the phone rings and it is usually the woman with the
sexy voice from the phone company telling me
to please pay my phone bill,
but this time a voice says quietly,
“you son of a bitch,”
and it is the editor of a dozen magazines,
everything from religious pamphlets
to do-it-yourself abortions,
and he asks,
“why haven’t you called?”
“catalysis,” he says,
“dig,” I say,
and then he tells me that he has seen me
in issue #5 of CRABLES AND MULETEARS
and that I am getting better,
and I tell him that I am a slow starter
and being only 42
I still stand a chance to spread sand
in Abdulah’s garden,
and he says come on over
I want you to meet a friend
and I tell him I will give him a ring
after the track…
it is Saturday and hot
and the face of greed rushing past
pinched and dried and impossible
want to make me kneel among the lollies and pray
but instead I go to the bar
where I can get a good vodka and orange for 70 cents,
and people keep talking to me,
it is one big lonely hearts club,
people lonely for a voice and a million dollars
and not getting much of either,
and by the 9th race I am one hundred dollars in the hole
and a big colored guy walks up to me
and spreads tickets of the last winner in his hand
like violin music,
and I say,
and he says, “I am with a couple of old broads
and now they are trying to find me,
but I am ducking out, I am going to lock the doors
and get drunk.”
fine, I say, and he walks off
and I keep wondering why so many colored people
talk to me, and then I remembered
I was in a bar once and a big black guy swore me into
something called the Muslims;
I had to repeat a lot of fancy words and
we drank all night,
but I thought he was kidding:
I am not out to destroy all the white race–
only a small part of it:
“who you like?” another guy asks me
and I say, “the 3 horse,” and he says
“the 3 is out,” and walks off
and that is all I want to hear
and I put 20 to win on the 3,
get a screwdriver
and walk down to the last turn
where if you’ve been around long enough
you can pick out the winner
before the stretch drive begins
and I’m there when the 3 drives past
a length and a half behind the 6,
the others are out,
and it looks close, both are running hard
without signs of tiring
and I have to close the gap
and I look up at the board and see that
the 6 is 25 to one and I am only 7 to one
and with a little luck I might make it,
and I did by 3/4 of a length
and the frogs of my mind line up and
jumped over death (for a little while)
and I walked over and got my $166.
I was in the tub with a beer when the phone rang,
“bastard, where are you?”
it was the editor.
“see you in 30 minutes,” I told him.
“I don’t want any stuff outa you or I’ll lay
you out,” he tells me.
“fine,” I say, “30 minutes then.”
which gives me time for a couple more beers.
the place is in the back in South Hollywood,
a small cell with a water heater
in the bathroom, and a rack of books take up
half the room: much Huxley (Aldous), Lawrence
(not of Arabia), and a lot of tomes and vessels
of people halfway in the playground
between poetry and the novel
and lacking either the motivation or the discipline
to write straight philosophy,
and he has a woman in there
in the last peach fuzz of her youth,
pale orange, a little spiritless,
but quiet, which was good,
and he said, “baby, get the man a beer,”
and I threw him my latest book
which I inscribed, “to a connoisseur
of vagina and verse…”
and he said, “you are getting fat, bastard,
but you are looking better than the last time
I saw you.”
“Was that in Paris?” I asked.
“Pasadena, Calif.,” he answered.
“Faulkner’s dead now too,” I said.
“How do you like the bitch?” he asked.
“Look at her.”
I looked at her and thanked her for the beer.
“Fair stand the fields of France,”
“I need a hundred and a half,” he told me.
“Jesus,” I answered,
“I was just gona ask you for the same thing.”
“I hear Harry is back with his old lady.”
“Yeah. Looking for a job. Painting furniture. Baby sitting.
He was even a bartender one night.”
“Harry? a bartender?”
“Just for 3 hours. Then he said he got tired.”
“‘Tired’ is the word he used.”
“I need a hundred and a half.”
“Who the hell doesn’t?”
“Faulkner doesn’t,” he said.
“I wonder what he mixed in his drinks? I’ve got to slow
the bitch had some poems she wrote and I read them
and they were not bad considering that she was built for
other things, and the rest of the night was fairly dull,
not fist fights, too old to tango, tiger asleep in the shade,
and I promised I would write an essay ON THE MEANING OF
MODERN POETRY which he promised to print unseen
and which I knew I would never write.
the night was full of promises, an old tiger
and a peach. I drove home down the side streets,
swinging wide around the police station,
smoking king-size and humming parts from Carmen
because it was very dark and Berlioz drove better than
Ludwig who has his mind on more important things.
I parked out in front and no sooner did I get the car door open
than the rummy downstairs said,
“Hey, ace, how about a cold one?”
I took a beer out of the bag and slipped it through the screen.
“I need a dollar,” he said.
“Now, ain’t that a bitch? I was just gonna ask you for the same thing.”
“you’re in a bad mood,” he said.
“sure,” I said, “haven’t you heard? Faulkner’s dead.”
“Faulkner? Wasn’t he a bullring jock? Pomona Fairgrounds?
Rudioso? Celiente? You knew the kid?”
“I knew the kid,” I said
and then walked on upstairs.
the rest of the night was no-account, as the Arkies say,
and there were a couple of numbers I could dial,
4 or 5 numbers, some black, some white,
some old, some young,
but I kept thinking of white hospitals
and palm trees in the shade,
and it was quiet, at last it was quiet,
and there are times when you have to come back
and look around, there are times of Ludwig,
there are times of walls,
there are times of thinking of Ernie
and that shotgun raising to his head;
there are times for thinking
of dead loves, dead flowers,
of all the dead, dead people who gave you a name,
dead voices from bedrooms
from Florida to Del Mar, Calif.,
all the sadness like a parade
of gentle fools gone,
water running in sinks,
gowns worn, thrown away,
the ugly duckling world
quietly slipping away from me
and myself slipping away,
an old tiger, sick of battle.
the next morning I was awakened by a knock on the door,
so I ignored it, I never answer the door,
I don’t want to see anybody,
but it kept up with a kind of a gentle persistence
so I got up and put on my old yellow robe
and opened the door.
“I am here to help the handicapped people,” she said.
“Do come in,” I said.
she was a young girl 19, 20, 21,
her eyes as innocent as the map of Texas spread
over the clouds,
and she walked across the rug and sat down
and I went into the kitchen and took the cap
off of 2 beers. my goldfish swan like crazy.
I walked out with the beers, I said,
“Love must be always
because stones gone flat with leaning
take ships to sea
take cats and dogs and
she laughed and the day began without
the phone rings and it is usually the woman with the