Poetry & Prose

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NOV. 15, '69 MARCH ON WASHINGTON‑"STOP THE WAR, STOP THE DEATH MACHINE, (as "marshalls" we had trained and stayed over night in a church)

 

4th & D streets, & get that for the driver ...

Plus specifics re non‑violence

That the "new mobe" provides you;

In front of the White House, flood lights set there

So bright as to blind you....

Clasp the event shut as they used to hold lockets

Enameled like church stained glass, dark green, gold, say,

Or blue and dark purple, angels,

Wings with flame colored hinges.

 

Why do some trees have leaves now, others not?

Who makes that decision? * mind wanders

At meetings. Could we, unlike our

Fathers and mothers be honest?

Perfect as Krishna always choosing

The alternate route that stops trouble?

 

Front and center‑ youth, we (you)

Are leaving, always leaving, capitol

Will leave too tho' it seems solid enough

And U.S. will, to drum cadence, like a Kennedy.

Look ahead‑ yr. own funeral!

 

A souvenir printed as church fans on the back;

You fade out in the vein mesh

Leaf din of November,

Your funeral to the

Music you chose:

Hymns

149, 81,

 

But for now-

How lights hang from a roof, how a woman's

Hair sizzles in stained glass light, how they train you

With grace in non‑violence at the Ebenezer Methodist Church, 4th & D streets.

 

Some learned

Just to be able to start, to be able to finish.  

* Actually, it turns out that it is the tree that makes the decision as to its leaves: as to color-  it's a "survival advantage" decision because: (this is debated) 1) the tree needs useful chemical compounds; 2) redness is a warning sign to keep aphids from laying their eggs? (see Washington Post article from 11/3/'09- Health and Science section) I'm sure the trees also make the decision as to when their leaves leave. Now- who makes the tress decide? Just "follow the money."

 

                                          CHERRY SODA

                                    from Lewisburg Federal Prison

 

                        Beating off “in

                        The teeth” of my

                        "Masters" in their

                        Guard towers (they can’t

                        See me through

                        The leaves), up a

                        Cherry tree, the

                        White gobs gouting

                        Out like pits after

                        You've eaten, furry red

                        And I cum easy like I

                        Eat, shit or bleed...

 

                        Go fu k others

                        State stately

                        Clouds all noble

                        Overhead in white bulbs

                        But maybe

                        When in prison

                        Fuck yrself?

                        Says the bark,

                        Copper purple,

                        The wind spanks, slaps,

                        Tugs at me, I

                        Spit pits free and

                        My eyes glaze

                        Adding my fizz

                        To the tree fizz.

                                         BLUE HAIR 

                                                            (Lewisburg Federal Prison)     

                       

                        I want to see

 

                        How your face changes

                       

                        When you cum.

                       

                        What are we

                        

                        Put on earth for?

                        When you bend over

                        Your breasts blade

                        More real than the

                        Alleghenies

                        We kept watching

                        From our cells,

                        Couldn't reach them!

 

                        The state evaporates

                        As you approach, but it

                        Kept us here! We

                        Dream/walk towards

                        Hills 'til they formed rare

                        Thighs, faces and blue hair.  

                                 

                       

                                               PSALM   

 

                                     (Lewisburg Federal Prison)

 

                        Somewhere the poise

                        In a stone

                        Might feed the poor

                        In that

                        Wealth distributed

                        Equally...                        

                        But not here.

                       

                        Somewhere blood jasper,

                        Moss agate (stones you can

                        Find on the beach)

                        Comfort like money and

                        There's nothing

                        But justice, no

                        Work nor person

                        Better.

 

                        Watch how

                        Clouds settle towards evening

                        And rose coats them

                        And they fire and bloom

                        Like scenes in

                        Sliced jade. There? is

                        Truth- beauty-justice.

 

                        Here we settle for “law”.

                        i.e. injustice.

 the following is a prose exerpt from The Tree Calendar and my longer prose work on prison, peace movement, etc.:  it is amplified elsewhere in movement memoirs

Things started well enough for me on the new job in the laundry. For awhile I worked on the "sheet mangler" with a black Muslim who also had a draft "rap" (like "beef" meaning charge). He addressed me sneeringly as "Sir". "Sir" was a very common way that prisoners addressed each other in general, but this had the connotation of blue‑eyed devil and white oppressor. Another co‑ worker was one of the prison's foremost characters, a hashish smuggler from Beirut who was a talented jokester. The legend went that he had once drawn pin stripes on his blue prison suit with a magic marker and walked off the minimum custody job he had held outside the wall. He got as far as downtown Lewisburg but was immediately spotted (by his nose alone) and re-arrested. He told me that he had planned to jump into the Susquehanna River. As if that have carried him out to sea back towards his beloved Lebanon?

 

I moved "up" in the laundry into the position of laundry clerk, "dogged" by my WASP appearance and college degree. I became somewhat isolated from friends in a back room with one white and a few black cons. One day the white approached me in a confidential way in the mess hall. He had overheard two blacks scheming to "take me off" which meant rape! I was alarmed. My confidante wouldn't specify the attackers, following the honored prison code.  He just dropped his poison pellet, then withdrew, leaving my imagination to work overtime amidst the steam and the clanking presses. I tensed and the whole atmosphere tensed. These persecutor/victim situations would develop at any time in prison, as they do anywhere, organically, without a word spoken, through glances and gestures alone.

 

          Was I really in danger? It isn't easy to "corn hole" an unwilling victims, I reasoned to myself. Easier if a gang is involved, I worried, but ... maybe I'd push them into one of the vats of melting soap. Probably my informer had made the whole thing up just to see how I'd react. That's what persons who were on the scene told me later. "Just prison talk," they said. I had a slight reputation as a poet. One giant frightening black guy wanted to recite a poem to me that he'd written about "reefer" (he was in on a narcotics charge). Another guy asked me to write a "nice" poem he would send to his girlfriend. There was unquestionably more appreciation for poetry inside of prison than there had been outside. It was a society of conversationalists, forced to spend time close to each other. There were less diversions than on the street. Story telling, insult trading, jokes and verbal embellishments were appreciated, as perhaps among some primitive tribes in the rain forest. Also, whether because they had more extreme experiences to describe or were describing them in prison where description was an art, and the prison characters seemed earthier or more dramatic than the white middle class circles in which I'd grown up.

