Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Visiting Walt and Truman and friends as daylight ebbs and democracy flows

The view from Brooklyn, where Walt lived. 

Funkrust Brass Band

Gypsy Rose Lee and the February House, long gone.  
Truman C above.
The Ditchdigger at Truman's old home in 70 Willow, 
where Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Auden and Wolfe on Montague Terrace, David Wojnarowicz Rimbaud in New York 1978-79, 
@mothtreee reminds us ... Emma G was the most dangerous woman in the World... — in New York, New York.

We wound our way to Barely Disfigured,
Where the bar feels like its shining,
This is not a brothel.
There are no prostitutes at this address.
A dead body down the hall.
Or so it seemed that Halloween night.
Friends dropping by.
Mary and Trinity and Leslie and Will.
Whose on queue for Keith and Jeremy?
You are. 
Our bike careened up Smith, 
over  the  Manhattan Bridge and back  down.
Into the morass.
To the House of Yes.
WYLD THINGS: Halloween Parade Afterparty
“Stray from the flock,
Run with the beasts,
Dance like no one is lurking.
After the NYC Halloween Parade,
Let your inner animal out... Halloween Night!”
The bike barely held us.
Navigating between the cars and cluster of Manhattan.
People popping from here to there.
And back over the bridge, 
For a victory beer at the Brooklyn Inn on Hoyt Street.

A bike instead of a ferry where Walt saw something in all of us,
A space we were all just beginning to see Crossing Brooklyn Ferry:
“Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,.
 Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd.”
Walt reminds us democracy can  be a  city of friends.
If only we listen to each  other,
If we can learn,
From each other.
To  feel  what you feel.
I am you and you are me.

You gotta have friends. 
Someone who sees us,
Someone who knows when others do not.

“If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.” –says Helen Burns in Jane Eyre.

Reading Jane,
Ann with an E knew she had a friend in the asylum.
So did Leslie in Auschwitz.
Asking god if she could be his friend.
So did Harriet running,  running, running.
So did Mary, writing, writing, writing,
Even when she was alone.
Wandering in the woods with a pile of poems.

“In Ohio, in the 1950s, I had a few friends who kept me sane, alert, and loyal to my own best and wildest inclinations,” writes Mary Oliver in
My Friend Walt Whitman,
“I never met any of my friends, of course, in a usual way—they were strangers, and lived only in their writings. But if they were only shadow-companions, still they were constant, and powerful, and amazing. That is, they said amazing things, and for me it changed the world.
This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody but I will tell you.
Whitman was the brother I did not have. I did have an uncle, whom I loved, but he killed himself one rainy fall day; Whitman remained, perhaps more avuncular for the loss of the other. He was the gypsy boy my sister and I went off with into the far fields beyond the town, with our pony, to gather strawberries. The boy from Romania moved away; Whitman shone on in the twilight of my room, which was growing busy with books, and notebooks, and muddy boots, and my grandfather’s old Underwood typewriter.
My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds.”

The school bus drops off the little teenager after school.
Wanna drop by the bookstore, 
I ask.
She looks at zombie novels.
Mary speaks to me.
A quiet Friday.
Barbara stays the whole time. 
I run back to the little one.
A friend growing  through time.

Let’s meet at Angry Wades.
Babs and I.
Whisky and beer and popcorn at the pub.
We always hang.
Can I talk you into joining?
Funkrust Brass Band
Just down Sackett Street at
November 1st. Littlefield. Brooklyn.
Four minutes away.
OK she says.
Halloween with Mo and Babs.
Glad we  had a decade of them together.
Anarchist, renegade cyclists forming a critical  mass.
Dancing and riding.
Marching bands.
Josh and Hunka Monka.
Phil and Cassandra
There are still a few steps left for us.
A few more marching bands, as the days pass.
Two weeks to fifty years here. 

The teenager and I make our way to the Dia de Los Muertos celebration at
…decorating the altar.
Writing down the names of lost friends.
Walking the Lower East Side, to 12th, down First Ave for a burrito.
Singing Siouxie,
“Now she’s in purple,
Now she’s a turtle,
Eating a burrito.
Off to Thompkins.
Waiting for a train.
Watching Harriet.
Losing a husband, but finding people needing to be free.
Running through the forest.
Leading seventy along the Underground Railroad.
I fear I could never run like Harriet did.
Fear is your enemy.
She never lost one, crossing a river,
Beyond fear.

