for Jack Collom


Tree & Ken & Jack & I were driving Highway 36, trying to get to the

Denver Press Club by 7:00 for Jack to be on the panel of writers who

could be the next poet laureate of Colorado, past the new Elitch amuse-

ment park down in the trainyard flats, the hypnotic ferris wheel lights

spiraling in the darkness, down Colfax all te while talking about

recording studios & medieval poet laureates & Jack’s famous butter &

Tabasco sandwiches, Sue Rhynhart, Tree’s dream about Newt Gingrich.

Richard & Holly were at the Press Club selling books, & Michelle was

there. The bar downstairs was packed with suits––a rack of ties knotted

at the bottom of the steps. I imagine big cigars, hats pushed back on

cub reporters’ heads, ancient ebony chipped rotary phones & scream-

ing editors, headstrong gorgeous curly-haired Pulitzer Prize winners

slapping some sense into a cold blooded braindead copyboy lost on

his beat, but all I saw as we passed through was some dropsy-eyed

blonde in a green velour dress whining about Pueblo to a drunk jew-

elry salesman without a clue. The laureate panel was half beauty

pageant, half ethereal caucus with pleas & rants of enduring values

& how the mountains are not blue nor us, how “we are biodegradable,”

even our “pthole sonnets.” From the rooftop where I went at intermis-

sion I could see the Brown Palace, yucca & rattlers with their eyes like

Cha-Cha’s black pearls, the ones she’d saved up for a long time. It was

a warm February night. The ice-caps must be melting, seas rising, not

near enough money to keep the titanic of sinking countries afloat.

Wonder what Neal Cassady was doing right now this moment his

high-speed Denver Larimer poolhall Youth––Jack Collom sitting with

long blue heron neck sagacious mustache tender windswept face,

brain full of gold rush UFO pony express cattle skull near poison pool

high plain stagecoach wagon train pulled by eight pink cadillacs down

sage brush arroyos where people had no glimmer of vast cities to come,

millions of buffalo stampeding at the choke of midnight, mud on the

slip of Dancehall Belle in Salmon, Idaho––those were the days! And

then there’s speeches addressed to the governor, cake with enormous

orange candles that melt on the icing to go with the bourbon & people

are coming over to say things like “Your cowboy boots are outhouse uri-

nals of jailbreaks in eternity” & “ Colorado––with her white mountain

heather & palominos, crazyweed, lupine, sweetvetch & steer’s

head––comes to you like a god shooting ten arrows of pure love into

your red buteo’d heart” & Jack’s in the car now with his Mexican walk-

into stick & dead left hand, pulling that Tabasco & butter sandwich out of

old plastic baggy recycled perhaps since his days in the ‘40s at A&M

while we’re talking about Reed’s dissertation, Larry’s visit last week,

Teachers & Writers, getting tickets to see Willie Nelson at the Grizzly

Rose, high school wrestling, Peter Orlovsky staying in dingy 28th Street

motel row room, yelling at 7-Eleven sales lady for not giving him a bag

for picnic supplies as anyone will do in New York City, even if you’re

just buying a peanut, & Tom having to smooth things out before they

all go joyriding up Flagstaff, & then, under Pine Street lamplight Jack

is “writing in his notebook” (his palm) something before going inside &

me I’m curious about Julius & Lafcadio, worried about Andy Clausen in

Oakland with herniated disk––how will he carry the trillions of bricks

up wheelbarrow life flat on his back––so, you tell me, what’s the differ-

ence between what’s good & what happens?


25 February 1995


Spoken word version from Walking thru Hell Gazing at Flowers.

Copyright © 1996 by Jim Cohn.

Text from The Dance Of Yellow Lightning Over The Ridge (Writers & Books Publications).

Copyright © 1998 by Jim Cohn.