 

The laundry worried me and I tried to get a transfer.  It wasn't easy; inmate requests were generally ignored. I tried to get help from the chaplain and got "shot" or arrested for being out of bounds as I went to see his assistant. Prison movement was carefully regulated. Once in the prison "court" I explained my situation and the job change was accomplished.

 

But generally I learned that the "asshole bandits" didn't pick on unwilling victims. If you seemed weak they'd approach you. If you were weak, they might try to rape you. Some cons, after all, would never hold a woman again. Generally, there were enough willing partners to go around. If mast rbation by "Rosy Red Palm and her five calloused daughters" or ole "Miss Fist" got boring, a blow job was fairly readily available for all, draft resisters included, because you could pay to get one or find someone who would do it.

 

My mind had dwelt on homosexuality and violence since we entered prison. See Willard Gaylin's book In the Service of their County where he describes some of the abuses visited upon war objectors who had been at Lewisburg just before me. As with the homosexuality, the violence was nearby just out of the corner of your eye. Fights could flare up over very petty, ridiculous issues, a box of corn flakes on the chow line for example, or choice of television programs.

 

My next job assignment ended on a comic note. I had been transferred to the Warden's office- to clean and help with filing. One day the Warden mused to himself- "Hey, wasn't this guy brought into prison for destroying draft files?" I was moved post haste.

 

There were killers around but if they were after you, you'd probably be aware of it and they would have their reasons. As with the homosexuality, things were complicated, the usual gray, the usual in‑between. There wasn't that much blatant or irrational violence (at least that was true of Lewisburg at that time). The homosexuals I met were the gentlest of inmates.

 

Lewisburg was a gentle place compared to state joints where the inmates were poorer and less educated. There, maybe you would have to carry a razor in your soap when you showered, or be careful how you looked at another inmate. Lewisburg had less of "fools" (a very derisive word of the period), I thought (as if I were proud of the place). Maybe these types were at the worse federal institutions. A documentary on Lewisburg that came out in the 80's (I believe) showed that it had gone way down hill and was then a lot more violent than it had been when I was there.

 

             Some of the killers, like Carmine Galente whom I met later at the farm camp, were calculating hit men, but most of the murderers I met were not. R, whom I met later at the farm camp, had entered prison in 1941 just after I was born. He had killed an F.B.I. agent on an army post. He had never given up hope and was a model prisoner. He was a Warden's houseboy and spent spare time attending "Yokefellow" (a religious group active in prisons at that time) meetings or tending sunflowers in a little patch out by the fire engine garage. He was the prison's chief softball umpire. He had already made parole on his life sentence and was now working on another 12 year bit. He hoped to be paroled finally to work at a half way house in Harrisburg.

 

I had not suffered much physical violence for my views. The gas station attendant had pushed me around and the draft clerk at the Customs House had bopped me on the head with a paperback bible. Later, when I got to the farm camp, another inmate gave me a glancing blow on the chin because he disagreed with my choice of T.V. programs. I was on the T.V. committee that decided which programs played on the first floor day room set and which played in the basement. It was no big thing.

 

One ex‑prizefighter's (according to him) playful greeting to me was, "I'll crush Eberhardt's fingers so he won't be able to play the piano anymore." It was his way of saying hello. And at the time of the Kent State killings of four students by national guardsmen, some right wing inmate posted a sign on the bulletin board‑"Guard 4, Hippies O".

 

It occurred to me that more violence came from the feds than from the criminals. The feds were the ones bombing Vietnam back to the Stone Age. They were the ones manufacturing H bombs. Society and its government were the violent ones, their conditions of poverty driving my fellow inmates to their stupid and desperate acts (not to ignore their own responsibility). The government and society, those hallowed abstractions, were inhumane killers in most bureaucratic, corporate and abstract ways. They killed on a larger scale.

 

We met the famed union organizer and leader, Jimmy Hoffa, in the wall while we were there and engaged him on the issues of violence and non‑violence. You might see him most often in the visiting room and it was alleged that he conducted much Teamster business through his lawyer there. I think the prison officials had him tucked out of the way from influencing other prisoners by giving him his job in the bowels of the prison basement stuffing mattresses. He stuffed them so full and hard, how could any one sleep on them; they were rounded like giant culvert pipes.

 

Jimmy had a lot of experience with violence, and to judge by the number of other teamsters at Lewisburg, a lot of experience with organized crime. He would bang his yardstick down on the counter as he made a point: "You pacifists, whadda you know about organizing and picket lines? Goddamn, you're never gonna get anywhere. You need fists and guns!" Looking back I wish I'd talked with him about the Kennedys. Probably would have gotten an earful of bile, but nothing too revealing. Some later conspiracy buffs cited Hoffa as a player in the asassination.

 

My greatest prison story? I thought I'd play a little joke on Jimmy one day and snuck up behind him as he was walking down the main corridor. I grabbed his shoulder from behind and told him to "watch out for that nonviolence, Jimmy." A little later one of his giant goon squad members approached me as delicately as he was able in the dining room and drew me aside, confiding in his best Jersey accent: "Hey kid, Jimmy doan like being touched an, uh, doan do that again." Jimmy had enemies from struggles out on the street who were also doing time at Lewisburg, so the rumor went. Supposedly that was the reason that Vinnie "the Pro" Provenzano was at the farm camp and not inside the wall where Jimmy could get at him.