Remove Trump.
Life changing in front of us.

The little teenager and I walk to Judson on Sunday.
“This time is our time,
This time if your time,
From early morning
To the early evening.
8 hours for work,
8 hours for sleep and
8 hours for What we Will.”
The words from the Haymarket Strike 1866.
Words on  the church bulletin:
“…the worries of this life, the  deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful……” Mark 4 reminds us.
The deceitfulness choking.
“If you want to create the conditions for tyranny, you sever the bonds of intimate relationships and local community…” says Judith Shulevitz.
Yet, we do over and over.
It happens all the time.
They come apart.
The center does not hold.
It’s up to us to re create it.
That city of friends comes crumbling,
We rebuild it every week.

“I’ve long been known for having  no shame,” says Jack.
“We love the questions, not the answers.”

Looking  for a place to go when  you make mistakes,
Where intersections of gratitude grow.
Along with the poems.

Walking up 6th Ave to 41st street,
And back to Holy Brooklyn.
Talking Emma G with the Teenager.
What  about  Emma G in New York,
Just like David Wojnarowicz Rimbaud in New York 1978-79?
Why not create a monument to her?
Let  us all create monuments.

Out the door in  the crisp fall.
Exploring Literary Brooklyn  with the Ditchdigger.

Up Douglas where paperbacks sit on the stoops,
Looking  to find new homes.
Down Court Street and over to Schermerhorn,
Arthur M Lived here at #18.

Over  to Remson, where Henry M lived at 91.

Norman M. down the street at 49.
Arthur and Henry down the block.

Taking a right at Pierpont and Montague Terrace,
Where Thomas and Auden resided.
 #1, where Auden wrote:
“And love illuminates again, 
The  city and lion’s den,
The world’s great rage, the travel of young men.”

Down to #5 where
 Thomas Wolfe dwelled from 1933-35, drafting Of Time and the River
“Great god, the only bridge,  the bridge  of power, life and joy.
The bridge that was a span, a cry, an ecstasy, that was America.”

The bridge reminding us.
Seducing  Hart C, who had the best view.
Walt helped us imagine what it could mean.
Hart knew it.
He saw it. 
They all wrote about it.
Recalling America.
Wondering about her labors,
Her workers,
Her migrants,
Her  writers,
Her sailors,
Her  whores,
Her preachers,
Her  harlots,
Her prudery,
Her wonders,
Her memories,
Walking to

Richard was there in ’42.

Moses’ wrecking balls not far behind,
putting an end to the place just a few years later.

Fall leaves, magic light, 
Back down Orange and Pineapple Streets.
Down to Willow where Truman resided,
Writing about Harper,
Who wrote about him, as Dill.
Harper and Truman in Monroeville, Ala.
Scout and Dill cavorting in Lee's Maycomb.
Dreaming away summer afternoons,
In a world far away,
The world Carson left behind.
That every Southern New Yorker leaves
Letting go,
Friends from long ago.
Creating families of  choice here.
Debating with Auden on Middagh Street.
We must love one another or die.

All of us writing.
Drinking and wondering what this democracy can withstand.
If only we’d listened to Walt
Who seemed  to understand.
Mary-Oliver walked with him in the woods.
“… my response was to start out for school every morning but to turn most mornings into the woods instead, with a knapsack of books. Always Whitman’s was among them. ..Thus Whitman’s poems stood before me like a model of delivery …… It was everything that was needed, when everything was needed. I remember the delicate, rumpled way into the woods, and the weight of the books in my pack. I remember the rambling, and the loafing—the wonderful days when, with Whitman, I tucked my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time.”

Walking  with Walt in the afternoon,
Down the Street from the February House.
Holding  a reading in the Gowanus, 
Where Caroline  reminds us,
“Its all fine  until the next round of fascism starts.”

Why couldn’t we have listened to Walt?

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