear the title of the book was Down and In/In Greenwich village. Maybe the title was changed.

I was a child in the Greenwich Village of the early 50s and a young adult in the Greenwich Village of the 60s, so I speak with some authority.For example, this tidbit:The older artist woman I lived with in the West Village hated the author's sister Gloria because she was good looking andgot the guys.So believe me when I say that the book gives the reader a pretty accurate as wellas amusing glimpse into the lives and the times of the Bohemians, Beats, HIpsters, and Hippies who inhabited lower Manhattan, pretty much between Houston and 14th Street and from the East River to the Hudson during the 50s and 60s.As both a child and a young adult I loved it.I was taken to all night parties and slept a lot in school.Peasant dresses and Orgone Energy.Jazz and heroin.Artists.The Cedar Bar — old and new. The Annex East and Stanley's Bar on Avenue B. The coffee houses like Figaro's and San Raeo.Poetry readings.The Five Spot on St. Marks where you could just pop in and hear Thelonius Munk. Then the explosion of my generation hitting Tompkins Park just as I moved to the West Side. And Max's Kansas City and Andy Warhol holding court.We owe Sukenick a debt of gratitude for recording some of this. For it is gone.In the 80s the Yuppies started moving into the West Village and into SoHo (South of Houston). So we went from Bohemian to Bourgeois in a little over quarter century.Glad I was there at the time.Despite a lot of posturing and bullshit, these two decades were yet very powerful for the arts.Poety was vibrant. You could go into almost any hole-in-the-wall bookstore and find GOOD, really GOOD poetry, not by Oprah authors or poets laureate, but by a plethora of known and unknownspoets, either published by small presses or self published.THE ARTS WERE VIBRANT in this period.And I do not believe we will see such again for a very, very long time.I will share something of my experience with you.I am told that this poem, too, gives a feeling for this very special lost time and place.


(For Dee H.)

The spics sleep on Thirteenth Street
Their jungle bongos beat … in perfervid dreams
Of rut and rot, of purple mountain tops
And breaking glass. Toward Avenue A and up
Up the blank-eyed tenement walls I look
And I own it all, the city and the night, the light
Enhaloing the streetlamps, the still warm asphalt
The fretwork of fire escapes, I own it all

Behind me a few doors, San Sebastian
Twists in agony in his gilt capella
His hermaphroditic plaster form pierced
By a dozen well-fletched Roman arrows, his gaze
Through store-front chapel’s plate glass window
Imploring, piteous, ecstatic.And next door
My own apartment the year before the plaster
— Like my youthful pride — would buckle and fail

Dee, I loved your lisp and how you said
The first line of this poem The sthpics sthleep...
I loved your body and how you looked in jeans
How the springs of the folding bed would complain
As loudly as that AA Wendy bitch
Across the dingy sounding board of a hall
And Bach on the bare old Zenith by the bed
And the warm orange glow of its vacuum tubes

Spare as a monk’s cell I imagined it
My apartment, no stockings, no woman’s evidence
As I was callow and ascetically inclined
I was lucky to have missed the eye of celebrity
That that pot-bellied poet-pederast of Tenth Street
Never wrote a poem for me entitled
“Gimme Yr. Ass Boy” not among his best
If there were any best after his youthful Howl

And dear Kim, who quit Balanchine
Before she was fifteen, and Roger, the seminarian
He was as close I got to faggotry
And proud I was, not that I was stiff
And he limp, but that Mother would not approve
…The spics sleep on Thirteenth Street …
Indeed, I envy them their sleep, their dreams
For what I loved and lost on Thirteenth Street

New York, 1964; Puerto Vallarta 2009

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