 

One of Jimmy's union buddies told me later when I got to the farm that he shared Jimmy's poor opinion of Phil. Phil had mentioned Hoffa in his Prison Diary of a Priest Revolutionary, describing the prestige Jimmy enjoyed in prison and the favors he might do friends. "Berrigan was a stool pigeon," this inmate allowed, "you doan go carrying stories outta here; you come in here, you're a convict first!"

 

Not long after his release, Jimmy disappeared, allegedly a mob hit victim. The stocky, short, bull headed man that had lived by the sword- he died by it- two bullets to the head- “My friend didn’t suffer”- according to hit man Frank “The Irishman Schirren (sp?) who had confessed to killing Jimmy for the mob in 1975 to a lawyer, Mr. Brandt who wrote about it in his book You Paint Houses Don’t You, (I think that’s the title) referring to the mob slang for a killing- to “paint a house”. Schirren, a good Catholic boy, had gotten his killing experience from World War II, where he had a job of killing prisoners. He had been Jimmy’s friend- but as he told it, if he hadn’t “hit” Jimmy, Jimmy’ been dead and him too!

 

Carmine Galente, whom I was to meet at the farm, the bona fide mob hit man, later became a "godfather" after he got out.  He'd "whacked" many on the streets, to hear the story, and I imagined I could see it in his eyes: they were cold and black.  But in the context of the farm camp he seemed harmless enough, mixing up evening cocktails, playing handball or tending cantaloupes and eggplant in his little garden. Galente may have killed the Italian anarchist, Carlo Tresca, in the early days, but at that time I had no knowledge of this part of Galente`s past.

 

I mused on these who lived by the sword as, one by one, they met violent ends on the street, Jimmy, Vinnie and Carmine. Perhaps Jimmy was compacted along with junked automobiles at a mob run junk yard or sunk deep into some bay or buried at the meadowlands or as was popularly believed in the end zone at the Giants football field there. After he got out, Carmine was blown away by a shotgun blast was it  as he sat smoking his De Nobili cigar, or at the barber shop? Pace Carlo Tesca.

 

                                                               The Farm

my brother, Tim, my father, Charles, and me outside the farm visiting room- a fellow inmate takes the picture w a polaroid- I think it was Joey- the mafia guy - he also dug the contraband out of the ice maker- visiting room attendant was an important job- (a mob job?)

 

The din of eventful current that had roared around me for four years subsided as I moved to the Lewisburg Farm Camp. I was able to relax a bit from the landscape of issues into a landscape of interesting human faces, my fellow cons. My first job assignment was an easy one: wiping up tables in the dining room.  My co‑worker, Joey, who had also just arrived from the wall, needed light work: he had entered prison with four bullet wounds to the stomach. These weren't draining properly. He was involved with the Mafia and Carmine Galente was showing him around. The two approached me, Carmine fingering the required mafia De Nobili cigar in its holder: "Nowa Joey, dis here's Ebahart and uh Ebahart I want yuse to make it easy for Joey here, uh, he's got bad health and Joey dis here's a good kid and he'll show yuse the ropes, he's one of tha Berrigan gang, you know, da priest and dem nuns and so fort..." "Yeh, da fadder," Joey says devoutly ...  "ain't it a shame." 

                                                    Prison letter

               There were many pheasants on the grounds around the Farm Camp at the Lewisburg Prison where I was doing time for an anti-war protest. Hunters couldn't follow across the fence onto what was euphemistically called our "reservation". Inmates were allowed to trap them and put them in crates for shipment to sparsely pheasanted parts of Pennsylvania or maybe to the banquet tables of federal prison officials. If you were on one of the outdoor crews you might stop to visit the pheasants in the tractor shed and admire them peering glum but fierce from between the slats of their crates.

           The burningly phosphorescent males looked like freedom as they scooted whistlingly up out of the corn stobs to escape you. Or sexual release with their iridescent vests for courtship displays like those of pidgeons' or the blushings of purple tetra fish- how much I missed Louise. Or they reminded me of beautiful privacy and meditation as they flew up evenings to roost in skeletal trees.

           Always they were gorgeous with strange autumnal hues: coppery chests with freckles like those in the tubes of iris flowers or like the shimmering markings in an eye's iris. They had white rings round the necks ... which inmates dearly loved to wring. They were delicious cooked between the rungs of our radiators. (Prisons are kept hot; lethargy results.) To feather, gut, joint them, it helped to know someone in the butcher shop.

 

Winters the pheasants would sometimes make the mistake of flying over the main prison wall to look for food on the ground over steam pipes where snow had melted. Supposedly, an inmate had caught one from his cell window by dangling a pin, bent fishhook style, on the end of a line. I imagined the raucous squawking in the clear blue Pocono air (actually Allegheny air- but Pocono sounds better!)!

 

Mornings we dozed toward winter on our work crew in the general farm shed. The work of the year was largely done, the root cellar filled to capacity with apples and potatoes. Zillions of snowflakes blitzed the surrounding fields until they looked covered in flakes of sugar frosted cereal. The snow wiped out our vistas of the far blue mountains. We could only see the minute details of the close black and white land looming bitterly larger and larger.  We could feel the full weight of our unjust sentences ... time itself an unjust sentence!

 

Did we deserve this? we were almost tricked to wonder, the slave's terrible question. Had we not chosen to be here?  Wasn't this our fault?  We would interiorize our sentences and grow to accept them, a final brutality, as the snow came in on a slant over the Alleghenies, beauty and horror together. Luckily, we war protesters were not alone, we had loved ones and vast support systems. Christmas brought us cards from all over the world, even North Vietnam as I remember it. We had belief. We had humor. All these things enabled us to be sarcastic and angry. We would never become "losers" like some of the regular cons for we knew our mission, we knew who we were. Society might despise us, but deep down it knew we were right (or did it?). Some of us chose resistance or organised resistance while in prison.

 

We took our place beside the "common" car thieves and bank robbers. Pheasants are so dumb they will enter a wire cage trap, unable to retrace their steps out of the little hatch to freedom.  Society stands behind the prisoner smugly saying, "You have seen this happen to a person also." Undoubtedly many of the inmates would return to crime upon release, as we all return to the ruts in our mind which are familiar. But we not only knew the way back into society, we rejected it. And so, in a way, we were free.

