N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 1 3 : S p e c i a l E d i t i o n
L o n g P o e m M a s t e r p i e c e s o f t h e P o s t b e a t s
Held by the city in this way:
sweet Sophie Mang the cowcat queen on
left white sofa arm
white cathair tumbleweeds
waft across 40s parquet
Italian chef Molto Mario Batali
on the right arm TV stand kneading pasta
[you know I can’t help but say
I ran into him one day on 6th ave.
a while ago and you know
he was a really nice guy
in a hurry, soiled chefcoat half-buttoned]
My own homemade pasta is
just as good as Pó or Il Cena Colo
My ragu as sweet and savory
and it’s Wednesday to boot
‘whatever’ spaghetti day
come get your macaroni and gravy —
Held in this way
the city glows it's steel edge
cuts through it’s own history
to immediate perfection
in every gray slice of life.
Woke my Reiki
on E. 21st St.
soft gummy bagel
was the worst of it
could I be the key
to wake it up in you?
Soft curl of almond smoke
imprisoned a la mode
within patterns on the back
of a croissant —
Wisdom books yellow and
universal symbols diminish
yet bad coffee can always be found
in some damp bodega cranny.
Reverse the polarity
and draw energy from this
grid – every itch being scratched
every lid trembling around it’s
Sophie curls tight in
an Amazon box
Empire State Building
casts a purplish glow
on her white fur.
Sun strobes on steering wheel
through silver winter branches;
drive to the Park & Ride, take the Bus (Buspirone á la Shortline)
try not to get on the wrong line
jungle ramp mimics Port Authority mad slow escalator grunt
— gray suited apes swinging from
painted steel rafters
to vie for the window seat that
On the other hand, again and again,
there’s the Palisades dysfunction to the West Side Hwy,
or the L.I.E. to Queens Midtown Tunnel
among other savage commute routes ever to rattle an axle,
Q104FM salvation a butter-salve for my
and tooth-gap Manhattan skyline pout
missing teeth caught in my throat
again and again —
Jimi jabs his axe into my guts
I rush decide to resign my package design IT job in Carlstadt
and take a more urban position
Fear up the spine on first day of work — sofa raconteur interruptus
Mind in flight broadcasts a mayday
Skycap oasis resonates like a Dodo
Rival men raze Troy as the schmatas fly
extinct as Ratners' herring on Sunday.
You turn up your collar and the music
in your very expensive chrome earbuds;
To work for a living at a job that fails to satisfy
is highly overrated
except the mortgage
says otherwise and Big Bank will wring you dry if you try to refi
so turn it up another notch
and pour me a double Gentlemen’s Jack
and sit back on the couch.
I think of Joe Roberto
biker friend lost on 9/11 in 1 World Trade
as I put my bike away
for another winter, dirty —
wonder what exactly he is missing really
in this city
in question now
as is this
elusive anxiety —
cured by a bagel with Nova and cream cheese
twice a day for 38 years!
Two dark squares in the concrete waterfall
as freedom tower skin’s applied
and we lift from our knees at the wall —
New York is it’s own antidote
Meanwhile, holiday cards still arrive
at 10048 phantom post office
for those ghosts that time and discount Bulk Rate
will not surrender.
insurance is what gets me
it just gets to me you know
insurance… man, it just gets to me
you know – you know insurance,
you never know they say
you never know when you’ll
need it but damn, insurance
that shit just gets to me
runs in the family.
Grandparents, father, all shunned it
not a penny maintained to sustain a legacy
after all these city streets were
paved with gold
mica flakes in dark concrete shone
so many little and big lies twinkled
there on the street
in between gum spots
and cigarette butts.
Concrete slabs wired to the teeth now
in Greeley Square.
They know your shoe size
and what you had for breakfast as you walk through
There are no guarantees
at ground zero.
Strange lights glow
and I'm hanging on insurance, I'm just hanging
on insurance, hangin' on and layin' low, trying not to
anger the premium and further harass the underwriter.
Only undertakers triumph as children fall to assault rifles.
Bloomberg collects a gun a day so Mort Zuckerman can preen
his hat's half feather with a half-page feature.
Tempt the fortunes and fates to temporarily evacuate the superstorm —
gravitas envelope descends and the Mayan calendar defends its apocalypse
in the face of subsistence existence being forced upon Brooklyn,
a tri-state tsunami decimates Staten Island and
mold emerges victorious.
Only insurance separates the family
from it's home.
9/11 vets chorale around the christmas tree memorial
as bulldozers push their homes into mountains of
lost memories and identities.
