The teenager and I spent the morning climbing in the trees in Prospect Park, listening to old Syd Barrett records.
“Yes, I’m thinking of this, yes I am…” sang the bard, riffing, almost self consciously on his struggles with sanity, as mental illness grasped.
Looking at the trees, we wonder.
What would become of them.
They offer us shade, as we fling the Frisbee and strike yoga poses, finding our flow.
Rain dropped and I made my way to El Jardin Paraiso, where comrades were joining me in the garden, under the big tree to make some friends, mixing old ones, as we told stories, read poems, sharing one, another moment in time.
It had been a full few days of walking around Chinatown, to Washington Square Park with the teenager, here for a few days before zipping back to Los Angeles, flying to and from.
Up to Union Square and Times Square we walked to see art, meet my brother,for a second, after a funny call in which he said let's get dinner and we all met in the same place for the first time since the pandemic, before making our way to American Utopia down the street, dancing and wondering, well, how did I get here.
It was all a blur, I thought, walking around the garden, stumbling into faeries, as the rain began, anew. We ran for cover in the gazebo, and someone started singing along with a guitar.
JK and Wendy and Elissa and Brennan joined us, talking about Michael Shenker and the magic tree that fell when Michael Shaenker died a dozen years prior and tried to save the gardens.
Elissa told a story about Frederich, the daydreamer, one of the mice in the wall. He was gathering colors while everyone else gathered supplies for the long winter. When the other supplies grew scarce, Frederich’s colors illuminated the room.
“Close your eyes,” he tells the others as his colors fly.
Poetry is necessary, says Brennan, paraphrasing Audre Lorde.
It keeps us warm on a cold rainy day.
Wendy tells a story of seedballs - made of clay and compost and seeds - that she plans to throw in East River Park.
“The City is in gear to kill another 50 trees in Corlears Hook Park,” says Peter Shapiro. “That's not very far from Tompkins.
It's freaking Heart Breaking.”
“I remember in March 2020 when all you could hear were birds and ambulances, pigeons on the ground in central park, skateboarders,” says Elissa.
Brennan has just completed a poetry chapbook he reads for Wendy.
“A solipsistic poem …
I wanted to be more narcissistic
So I became a poet…”
Wendy tells the story about a man she brought to the garden.
The man’s life changed looking at it all.
A friend from the garden tells us about 39 seasons gardening here.
Early on a rooster came to visit, picking away.
I walked over to greet her.
And it attacked.
I didn’t know the protocol.
So I ran, she told us.
That was an early work day, one of many since the garden started in 1979.
It had been a button factory before.
And then rubble.
The cleaning started in 1981.
That continues to this day.
I carry IDA wth me, she told us, poetry seemingly emanating from the earth and history of this place.
Brennan reads another from his new volume about love and the internet,
#Blessed = Death.
Tight verses, staring into the fire
“There we were living in the East Village, with an apartment on 13th street,” said JK.
“Asmo the cat was of undetermined age; he lived with us.
He looked around, standing on hind legs singing to the other cats.
He remained behind.
Cats test us.
He saw our new new place.
Looked about, spread out and stayed.
“I have a cat poem,'' says Cato, one of Brennan’s friends.
“I wish I was a cat because cats don’t have to go to school.”
I’m always trying to find my voice in all the stories.
Someone recalls Eileen’s words.
“I often turn on people.
I needed something fresh to start me up….
That's a hot poem….”
Elissa read Jack Hirshman's XLEB poem about looking out the window at Vesuvio.
“From the top
I have just seen
a man with
And a beard
Twenty-five years old
To the garbage bin and reach…..
say to this
piece of break
“We like our poets maudlin,
Whoop ass hallelujah”
Someone quoted W S Merwin.
I don’t know who read that one, probably Brennan.
It's starting to blur, my notes were drenched in the rain.
Brennan hands me a new pen.
Brad shows up from the Gowanus and reads
I am the sole passenger on the bus.
I recall this being my first time.”
Everyone has a crush on Brad.
“I am a poem.
You are a poem.
You are not a poem,” says Brad, paraphrasing Eileen, who everyone else had a crush on.
We are people dreaming apart, teeth falling apart.
How do you know whats a poem I ask.
A feeling, a verse.
JC saunters in, back from a funeral for Barbara Maier Gustern, his voice teacher.
“I have something to share,” says JC.
“The summer day we made the world,” he reads from Mary Oliver.
“Tell me what else should I have done
Tell me what way you plan to go with that precious word, life?”
“Before I let you go
Can you speak
Can you step here?