            Because of his truck‑driving skills Doc was prison fire chief. The fire truck for the main prison was housed at the farm camp and I volunteered to join the six man crew. It was a desirable position since we got to take test drives around the perimeter of the institution and occasionally go outside the prison to train with local fire crews or put out some nearby fires.

          The local Lewisburg Township Fire Department was a sharp outfit. We did some training with them and I waxed quite poetical about them. Since they were, I believe, unpaid volunteers, I thought of the anarchist societies proposed by Prince Kropotkin which would be based on mutual aid, as I sat and chatted with them amongst the snorkels and oxygen masks, the great yellow hoses and bright shining red trucks. One of the grumpier older inmates on our prison crew questioned my right to take part. What if we got a fire at a draft board or ROTC buildings? I wouldn't try to put it out and might endanger his life, he reasoned. His objections were far fetched to the others however, since they figured we wouldn't be called to many such fires. I got into some interesting discussions with the town firemen about burning draft records.  One said he thought it would be O.K. as long as we took the files out of the building! 

Checking hoses and equipment on the other side of the main prison next to the placid Buffalo River was a treat. You could open the hose nozzle wide and pound the river with a hard jet of water or turn it to its narrowest setting,"spray, curtain, mist" in which case the fine spray would steep Hamp's kinky black hair in silvery dew balls. (Doc's last name was Hampton.) I wrote a poem about it. Prison was great for reading and writing.

 

The crew joked about a possible prison fire and the political issues it would present, i.e. should we help put it out?  Often, prison fires were set by our fellow inmates. Luckily we never had a bad prison fire. The only one we were called to inside the wall was a very small one in the Education Department, probably the work of some disgruntled scholar. It was out by the time we got there. As we uncoiled our hoses under the Warden's worried gaze, one of the gas mask boxes fell open and out spilled someone's stash, tins of pate, canned shrimp, vienna sausages and other wonderful delicacies!

 

We jokingly appraised each situation as to possible "good days" or days of credit off our sentence that we might earn. One inmate claimed to have thrown the Warden's dog into the Buffalo River so he might rescue it and make parole. Once we were called to a fire at the Associate Warden's house. Hamp had never liked this particular prison official, so he took a very circuitous back route driving very slowly at about ten miles per hour. Luckily for the Associate, the town crews had already arrived.

 

Once we were called to a brush fire up on Dale's Ridge overlooking the far blue Allegheny mountains. With them in front of us and the institution far behind, in the sweat of the work under heavy yellow slickers and in the pungent cedar and pine smoke, spiritual feelings rushed over me, an experience akin to the Indians in their sweat lodges. I got all mixed up in calm and bliss and sexuality and sadness as I thought of the nearby Susquehanna and Buffalo Rivers, flowing gently like Spenser's Thames. The cedars can burn explosively like an oil fire, a fellow fireman told me; I imagined this happening, to go along with my epiphany. Beyond us, between us and the mountains, the ridge dropped off precipitously and deep and I thought of the long geologic maneuvers which formed it and the valley below. This was about as good as it gets, I now realize, this was the kind of moment we live for: unpredictable, unplannable, the kind of moments which well up inside us making life totally worthwhile, with no assistance from anyone else necessary. They all the wealth we need to survive (besides food and shelter in bad climates).

   Stories from Catonsville 9 member, Tom Melville  re Carmine Galente and Vincente Provenzano and others

          Tom had had considerably more relation with Tony and Carmine at the farm camp than had I. He shared several fabulous stories: 

Tom described a committee formed for a memorial day picnic consisting of himself, a Jewish lawyer from Ohio and the mafia mobster Tony Provenzano, "Tony Pro". Tony had a reputation in prison and was accorded respect by the other prisoners. Tom told us that he tried not to look Tony directly in the eye. The feds had allowed the committee some leeway, they were authorized to choose whether it would be hot dogs or hamburgers for the picnic. The Jewish lawyer piped up that he had researched the matter somewhat and that the general feeling among the prisoners was for hamburger. Tony glared at him icily. He then picked up one side of the table where they were meeting and upended it, squashing the lawyer underneath. "We're having hot dogs, and don't you mother‑fu ing forget it!" was his rejoinder to the lawyer and that was that!

 

Once Carmine drew Tom aside to complain, "how come there aren't Italian bishops in the U.S.?, how come it's always Irish? huh? The mother fu king pope is Italian? Where's the Italian bishops?" Tom said that Carmine always criticized at the top of his voice and what he said, went. He kept younger Italian mobster types in strict control. Tom had heard him screaming at one unfortunate fellow con that Italians must never be caught playing handball with the niggers, they must only play with fellow Italians".

 

Tom's best Carmine story he called the story of the "Irish mafia". It seems that Tom had taken on or been assigned the duty of movie picture director. Always the front couple of rows in the movie room were reserved for Carmine and his retinue. But, in a playful mood, Tom had decided to play a little joke on Carmine and, having arrived to the showing of a film before Carmine, who could afford to wait until the last minute, Tom took a seat right up in front in one of the sacred rows. The loud bantering and exchanges that always preceded any gathering of cons stopped immediately and in hushed whispers the other cons debated what might happen to Tom for this transgression. One of Carmines's men came on the scene, a forerunner to the main Carmine group, and seeing Tom in the row, accosted him in shocked tones, "What the f  k are you doin here?" Tom told him thoughtfully to tell Carmine that the Irish mafia had arrived. "The Irish mafia," the runner asks and runs off, doubtlessly thinking that Carmine will have to deal with the new challenge ruthlessly. Carmine arrives and comes up to Tom, looks him over and starts to chuckle. "You!? You is the Irish mafia, dis is the Irish mafia?" Carmine pauses for a moment and then addressed the entire gathering. "From now on," he says, "dese front rows are reserved for the Irish and the Italian mafia!" 