Baked yet hardly awake
Farley post office lines are comet tail streams
among the façade scaffolds
and we are falling dust
little bits of citizens being found
in sewer grates day to day
years after the towers’ collapse —
gray steel wing flap lift, found like hidden faces at the foot of
a gray mosque alley trap, burned gray matters to ash, turned beards grayer
to sift old cells through the gray dust at Park Place —
That day — that day
so amazed at the goddamned fucking West Side Highway
a totally empty, mid-morning barren ribbon to oblivion
for a moment shocked to be alone in my escape
made it to the GWB in about 6 minutes
rubbed my eyes
and the goddamn traffic reappeared again like magic!
The bridge was closed so I looped around on 9A and
when I hit it again it was open outbound only
Holy fucking shit I thought banging on the steering wheel
they will give a pilot’s license to just about anybody!
Holy fucking shit I cried
as I curled onto the empty Palisades
they will give a driver’s license to anyone
nearsighted or far
and anybody can
blow themselves up
but I swear
and broken heart
are not the same
since my Palisades escape
that day —
Cannabis detox to climb
the job ladder scrubs old resin from brain
leaches from fat into pee
I jitter and fret, purge and sweat the interview
mannaquin pose stone face dictates your fate
‘we regret to inform you sir
but you are an old gray
pothead and cannot be trusted.’
So why not open a gourmet food market?
Maybe a rock shop or hobby depot?
stock Radio Shack electronics experiment kits
lots of stuff to solder together and shit;
this lapidary, poet-chef sings a gray blues,
slings sizzling hash in tune.
Cast your jones in the Harlem River
like a dark lure
and be in good company
the muck and mire
turns under and rolls out to sea;
learn now the ladder leads nowhere man
at least nowhere you want to be.
Gonna quit my job
oh yes, that’s what I’m gonna do
gonna quit and move uptown
to another job that I’m gonna
wanna quit too —
Alas, poor me — pulling 6 figures
& miserable as a chocolate chip cookie
on a china plate
everyone diabetic all around me
sick of me and by me too
and my spicy ham & egg on an onion roll.
Late for work and lovin’ it
cayenne pepper sauce on my moustache
later I will blow it burning out of my ass
and think of you
old thorn in my side for whom I sacrificed
my true Broadway calling;
for a string of kiss-ass peon jobs for peanuts,
subtle doom and daily struggle,
keep up or fall
beneath the wheel
pay through the nose, skinned at the knee
given an arm and a leg,
a delirious amputee.
[This poetry is a rescue
from the death of all dreams.]
Craigslist monkey hoots his crazy beef,
‘Rants & Raves’ get really sad and lame;
the bargain you thought you gained on that USB board
turns sour when his UPS tracking number
is bogus as a purple dollar
and you want to put him in traction.
Your red face bleeds grief
for each and every ‘Missed Connection’
each plight as common
as an arcade token
bent in a jimmied slot.
The shakedown continues
as the streets of April
turn hot and the pickpockets
come out of hibernation
to twist their elbows into
finger hooks and hand blades —
squeeze into packed subway cars last on
to lift the cash you just made.
Brushed by on the street
by someone who
where they were going
“so what” I say, they’re deluded
and we all share the same delusion
so it basically works
yet not too difficult to see through
chinks in the armor
dreams in the gutter
sour gust heads north to some suburb or another
runs in cheap nylon distracts you at the curb.
They put up a shiny new sign
at the corner hot table take out
and scraped off the
health dept. stickers —
still, you eye the black beans suspiciously;
desiccated pale parboiled bacon strips
and pre-prepared egg whites on a silver tray
like plaster frozen on a trowel
fail to appetize;
nuked on demand
for scary FIT undergrads
in very tight underwear
who always look like they’re arriving
at a goth picnic with a bag of melba toast.
Max Parrish photo barks from
wrought iron kiosk
mismanaged buildings crumble
and spark —
The furriers eat peanuts
and florists stack tulips
in long waxy boxes sporting windmills —
3 steps away
a homeless guy wretches
into a trash can —
Old bulldog squats
on a subway grate to poop
pink hairy dog boner
wags in R train wind —
Outside Mickey D’s
the guy makes unintelligible, snide comments to me
his stench combined with
greasy burger and bulldog shit
enough to make me
drop my Post
blanch pale & dizzy on
26th & 6th .
I swallow this tender weakness
over and above all fragility
as it is left to us
and must be made
like the icy wind that
gets under my gray wool coat
no surprise and yet ~ oooohhh ~
to hold that poise,
an instrument for winds
that race down 7th Ave.
is to crack the monster minor 7th
of these blues;
smell burger and
back to the wind
Evening walk destination: 34th st. Herald Towers apt.
in old Hotel McAlpin
where 50 years earlier my father had his first
secret dates with my mom
upon whom the disapproving 50s could
find no hold,
when the city was a mere 7.7 million of us
in line with debonair ruffian Lindsay
pre doom and gloom — in between the waves
of chaos, tide of grey coats rising
toward Penn Station.
