Tag Archives: Hoboken

Twelve Springs/Last Songs for a Paralyzed Pigeon

Twelve Springs/Last Songs for a Paralyzed Pigeon

            (For Cleo)

 

The state of the future is mind—

all the beautiful things at peace.

 

 1.

Glassless world.  Primacy of sky.

 

2. 

Gone light.  A bird close to death

almost weightless in the hand.  Breath,

air, spirit, all one word in Aramaic: wind

gone in, so they can start the inward flight.

 

 3.

Steel, mint, rose.  Fallen to a sidestreet

where I would have to find her.  God’s mind.

Eyes half-closed

at the mystery of human song,

the mystery of why

I’d sing for her at all.

 

 4.

Twelve springs.  One long afternoon

waiting in my hand.  My songs

just air, just for her, in

and out of tune.  At midnight

it was done.  The inward flight:  all wind,

no horizon.

 

 5.

Bring me back a sprig, my steadfast dove,

let it show me that it’s true, that there’s

a place for you, space in God’s hand,

pretty wings to cut the air.

That you knew about the love.

 

 6.

We are all birds dreaming, hungry

at the hour of sleep.

A Rough Deliverance

I’ve decided that the title of my new book will be A Rough Deliverance: Collected Poems 1983-2013.  The title is taken from this short poem, which is part of a longer series called “12th and Willow” (an intersection in Hoboken, NJ):

 

October Toast

How the night parades. How wretched all

the milky stars a million years

erupting, the dry cicadas,

silent, sliding

among leaves, this glass

I said I wouldn’t have. Here’s to

a rough deliverance, the fire in the chest.

“Reedway”

I must have written this in about 1986, when I was living in NYC or Hoboken; it’s about missing Portland, and the last house I lived in there (I believe it was 4034 Reedway, but I’m not sure), and various other things, I guess…

 

Reedway

Summer curves its white spine

near, a shallow nervous arc

between two points three thousand miles

apart, between the house and here.

My nights end more than once.

On Reedway now are flowering

three trees, azaleas, fingers

of long irises, pale rhododendrons.

Inside the house old flowers writhe

like desert snakes along the walls

or break, made dust

by the inconstant light.

Failed as a guest and not invited back

I live there anyway, not in the rooms

but in the hall with ghosts of birds

drawn in and lost for good.

Short Poem: “Cur”

I must have written this in about 1986 or 1987, when I was living in Hoboken, NJ.  I can’t believe how old some of these are!

Cur

In syllables the dreamed

dog whined, paw down

my dress or following, faithless,

down and up the path of mud

and pine.  Dog of a dozen

 

mistresses, dogseed spilled

outside a dozen or more

houses, dog loping, fagged,

triumphing, drunk on blood

wine home.  Freezetag dawn

gives up the run.

 

Frail scent suggesting what’s

been done, his hollow

in the mattress.  Light.  Hope

for black, lie flat, await God’s handless

wry caress.

On to Better Things

I really do try to spend as little time as possible online (no, really–I do), and for that reason it’s rare that I read others’ blogs.  No doubt I’m missing a lot of good stuff, but I do like to try to get outside and do other things from time to time.

However, a few weeks ago I got a “Like” on this blog, and, although I usually don’t take the time to do so, something told me to take a look at the blog that belongs to the person who did the “Liking.”  (I still find this business of “liking,” “friending,” etc., a little ridiculous, but that’s beside the point.)

What I found was one of the most worthwhile uses of blog-space that I’ve ever seen.  The blog, which is called, “Gotta Find a Home” (http://gottafindahome.wordpress.com/), is written by a man named Dennis Cardiff, who has befriended (and by that I mean that he has become a true friend to them–it’s clear that he loves and respects them as they deserve to be loved and respected) a group of homeless people where he lives.  His posts are simply records of the daily conversations he has with them when he visits with them.  Through him, we see their struggles, their sense of humor, their failings (failings no worse than those of anyone else), their hopes.  Mr. Cardiff neither condescends to nor attempts to make heroes of his friends.  He simply sees them, loves them, and–most importantly–lets them know that he really cares about them as they are.  He doesn’t try to “save” anyone (although I’m certain that if one of them asked for his help with something he would easily give it), and he doesn’t try to convert anyone.

Here’s a quote from his introduction to “Gotta Find a Home”:

I can’t do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I would like to do more. To know them is to love them. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

When I lived in New Jersey, I became good friends with a number of the homeless people in Hoboken.  When I had some money, I would give them some of it, or buy them something to eat (I am not congratulating myself for this; for whatever reason, it always makes me really happy to do so, and I always say a little prayer of thanks for being given the opportunity). But very often we would just talk for a while.  I would ask about how they were doing; they would tell me stories from their lives before they became homeless, or ask about how my son was.  Sometimes we just made jokes and talked about whatever insanity was going on in the world at the time.  On many occasions one or several of them would cheer me up when I was having a bad time, and offer advice.  I moved away over three years ago, and I still miss all of them–really miss them.