                         

One time mob boss Joe Salerno was observed on the evening television news as he was being interviewed in New York about the very subject of the mafia. Salerno was complaining to the reporter that the term mafia was discriminatory and that the more respectful term of Italian‑American would be correct. Carmine jumped up enraged and poked a finger at the screen. "We're gonna get you when we get out, you cheap no good sob mother fu ker, we're the mafia and we're proud of it!"

 

George Mische of the Catonsville 9 tells a wonderful story how he was invited to dine with Carmine and his cronies- Carmine commonly ate in his own room at the Farm Camp- feasting on various Italian delicacies which had been smuggled in (either through the visiting room- where people would hide stuff in the ice in the ice dispenser or thrown in over the perimeter chain link fence) - pastas, pepperonies- etc. George had earned respect from these mobsters for the way he had organised cons against some repressive prison regs by the feds. George sat down, but  told the assembled, shockingly, that he wasn't going to eat with them- "until you invite the rest of the people in the dorm- blacks included." This advise for integration and  democracy was too much for the mobsters to handle.

 

                                               Fast forward to 2009

 

An inmate on a work crew at the Baltimore City Jail where I work has been to Lewisburg several times since I was there. On 4/7/9 we chat and I ask him about how violent it was? He tells me that- was it in the 90's: the Italians hired the Cubans to fight the DC blacks for control of the prison. Tony "ducks" Salerno? Yeh- they demanded respect. I guess the  guards don't run it the way they did in my day. Lapsing into my "prison guise" I joke w him, "You're kind of pretty- didn't anybody try to f  k you?" I tell him about my time in the laundry. Nah- he implies the federal places aren't that bad- "sometimes I got a love note or somebody would put a bag of cookies on your pillow"...."You were one of the Chicago 7 mob," he queries? Cute.

 

He goes on to tell me what is going on at the place that I work- that it is basically "run" by the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) (a gang) with the "Bloods" coming in second. He tells me the higher ups know all about this. The two groups are kept separate because they would "kill one another upon sight." (We have had more violence lately). Supposedly there is a Baltimore founded and based group of white inmates with the charmiong name of "Dead Men International." He says they are, surprisingly, pals of, "comrades" with the BGF. They are not racists like the Aryan Nation gang that, according to him, run the federal prisons, except in the southwest where the Mexicans hold the power. All this needs to be double and triple checked- the exaggeration and bragadoccio and the inability to discern shades of gray factor are large with inmates. He says that our jail is poorly run compared to many- and he's been in many- and I can actually observe this to be true!  Much tobacco, drugs and cell phones come in through the young guards now working here (and the food service and medical staff) - who, after all, grew up along with the inmates in the same neighborhoods.

 

And in newspaper articles on 4/16 and 17- it turns out that- according to federal inditements- the BGF does play a big role in the smuggling in of cell phones, the corruption of guards, etc. They claim to be sort of Black Pantherish-i.e. in it to help the youth and the community- but there is a large criminal contingent. One inmate is cited as not having shrimp to go with his slamon and cigar and Grey Goose vodka. But I still bet it's exaggerated, poeticized, etc.  I see a lot of people with the black t shirts on around.

                  

                                       STELA;  TLATELOCO SQUARE, MEXICO CITY

 

            The following is inscribed on a giant slab on the Plaza of Three Cultures. It commemorates protestors who were murdered there by troops. The protesters had been opposed to the take-over of the National University by soldiers of the Mexican government just prior to the 1968 Olympics.

 

 

            "These are the friends who fell Oct. 1968 on this square:

 

            The names follow.

 

            And many other friends whose names and ages we do not know."

 

            This is a translation of the poem in Spanish that follows:

 

            "Who?" (sing.) "Who?" (plural)

            "The next day no one remembered any of them!

            When the next day came, the square was clean.

            The main news in the papers was the weather.

            On TV, on radio, in the movies there were no changes in program.

            No announcements in between programs.

            Not a minute of silence at the banquet.

            (But the banquet proceeded)."

 

            Coda, added by D E:

 

            In 2002, new photos come to light-

            Portray the dead, and still no prosecution-

            400 dead, media remaining silent.

            Upon the skull rack that is Mexico,

            The chac mool* of sacrifice still sits.

            Vincente Fox who is the latest fool

            Doles out the latest capitalist shit!


*Mexican (Mayan) sculpted figure holding a bowl for the hearts of the sacrificed.


Stela portant des inscription sur La Place a Mexico- "Tenochtitlan":


Ce qui suit est inscrit sur une dalle geante sur La Place des Trois Cultures. Elle rend homage aux mainfestants qui ont ete assassines ice par l'armee, Les manifestants protestaient contre l'occupation de l'universite par les soldat du gouvernement Mexicain a la veille des Jeux Olympiques de 1968.:


"Ce sont les amis tombes en Octobre 1968 sure cette pace./ Les noms suivent./ Et de nombreaux amis dont nous ne connaissons ni le nom ni l' age."


Ceci est las traduction d'un poeme:


"Qui?/ Le lendemain plus personne ne se souvenait pas d'eux./ Le jour suivant, la place etait nettoyee./ La principale nouvelle dans les journaux etait le meteo./ A la tele, a la radio, au cinema, il ny'a avait aucun changement dans les programmes./ Aucun annonce entre les programmes./ Pas une minute de silence dans les banquets./ Mais les banquets continue."


Coda ajoutee by moi:


En 2002, de nouvelles photos firent surface-/ montrant des etudiants tues, toujours pas de proces mais 400  bien sur tues,/ les media restent silencieux./ Sur la pile de cranes qu'est Mexico,/ Le "Chac Mool"* sacrificiel est tourjours la./ Vincednte Fox le dernier laquais,/ presente le dernier merde capitaliste.


*sculptur Maya avec un bol pour les coeur des sacrificies.