Can you speak a little louder?
Before I let you go, whom will you haunt?”
“There’s a curve in the Mississippi,
A curve in the river, the city a labyrinth, a mardi gras in three weels…”
Brad follows with another New Orleans poem:
“There's an old Spanish Fort up the bayou
Why do I go see the egrets?
They can carry me away.”
JC follows with another poem for the times.
Ha ha hoorey.
Gay gay gay,
Brad was a leader in the struggle for against the Gowanus Rezoning.
We commiserate about East River Park.
“It's the Penn Station of our day.
Destroying our urban density, our pulse.”
Replacing it with empty skyscrapers, and reified urbanism.
As I write, the cherry trees are being torn down in Corlears Hook Park
“Illegible scrawl of a signature on a document by an arborist who works for the city execution order to kill hundreds finally more than a thousand mature trees that protect & delight us including cherry trees in NY O Susan of the Parks Department claim your place in this scam. Or stand up & do something fast.”
“Who does this profit?
Construction companies, Not people, not nature, not our lives,”
says East River Park Action.
On I ride South and East to East River Park,
“how old will we be when the trees come back here?”
“probably when you are dead,” another replies, looking at the precious Cherry Trees about to be bulldozed.
Past the destruction and light on East River Park, I join Savitri and company from the church of stop shopping, crossing the Staten Island Ferry.
Savitri toasts to her mother, her first best friend.
Everty day is a mom’s best friend said Savitri.
I am so grateful to my life,” she delights, the sun doing down, dancing in the aisles on the ferry.
I wish you peace, she concluded.
Savitri in motion through time…
light on the water...
brooklyn tides, hurricane, out of the sea like she's alive, this is it, earth riot, climate riot!!! Here you come.... the time is wild, take your stand.... this is it!! Here you come!! We love you
And on we kept on moving, back to Brooklyn for Saturday disco with Joel and Gene and Dodi and Caroline and friends of the church of stop shopping on a long rambling saturday from a bike ride in prospect park to poetry in the lower east side to a birthday party on the staten island ferry with savitri and a disco at casa shepard.
A stroll through Red Hook on Sunday and a trip to El Quixote to toast Dad on 23rd
And the teenagers on her way back to LA. flying away.
As we disobey.
Yana says Housing is a human right!!!!
Before we all get arrested.
In and out of the holding cell in an afternoon.
Free, incarcerated, liberated, but not not really.
Come meet me at City Hall, says Babs on Friday.
Homeless activists from VOCAL and Picture the Homeless are worried that the city has started to sweep up the homeless again.
Arriving, I run into Lynn Lewis was reeling against the city’s decision to criminalize the poor.
“Poverty pimps and politicians are still getting rich off of homeless Folks in NYC but there are still New Yorkers standing up for civil rights, basic decency and housing as the real solution to homelessness. Thanks to (future Governor) Jumaane D. Williams, VOCAL, UJC and Picture the Homeless folks Housing works and Benjamin Heim Shepard..”
“People are not homeless cause it's fun,” says Valerie Reyes-Jimenez of Housing Works. “I was homeless. No one wants to live on the streets. But the shelters are worse. People who are homeless are New Yorkers. Work with us. Fight fight fight, housing is a human right!!!! Housing works , shelters kill !!!”
Shelters are not safe havens. $4000 per head, per month. Shelters kill. Create affordable housing. Homelessness is a business. We are not products.it could be you next.
Countless speakers followed.
When you are so tired you sit down and they kick you....that ain't right...living in a shelter is terrifying... it causes psychosis...why should shelter providers make so much? Someone's making money.
Stop the war on the poor!!!
Barbara’s partner experienced homelessness. Says Barbara:
“I went because of my disgust of the sweeps, but also learned it’s 4K pp at the shelters. It’s a money making business, that’s why it continues even though it makes no sense and is inhumane.”
@nycmayor we have a right to housing not shelter. We need to end the sweeps. This us inhumane. Housing works. Shelters kill. The solution is permanent housing. Poverty is not a crime. Don't criminalize homelessness.
At Judson, Erika talks about love for and access to our most beloved, the right of people who use drugs, those struggling with jobs, or mental illness or memories of bad things, those of us who use drugs to experience pleasure, to alleviate pain, reverberations from spirits shaking the walls, reminding us of resurrections and reversals, Jesus and Lazarous, countless clothes, who’ve crossed to the other side and come back, drug overdoses that sent some away, others back with the help of holy naloxone… no questions, just love.”
Resurrections are in the air.