A small book is a nice thing
You can read it all at once
and you feel like you did something good.
You became worthwhile
and so does the book
which gets read—
something most books don’t get.
They just sit there
I sit near a phony waterfall
beside a phony pond
with water lilies and real fish
who swim over
and check me out.
It’s a strange feeling
to be checked out
by a bunch of wide-open-mouthed fish.
They probably think I’m food.
I’m too civilized to do that
A pair of Republicans
clatter down the path
wearing golf shoes and green pants.
I myself do not play golf.
Today I’m playing a Buddhist monk
sitting beside a waterfall
writing poems about fish.
Later, I’ll bathe in warm blue water
that gurgles like tongues on my skin
while two muscular eunuchs wait
to pleasure me.
I think I’ll call my mother
and say hello. She’s getting more precious
nowadays for no good reason except
the days themselves are getting
I think this means we’re going to die soon.
I know we will but is there something after?
My friend said he saw me in heaven.
It was only a dream in a poem
but maybe it’s true.
I hope so.
Don’t push your luck, kid.
Quit spinning in the middle of the garden
with your arms stretched out wide
and your head flung back
so you can see the sky
while everyone shouts, “Stop that,
you’re going to fall!”
Something makes you pick yourself up
and start again
with all that racket in the background
and in a minute
someone’s coming to pick you up
and carry you into the house
and tell you to stay in your room
until you can come out and play nicely.
Hurry. One more time
because maybe this time
you’ll keep spinning and spinning
and then you’ll go up to the clouds
and fly with the birds.
this is the way it begins
and there’s no way of knowing
what’s coming next. Sometimes I remember
how I felt as a child
and it was always fearful.
I couldn’t understand what I had come into. I knew there was terrible danger
something bad would happen to me.
I believed monsters lurked
in the dark parts of the house.
And even now, sometimes,
when I’m lying in my bed at night
the thought crosses my mind that
someone is coming to get me.
He has entered through the front door
tip-toed across the living room
and is presently climbing the stairs.
I turn to look at the narrow space on the floor
under my bedroom door
to see his shadow pass.
But so far I’ve been lucky.
It hasn’t happened
Yesterday came and went
and today I’m available for breakfast.
My friends call me on the phone
and we laugh about particular ignoramuses.
We are not of that ilk.
Only half the impatiens are blooming
on the balcony now. It’s fall
and life is so exciting
every fucking, goddamned day
I can’t get over it.
The possibilities are endless.
I can’t find my lacy black wool undershirt.
This morning I took mental inventory of my
and everywhere I went was tropical except New
So it’s gotta be here someplace.
I’m doing this because I enjoy it.
I could be doing a million other things.
In fact as I write this I’m thinking
about the next thing I have to do.
I’ll probably pull up a file
stare at it for a minute, then run upstairs
and start vacuuming the bedroom.
I bought a new vacuum cleaner last week which I still haven’t used.
It’s standing in the closet waiting
to suck up dirt. I’ve got so much dirt.
Thick dust everywhere.
Still, I’d rather be sitting here
riffing on the keys.
If I ever found my courage I’d get to what
I know is my true calling: a cabaret act.
I’ll wear a sequined gown and red
nail polish. I’ll lean over a big black piano,
wink to my accompanist when I’m ready
to start, and after the bluesiest introduction
I’ll look around the quiet, crowded room
and say, “Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m here to tell you a story.”
A SIDEWALK CAFÉ
I had coffee recently with a man who wants to be my lover. He’s a lawyer and is always asking questions, trying to extract information about me. We sat at an outdoor café on Sunset Plaza, a place that reminds me of San Tropez. You can practically smell the Mediterranean up there.
The traffic was noisy and I had to speak loud for him to hear. “I’m not a great writer,” I shouted in response to a tiresome question, “only a good one.” He said I was a character and that he wanted to take me home and fuck my brains out. Then he went and spoiled it for me by finding a nicer way to say it. This is what chemistry is about. Nevertheless, he was cute, and leaning against the wall in a deserted parking lot on Sunset Boulevard, kissing and getting felt up, isn’t a bad way to pass a little time in the middle of the afternoon.
The lawyer kept telling me I was interesting. This turns me off and makes me not want to tell my stories. At one point he wanted to know what being Jewish means to me. I told him it means if they came for me in the middle of the night and said they’d kill me if I didn’t bow down to Jesus they’d have to kill me.
He laughed and said, they don’t do things like that anymore. I could have told him a story about a time I sat at another outdoor café many years ago in Munich. The war was long over. Germany was our ally, like it is today. A group of us, artists and students, sat around talking and drinking beer. I remember how odd and stiff all the standing up, head bowing and shaking hands looked to me.
A young man across the table kept staring down at the little gold star I wore around my neck. I don’t remember how the conversation started but I remember becoming alert, he was speaking directly at me, it was clear he was telling me something very important. He said, “I hope we will get another chance to do the job right.” He said, “Next time we will finish you all off.” The bright smile never left his face.
No one had ever spoken to me like that. Something I can’t explain came over me. I opened my mouth and spoke back. I have no idea where the words came from. I’d never said them before to anyone and they came out with a calmness from a place I didn’t know. I was possessed. I said, “Next time I want you to come for me first because next time I’ll be waiting for you. I want to be the one who stops you next time, if there ever is next time.”
Nothing more was said. No one at the table appeared to hear us or pay any attention. It was as though our dialogue took place on another plane. I never told anyone about it either. And I didn’t tell it to the lawyer who wanted me to entertain him with stories on Sunset Plaza in West Hollywood.