 

PERIOD PIECE, A HOLESOME POEM,RECIPE, AUBADE, SWIMMING YOUR BLACK POOL

 

            Lemmee stay in your black crotch, in the

            Rawness each month, my nose in

            Your flower, keep my tongue in

            Your soft ears, salt marsh-

            Peat bog strong enough to

            Preserve corpses, the

            Between-your-legs tender

            As coasts

            Where the changes take place; sea meets land!

            Estuarial tide pools of brine wrack,

            Sea logs, star fish mouldering, kelp beds.

            I dredge grease

            With my pole like when pa gutted mackeral

            On the oar thwarts, ranks of mussel

            In the black

            Of your hair pool and hair pie, me gobbling

            It all in...linseed oil,

            Blood and cooking, olive oil,

            Myrrh ick salt tears or

            The cobweb that fills up a wound.

            Annointed I am for the day in your oil

            As painters clear brushes I step

            From you enrobed in your purple;

            Your black hairs sprout out of my mouth!

 

               

            ( cut material is: (May the women I've slept with remember me.

           Some may not remember me overly much....

            But they hopefully will, just a touch).

 

·        *Edgar Allen Poe’s

·        ** Dante quoted by Eliot

 

        JUNE, JANE, JEAN

 

trying for more lightness but still too heavy, maybe in July shoot off some sparklers

 

            You lean down from your horse, crush sage in your fingers.

            Meanwhile I'm floating just ahead of the storm in my rainbow

            Balloon, one fat rib of it purple,

            One light blue, one dark blue and one violet

            But, "Let's watch out, we're drifting too low

            Towards the power lines!!" (We ought to go high towards the power lines

            Which pop, snap and hum where the buzzards sit

            Rise above them

            And our petty differences

            If we want to continue.

 

            Propane huffs up into the sack

            (Like Darth Vader* breathing, only mellower).

            Then I put down, wait the storm out, meanwhile

            You've gone back to the house to squush bay leaves

            For perfume.

 

            After rain at evening, fireflies go "bleet,bleet"

            .Til night's studded with basilisk eyes like

            Those stars in the poem throw their swords down…**

            They’re all over the place like heat lightening.

            In your tropics they take over whole trees `til they glisten throb

            Like house lights douse on and off when the force

            Of the flash hits the juice.

            Maybe we were

            Such “an item” but      `

 

            We didn’t

            Stay together very long,

            And Jane says,

            About fireflies:

            "It was cruel when we were kids,

            Pulled their tails off to make bracelets.”

           

            They glew

            Like a few

            Star

            Wars!

 

* character who breathed heavily in the film "Star Wars"** Blake poem

                                                        

 

                                                              Fall Aspens- in mem. Carl Sagan

The Allen

Telescope array

Or dish antennas at

Goldstone,

Arecibo...
Patiently listening

For that first noise

From/of others

In the universe.

We are hopeful.

We could broadcast a

Statement sharp yellow-

Fall aspens

Quaking,

The North Rim

Of the Canyon...

Bright Angel

Trail-

Heraldic,

Resounding!

 

Like elks bugling

Marcato in

Fall aspens

Up past Durango...

 

Aspens d'Automne

 

Le Allen/Reseau de telescopes/Ou l'antenne/ En forme de coupe/ A Goldstone, Arecibo/ Ecoute patenment/ Pour le premier signe des autre/ Dan l'universe. Nous somme/ Rempli esperance./

Nous pouraient emettre un message/ Jaune vif-/ Aspens tremblant/ De la rive nord/De Grand Canyon/- L'Ange Brilliant:/ Cheminent heraldique! / Resonne!!.

 

Comme les elans/Muggissons / "Marcato"/ Au de la/ De Durango. 

 

FENDING OFF DEATH,

                                              "Libera me domine de morte aeterna..."

 

 

                        If death could be like staying up all night

 

                        Because you need the stars to sail by,

 

                        That would be all right!

 

                        What happens next?

 

                        We're always trying to find out.

 

 

                        Great telescopes prowl down

 

                        Through corridors and shelves of light,

 

                        Sifting the snow mass for keys....

         

 

                        We listen, scratch down through the static for

 

                        (Like pentimento) voices from other galaxies. They'll know.

 

                        We wait with radio telescope arrays: blue stars

 

                        Deneb and Spica through the Hubble.

 

                        Goldstone, Arecibo, we want to know!

 

 

                        But at night we soar out of institutions

 

                        We spent all day building.

 

                        I go riding on up the beach with Gauguin into

 

                        His late palette: pinks, greens, blues.

 

                        Or I'm out swimming with reef fish,

 

                        Blue tang, blue wrasse,

 

                        Out over the cauliflower coral heads,

 

 

                        Like stars the fish schools circle to and fro

                       

                        Wheeling like Michaelangelo...

 

                        Frangipani blossoms, rainbow kalanchoe's

 

                        Off white petals, color smudged on in

 

                        Pale blues like anise in ouzo;

 

                        Hydrangeas suffused blue as if

 

                        Blushing, ageratum "blue tango",

 

                        Lobelia "crystal palace",

 

                        I wish I could tell you how the Snow

 

                        -in-summer trees blooms each year

 

                        In the Melbourne Botanical Garden....

 

                        Or even the magno-

 

                        lia in my back yard,

 

                        Beauty is enough….partly….

 

 

                        We burn down through

 

                        Different layers in the seeds

 

                        For differing smoke

 

                        'til it rises, rain on roofs, a

 

                        Rare blue melange, like voices singing...

 

                        Looking for answers.

 

 de

            The roads through woods I explored as a kid in Vermont and would later remember through each bend and where the roads came out but can no longer?, stone walls remembered, the fields I came to, where roads forked,? For a long time my brain would retrace these as you keep touching a scar. The memories like icons were enough...I remembered places, I remembered your body as I neared death. Certain landscapes still pop up in the brain...they are replaced vy a woman’s body.