Of course, my relationship with David (the man I loved and lost to AIDS in 1990–the man about whom I wrote Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days) probably has something to do with my feelings about people who are homeless.  He had been homeless for a short time before I met him.  I suppose I always see him in the other people I’ve met who are on the street, and it’s easy to apply the love I had for him to them.  And when I hear about a person like Dennis Cardiff, who would have been a real friend to David too, it makes me happy–really happy.

I hope you’ll visit Dennis’ blog.  As far as role-models go (at least as far as I can tell from reading his blog), you can’t do much better.

Ghosts

There are quite a few references to “ghosts” in Holding Breath.  Shortly after David passed on, several things happened for which I had no perfect explanation; as I said in the book, I’d always been cynical about the notion of “ghosts” or “spirits”, but I really wanted to believe that incidents like plants in pots falling over for no discernible reason on a couple of key occasions, a strange bird that sat on my stoop and stared at me, unafraid, for a long time, and other things were signs that David wasn’t really “gone,” and that he was trying to let me know that.  (My cynicism about such things has now completely dissipated, although I would use the term “spirit” rather than “ghost”; I only wish that I’d been more open to the possibilities back then, when it would have helped me a great deal.)

One day several years ago, as I was sitting in a Japanese restaurant in Hoboken, Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “If You Could  Read My Mind” started to play quietly in the background.  I’d always really liked the song, but when I heard it that time I was in the midst of the re-ignited grief that I write about in the book, and I became so engrossed in the lyrics of the song that I had trouble speaking to my lunch companion.  The song seemed, and still seems, to relate to things I’ve thought about David on so many levels–not just the literal idea of “ghosts”/spirits, but the need I believe David had to be “set free” by an understanding of who he was both before and after his passing (the very last part of the book relates a dream that David’s daughter had and told me about a few years ago, and that seemed like a profoundly accurate illustration of that need).

Naturally, I had to include “If You Could Read My Mind” on the playlist for Holding Breath.  Here it is (it’s a very nice live version):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-ij_iTQt2w

(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-AIDS-Wildfire/dp/1480164518/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1350864778&sr=1-3 )

The First Article About Holding Breath

Last week, Adrian Rambay Fernandez–a staff writer for the Hudson Reporter in Hoboken, NJ–interviewed me for almost 40 minutes about my book, asking really intelligent and insightful questions about the memoir, my life with David, AIDS in the late 1980’s, etc.  The article came out today:

http://www.hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/21117333/article-Of-love-and-loss-and-life-Former-resident’s-memoir-fulfills-dying-friend’s-wish-?instance=lead_story_left_column

I’m REALLY happy. 🙂

Hoboken, and the Feelies

I moved to Hoboken from Manhattan in 1987 with my best friend from college, Lynn; she had gone over to the town one night with some other friends and seen a band at Maxwell’s, and her single evening there had convinced her that it was imperative that we move there as soon as possible (she also told me about a bar across Washington Street from Maxwell’s where draft beers cost 35 cents, and that struck both of us as another perfectly good reason to live there).

At that time, Hoboken was a relatively inexpensive alternative to Manhattan; it hadn’t quite been gentrified yet, and it seemed that almost everyone who lived there (aside from the mostly-Italian “old-timers”) was an artist or musician of some sort, and under the age of 30.  I loved it (and still do, and I felt terrible about what happened to it, and the people there, when Sandy blew through).  In Holding Breath, I included an entry from my 1988 journal about “…my apparent moderate, and inexplicable, notoriety in this weird town full of people who refuse to ever grow up.  I do love Hoboken, and I plan to for a while.”  (In retrospect, it was no great feat to have any kind of “notoriety” in a mile-square town.)

I spent almost every night out at Maxwells, and various other bars around town (for a while I tended bar at a place that was, at the time, called the Beat ‘n’ Path, and had much too much fun doing it). Maxwell’s was always my favorite place; they had (and still do) a little room in the back where great indie bands came to play.  It was cheap to get in, and very often I’d get in for free because I had friends who worked the door–a good thing, because I was always broke back then.  As far as I was concerned, it was, and still is, the best place to see live shows.

At the time, my absolute favorite band was the Feelies.  They’re a New Jersey band from Haledon, but I always kind of thought of them as a Hoboken band.  I saw them every time they (or one of their various permutations) played Maxwell’s.  During the day, as I made my way through Manhattan on my way to visit clients in the hospital or in their homes, or to see David, their music was often playing on my Walkman.  It’s hard to think about that time in my life without thinking about the Feelies, and that’s why I’ve included the following song, “On the Roof,” on my playlist for the book:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w2sb01oRT0

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