There were many transported moments in Burroughs’ childhood;
many a time when the blinds were drawn
when a bright blue sky remained a bright blue
everlasting. And yearning to be somewhere else,
he travelled by the dint of dreams and dark escapes.
The sun setting in a golden hue.
His characters whispering in tongues. The backyards
following those afternoons of swaying palms
and racing scooters, wooden swords, shotgun blasts.
All those pitter-patters, forget-me-nots
or chasing after trains with brooding hills far distant.
It says in the Bible somewhere that the meek shall inherit the earth—
What’s left of it—and that’s none more true
than in the work
of Purvis Young who
saw an interstate highway slice through
the once-thriving community of Overton where he grew
up. His images of trucks trains and railroad tracks suggest
the possibilities of escape into a dream world
where those trucks and trains continue.
God bless Purvis Young.
God bless what he’s done.
God will not forget.
The big tease she was always a half-generation ahead.
Just enough to make the world of difference between TV
and radio, half-remembrance and full memory.
Just enough remembering a Tim Holt
or Bill Boyd serial was reduced to cigarette ash and the A & B
weekends finding me mesmerized
beneath a painted night sky of filament stars.
The difference between trolleys no trolleys,
two worlds apart turned upsidedown.
No tease at all when history is the memory of time.
When what’s lost is found
again. The difference in faith and no faith.
He’d sometimes tartly mock his own cluelessness or turn down the shades.
Days on end he’d sit, his tired eyes facing away
from the light and the gloom.
He even once ventured up to the Bronx, the Marble Hill section,
and painted plein-air on board
the view called Kingsbridge (1909) looking south in that 4 o’clock light
just as the few ghostly clouds
are breaking away, pierced by the sunshine
or those wee hours he’d spend talking in whispers.
He was still doing the crossword puzzle out in the waning summer sun.
A bluebird perched on his shoulder
would’ve made the world of difference had his memory not begun
slipping surely as the names he’d come
to know with no one reminding
as the world begun closing in from the edges.
He was what you’d call a wise old bird
for the wisdom doled out, for the solitude he possessed
on cold snowy nights with a gray owl hooting.
Jessica Williams. It’s a face you don’t forget, but then you do.
It’s 1969 or was it ‘70? The oft-asked question: What do you do?
It was winter or was it Spring or was it cool?
New York that time of year or was it Boerum Hill? The spools
of water flowing down the drain. The many shops replaced
by many others. The same noonday light reflected in the window,
but not that face reflected in the grain
of black & white. Events happening so fast, so little to retain.
Who knew her long since gone. Simply no trace
even. A face no longer there. A voice barely remembered.
for Alan Dahl
La frode, ond ogne coscïenza è morsa,
pùo l’omo usare in colui che ‘n lui fida…
Dante, Inf. XI, 52-53
Now a bountiful landscape shall go fallow and the sea into dry land
and the sky will dim from afar for the thunder and lightning,
for the maelstrom. Now for the lies and more lies that will become history
and for the damnation of souls in the wee hours.
Now for the hours and for the angels on high and for the birds of the sky
and for all earthly creatures. Now for the hour of deliverance,
for the hour to be cleansed of falsifiers, to be sprinkled clean
from all evil doings, to be washed in pure water in the gossamer light.
And there came from the sky a noise like a fierce driving wind.
Now for the words of God spoken in tongues.
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.
It was once said he took a small flat at 56th
Avenue of the Americas adjacent to where the old Ziegfeld would be,
but New York has a way of erasing its history
the unkempt window displays the sudden downpours
the whereabouts of everyone’s last known address.
How I recall can’t say for sure… was it
Charles Henri Ford always footnoting everything
was it the picture he posed for
the cigarette smoke curling the air in his fist
was it always the past trickling away
the barn cats the blue jays the downtrodden a sou’wester
The only Resistance is the resistance to love
The resistance to memory
the resistance to darkness.
The street corners laced with the past and the mud
that life is gratuitous to those who’ve not lived it
with the young dancing round their way home through the stone-sleepy hills
the bonfires lit on the hills for the sake of the crops.
The myth of salvation the only reason to kill.
The partigiani crouched behind every rock
enslaved in their envy the trill
of their singing across every valley
a sham to heroics.
The scars on the hillsides shrouded in whispers.
The cypress resisting and swaying.
for Alfredo de Palchi
He’s someone whose works I knew early on
and then lost track of. His calm,
learned look. His beard closely cropped.
We’d met outside the Ferus Gallery out on La Cienaga.
We left the Elvis vernissage where people expected to meet me,
but I wanted to hear what he said over coffee,
what he said in a way I’ve now lost.
A dream I could only imagine as the twilight descended a deep purple hue
and never again his voice heard as he pulled from the curb and was gone.
No one seems to know where he’d been hiding,
which doorway even which overhang,
or if he’d been hiding at all.
Who would’ve guessed Lyle Bettger 50 years earlier
would be scanning the shadows
just when a truckload of whiskey pulled up,
or if there’d been even a story to tell.
Numerous takes provided fewer answers
than if he slid down the roof in a snowdrift—
something he’d never perform.
Even blindfolded there’s no mistaking his voice.
Yet everything else remains clueless.
She was standing stiff and straight on the edge of the curb,
tall for her age. Her back to the gutter.
Behind her the blurred trolley the five & dime hawkers.
Her dress blowing sidewise.
The neighing of horses. The wind whistling.
Letters thrown out with the trash on Montague Street.
No clue as to why.
Friends have gone to their grave with their stories.
Not even a snippet is helpful.
Not even the snapshots lead one to surmise
there’s more to the rooftop with the twilight descending.
Little remains and the dust has not settled.
What…what exactly led up to Charley
crossing the yard with his dad in a growling duststorm?
What was it with the now
or never being twenty years hence buffing the chrome
of his ‘52 Buick hugging the driveway till the sun shone
the tumbleweed tumbling the endless dog days. What exactly
makes much of the dust and the grit and the far distant rise
as far as the eye could see
the lonely bus stop
the auto mechanic sparking his wires
the greasy spoon closed after 3.
The porch screens twisted and hanging. The storm cellar sleeping.
The striding pegged trousers out on the town. The leopardlike grace.
No more the rue de Rivoli the rainy eyes.
No more a heartbeat in an instant. No more the coming in and going out.
No more the oui and vous and foggy roundabouts.
No more the abattoir nor outlaw pride.
No more the upstairs downstairs the broken hallway lights
the bye-and-byes and lone forget-me-nots.
No more the echoes mirrored in the turning dark.
GERARD MALANGA is the author of twelve books of poetry, including No Respect: New & Selected Poems 1964-2000, as well as six books of photography and two CDs. His poems can be found in current issues of Harvard Review, Denver Quarterly and The Gettysburg Review. Dagon James/Key Press recently released AM: Archives Malanga, a 4-volume fanzine of nonfiction and poetry; and profusely illustrated with pictures from his active archive. His essay, My Own Private Library, appears on the webzine, www.thislongcentury.com. Gerard is also the subject of a biography by the distinguished Danish journalist, Lars Movin, published by Bebop, Copenhagen. Interview Berlin commissioned him to photograph 53 German achievers for its inaugural issue, released this past February (www.interview.de). After 10 years Gerard completed a book manuscript (as yet unpublished) entitled Someone's Life; and subsequently a work-in-progress has emerged called Rin Tin Tin and Other Poems. He's preparing to write a biography on his friend, Angus MacLise, titled The Brief Hidden Life of Angus MacLise. Gerard lives with his four cats, Sasha, Zazie, Xena and Mishkin, in upstate New York. His website is: gerardmalanga.com.