 

de 

                          Andy Goldsworthy- Stone Wall at Storm King Sculpture Park, New York

 

           The end of the work day at 4:30 is as close to an answer as I ever get- I go home and sink into a chair and have a beer. It's like that magic keyhole on the stone door in the children's book- the beer is like that ray of sun that, at 4:30,  strikes the key hole on the door; finally I can push through and find deep answers- go through the door, my guru is urging...but I'd rather sit here with my beer and look out the window. My guru tells me to use my energy to go through the door...time is running out!

 

            My father and mother are dead, now my death approaches. I dream that I am running from one side of a bridge to the other to watch a boatload of coffins going under, but only one coffin emerges!, mine. Memories still of places now: Hilo, for example, where rain marches punctually on up the volcano into the deep fern and ohia of the national forest, or I remember bits of music...horns sounding off stage (Mahler’s 2nd)...

 

            Every morning in Honolulu Eve laced on her violet running shoes heading out towards Wialae as far as the shopping center and up around the Kaimuki cinder cone and that big bush of yellow bougainvillea that grows behind the fire station, then back to the apartment next to mine.

 

            Even then I'd think of death; in the evenings we'd walk up Analii street, sometimes in the light rain to see the rainbows or giant cloud heads forming up over Pearl Harbor and the city. Everything's going to be all right. That's what mom always said!

 

 

                 Susurrus dove in plumeria,

 

                 Canoe practice on the Alai Wai,

 

                 The minnow bridge, the bridge of sighs,

 

                 Or like it says when we sing the mass:

 

                 The martyrs in the paradise.

 

 

 

          CODA, some other memories thrown in

 

                        Lo tho' I walk under

                        Death's shadow I

                        Might think of

                        A gate swinging open-

                        The hinge sound

                        Like a canyon wren's

                         Descending notes:

                        "Da dee bee boo". (read tapering off)

 

                        Or in Death's valley

                        I might think of

                        Carver's Brew Pub, Durango,

                        Colorado with the

                        Three special beers,

                        One raspberry flavored.

 

                         A storm comes down out of

                        Las Truchas, "Trout peaks", mixing

                         Silvery light with

                         Gold buckwheat and pinion,

                         Lightening smell, ozone,

                         Smell of silver we painted

                         On models of "spitfires",

                         When we were kids...

                         Sometimes "hellcats",

                        Cutting fine balsa...

 

                        Yea tho' I walk closer

                        To death every day

                        I may think of travelling

                        The Pennsylvania turnpike

                        At evening, in the

                        Cuts down through much strata/

                        And rock layers

                        As the roadbed turns,

                        Down through oil soaked stone

                        Sometimes blue, sometimes roan.

 

CODA 2

                        Looking out over the Connecticut River into New Hampshire, listening to Grandma and wondering:

 

                        "If death could be like staying up all night

                        To watch the stars, well, or some dark flue

                        (Like the "Roaring Spout", Dark Harbor, Maine-

                        The waves boom through)?

                        But it's only my heart (or yours) at night...sometimes lately

                        I sense the big "D" coming on,

                        (O, I try to treat it lightly)- in my dreams

                        I'm back in Vermont, the Lord of all meadows

                        A kid with my 22

                        In the abandoned barns shooting up,

                        But in dream the barn's a shed of glass

                        Towering, towering, night rushes

                        In when I shoot at the the morphos

                        That juke down towards me, (I can't hit them),

                        Their wings morph, blue silver

                        And the tropical light adds velvet...               

                        Neon, translucent, they’re crashing...

                        Crashing around me in slow motion...

 

                        I try to imagine a time when

                        We're not together at night?

                        I don't want to be there!- it's PITCH BLACK!!

                        Like the Connecticut River, looking over

                        It to Mount Moosilauke and beside that

                        Black Mountain. As kids

                        We might shrug, listening to grandma

                        Who'd repeat the old stories get them

                        Garbled with strange detail...

                        At the time it was "funny"...

 

 TWO LATE POEMS

 

                      Ý    Jardin sur le Nil

                  

                           Her sillage, scent sillage

                           Precedes her- firm, clear:

                           "Iris naturelle, absolue,"

                           Essence of iris, obtained

                           "From the root, not the flower,"

                           An Armani" matte" or Hermes-

                           "Verouille a tous les etages,"

                           And for Ariane I'd add bitter orange,

                           An unblemished peel, and green mango,

                           Before she comes in the room...and after. 

           and in French: Son sillage, son parfum sillage/ La precede, clair et fort-/Une essence d'iris, obtainu/De la raceme de la fleur/Pas de la fleur/-Matte d'Armani ou Hermes/ Verouille a tous les etages./ Et pour Ariane j'aurais adjouter/ L'orange emere- un ecourse pur/Et de mangoe verte/ Avant qu'elle narrive dans le chambre/Et ensuite...        

                         2    You may remember me

                            On some rainy, misty morning

                            Like hoping for an afterlife....

                            Like the old Biblical names

                            Come back to me- Amaranth, Pa., Bethesda....

                            "Angel of the healing waters,"

                            Or Moroni, pronounced Muh rawn aye-

                            Angel of delusion, angel

                            On top of

                            Disney looking Mormon temple-

                            Our lady of the DC beltway.

                             Somewhere

                             An animal in agony, its bones broken,

                             Being dragged to a hidden place

                             To be eaten- "nature's way"....

                              But I like to think on

                              How the body

                              Is the garden

                              Of the soul.

(Actually- in this Kahil Gibran style poem, may I point out that there is no such thing as "soul", or for that matter- "mind" or "spirit"- there's brain!                       

                          

                                     Zen Exercises,  Poundian or Snyderian Poem

 

                   Jadeite so named

                  ”Fei cui”

                   Since it

                   Reminds of

                   A Kingfisher’s

                    Neck feathers

                    As if lit from

                    Within, can it

                    Cure, even! as

                    Plain green jade can?,

                   Or the lum-

                    inescence in

                   Alabaster or

                   Blue lapis

                   Or especially

                   An opal’s

                   Rainbow palette?