Two pigeons peck a kernel of
unpopped popcorn into traffic —
I ran over a white one the other day
— puff of feathers
in the rear view — did a mantra
or two but I didn’t feel bad,
inured to daredevil pigeons that plunge
into midtown traffic —
Allen would say ‘open up to
raw warriors heart! — HUM HUM HUM!’
maybe someday I’ll listen.
Cooing from the window ledge
wakes me from a dead sleep
I walk downtown over
bouncing basement doors —
Rats dance in cardboard kitchens ankle deep.
Old webs bind me
into a numb chrysalis
await my rebirth
at some later re-emergence.
keeps one suspicious eye
on all who aspire
or arrive to the party late.
Sirens chase us
back into blackened doorways
Taxi headlights are eyes
like gems that blink and flutter
with each pothole and metal road plate.
Steel trashcan of old lunchbags
bursts into flame
draws us out
into the night again
& pull free
Walk and call, traffic through Times Square slows to a crawl
sidestepping Mickey, Minnie, Mario and Buzz to get to the bus
tune out bible stumper Jesus-fuss and a hundred tourist cellphone cameras
clicking everywhere to capture that New York angle
only to paint targets on their own backs —
scammed on hot dogs and cab hacks' detour through rushhour park tangle.
Walk and call; even with “LOOK” epoxied into the street off the curb,
some cannot tear their eyes from their smartphones,
trucks and taxis growl down 8th Ave. — inches from impact.
So much more disaster is averted than we realize.
Need to wake this small mind from its charmed oblivion of steel and glass
and heal the cracked hearts and streets of the city; [Dai Koo Myo]
city that bleeds and rumbles and moans,
city where I was born and that I am proud to call my home.
I hear the low frequency rumble of echos buried deep below cobblestone.
I hear the bleat and blare of tragedy taking corners too fast
and pieces of desperate reasoned conversations that waft
from backpack cafes and alleyways, wisped thin as the job trail fades.
I am the first one in to work these days,
I eat lunch at my desk with one hand on the mouse to keep my seat.
Cracked economy keeps us walking and calling and not looking.
Held by the city, by the sonic, sacred, scarred and nascent city.
Walk and call and cut through the small talk —
Just walk or just call and that's all!
Mask of rage and fear please fall away
Let it complete, ease and dissipate
— resolve into Maitri.
May work anxiety dissolve into “Just don’t know”.
May money fear release into “Just don’t care”.
May I someday stop hating my x-wife
she got hers, you got yours, everybody got theirs.
May those I love find their balance in life
Walk away from hate — numb and weepy
stoned or straight — nobody cares.
Walk with your heart on Earth's stellar shirtsleeve.
Everyone you meet is your rebellious child and mother
designed to be loved and tamed by giving wide berth.
Walk through Times Square whirlwind open-armed
stripped of pretension and innocent faith.
Walk to the corner of 42nd & 8th
and become enlightened by the 10,000 dharmas.
Till your ‘maters and your peppers like a good suburban farmer.
Walk 500 lives as a fox in a state of grace.
Walk as a child of illusion tempting fate.
Walk till you simply cannot walk any farther;
Time changes your face into stained glass
losing self — gaining self — it all comes ‘round again at last.
Walk ahead though you’d rather wait
or run & hide in the park like Jonah in the belly
of a great whale, lost in the gray noise spell.
Live in muddy water with purity like a lotus.
Let it all go and just be exactly as it is, block by block —
and sure enough the dark gray sky
[Used by permission of the author.]
Steve Hirsch is a poet, musician, electronic publishing guru, and former editor/publisher of the literary magazine Heaven Bone. He studied writing and drama at Naropa Institute in Boulder, CO, where he was a student and apprentice of Allen Ginsberg and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche as well as at Bard College where he studied with Robert Kelly. In recent years he has been riding his Harley all over the Northeast, studying buddhism, poetry and writing, and playing latin and african hand drums as a founding member of the drum circle "Spirithawk." In 2012, Steve taught a class in poetry and buddhism at the College of Poetry in Warwick, NY. Steve is the author of Ramapo 500 Affirmations (Flower Thief, 1998) and he has had poems appear in Hunger, Napalm Health Spa Report, Pudding, Big Scream, Hazmat Review, Muse Apprentice Guild, and Etcetera among others.