 

                   Hold a piece tight.

                   Let me know.

 

                                             Part II

 

                   Next assignment?:

                   Please take out

                   Your quetzal feather.....


3 Short Poems

1.  (to Rumi- that mystic galoot)

An orange squeeks when you peel it

What rain means to a tiger.


2 (after Hart Crane)  Black angus scald in melon fields.


3. Return to desire- that pure well.


Poem Found By the Dish Machine


"Demand brand

Halves Alberta

Cling peaches."


Parodies and Drinking Songs


Stopping at a table late in the party or forgetting where I placed my drink (after Robert Frost)

Whose drink this I think I know-
I left mine on the small table tho',
After too many it's hard to remember...
I do not think that he or she will know
The one whose drink, if not mine, this is-
Were I to drink it, would they make a scene?
Not if I wander to the veranda;
And yet- a winter night- there's snow!
Soon to the bathroom I will have to go.
Maybe it's best to drink alone,
For then, all drinks misplaced your own...
Did Frost drink much? I think I know...
This drink was mine, I'm sure- I'll make it so.
Now that I've found a drink, it's sure a shame
That I've forgotten my own name, etc.

after Emily Dickinson's "After great pain, a formal feeling comes."

After great drink- a formal feeling comes.

another Dickinson parody: "Further in summer than the grass."

Further in marriage than the sex...
A solitary mister _____________(fill in the blank)


 Thoughts On Poe  

 File:20041229-Coatlicue (Museo Nacional de Antropología) MQ.jpg

Aztec Mother Goddess Coatlicue - now in Museum of Anthropolgy, Mexico City   8'9" tall (the mothers! there are the ones in america- the fathers just sort of faded away- they were always "away"- out in the woods hunting or something!

this originally posted on Baltimore's Read Street blog: Just saw the Poe exhibit at BMA (10/'09)- had the thought that western art and illustrators can't really do Poet justice- they should have brought up some of the pieces from Africa or Oceania or Mexico. Poe's terrors and fears we all have, but western art - especially American (except for Poe)-does not go honest or deep enough to capture his more tribal, hieratic, vatic, iconic, ur-text concerns. The great head of Coatlicue- Museo de Anthropoligie-, Mexico City,  this art communicates what Poe was talking about- or Aztec ceremonial sacrifice knives- also in the same museum

Chopin's friend- Fontana, who visited America, told Chopin that Poe reminded him of Chopin- a factoid passed to me on the Piano Forum

i'm not sure there's been a good translation of it yet-i tried one i'm going to have to try to find for you- of French poet, Mallarme's curious tribute- "At the Tomb of Poe"-

it was translated into English by Mallarme himself- poorly: (i've made some changes which don't help much- i think it has some great lines- i guess you have to read it in the French!!)

"Such as into himself at last Eternity changes him
The Poet arouses with a naked hymn;
His century was overawed not to have known
That death extolled itself in this strange voice.

But, in vile Hydra voices, (they) (de note- the critics) once hearing the Angel
Giving too pure a meaning to the words of the tribe,
hearing the poet,
They charged him as always drowned in alcohol!

O clouds, o soil- eternal enemies, o struggle-
I want my words to carve a bas-relief
With which to adorn his tomb!

On that stern basaltic block that falls
From a mysterious and ancient disaster-
A warning against false charges that poets are drunkards
Now and forever after."

of course, poets are often boozers- i would imagine Poe was- 

yes, i took liberties w the mallarme poem on poe:

here's Daisy Aldan's translation:

Le Tombeau d'Edgar Poe

"Just as eternity transforms him at last into Himself,
The Poet rouses with a naked sword
His age terrified at not having discerned
That death was triumphant in his strange voice.

They, like vile Hydra's on hearing this angel
Give a purer meaning to the words of the tribe,
Loudly proclaimed sorcery drunk
In the dishonest flow of some dark brew.

From hostile soil and cloud, o grief!
If our imagination does not carve a bas relief
With which to adorn the shining tomb of Poe,

Silent block of fallen granite here below
From some dim old disaster, let it be a boundary
To foul flights of blasphemy in the future!"

of course, I've taken liberties w her version- too- i can't help it- i'm a poet also

Baudelaire also translated Poe altho I'm not sure abt the poetry- the greatest tribute to his poetry is Rachmaninoff's "The Bells"

I find "The Raven" kind of schlocky- but- its rhythm alone proclaims a very great poem- a thudding funeral march-

Go stand in front of the tomb with its corny raven bas relief and ponder the words of Mallarme:

"Calme bloc ici-bas chu d'un disastre obscur
Que ce granit du moins montre a jamais sa borne
Aux noirs vols du Blaspheme epars dans le futur"

or

Tel qu'en Lui-meme enfin l'eternite le change
...
...
Que la mort triomphait dans cetter voix etrange"


He sinks beneath the surface like a stone,

Sidling crab wise down ‘til buried in mud,

A gold bug thread wise through vacant skull eye down

Into maelstroms of stars. Less and less loud,  the thud,

Of shovelfuls above him .... into sidereal time, the tunnel back to light obscured.....

Buried alive as he thought ! As if to keep him down, the green

Block from some ancient , obscure disaster - Vermont granite dug ,

Ripton quarried, dark green, not jadeite green, an intenser, darker green -

As absinthe, but blacker, still, like “Nevermore” , its dense sheen

Like shiny hair : black hair, Ligea's, Virginia's, Helen's or Lenore's.

Bury the critics alive, I say, Poe careens

Down corridors of light, more drunk than before!!

 

Upon the stone a raven carved, the words blur, but it's not the end.

Buried alive in our imaginations , he rises eerily, again!


HOLLYWOOD CEMETARY from Blue Running Lights
overlooking the James River, Richmond, Va.
city of Poe, endlessly burning

this poem dedicated to the memory of Suzanne Meyers- she who inspired it!

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