His face seemed puffy, hands too,
Clothed in the remnants
crackled like his skin.
as he stood there mesmerized
Had he stumbled into a mirage,
where his mother leaned
brothers and sisters ran barefoot.
Give a few dollars,
to this man who'd most likely
for something else:
The world's heavyweight champion,
as I watched him rocking back
known only to him.
he wasn't himself crouched in a doorway,
as he stepped into the ring,
He was there all right.
The crowd was on their feet too
with the triumphant look
LOVE LETTERS TO JERSEY GIRLS
There was enough to yell at without Vietnam and segregation...the displaced, alcoholic men who had lost their jobs in the mines and mills had been teaching me.
There were enough reasons to run away from home without the hippy movement...my mother's constant ridicule and sister's first suicide attempt had been teaching me.
Conversation with Heather while breaking down my mom's apartment after she died: "Your mom didn't have any books in her apartment." "What! Do you think my mom sat around reading books?" "Well, no, but it's odd she had no books and you became a writer." "Do you think I learned to write poetry by reading books?" The most quizical look on Heather's face.
It was my mother sitting down each afternoon between ironing and Loretta Young Theater to write letters to her faraway friends to bring them closer that taught me to write to the one faraway to bring closer.
It was my old man's backhand at the dinner table because of my mouth that sent me to my room with all those playful and ridiculous ideas he was embarrassed to hear. All that boyhood he gave me but continually punished me for because he didn't have one. That quick gigantic finger in the face of "the big idea."
My first poems were love letters I wrote in my room to Jersey girls I met down the shore on vacation.
Later in the 60's my poems became protest song lyrics I'd sing with a banjo my old man gave me, thinking it would shut me up.
There was a lot to be angry about, and I'm really now grateful for the Vietnam War and segregation on tv giving me a target to flip out on, and showing me I wasn't alone. Grateful that my old man picked up hitchhikers so I could hit the road at the drop of a shoe. I'd never heard of Pete Seeger but I was wandering around Kirby Park with my banjo singing all those fuckdishit lyrics I wrote for my old man when I should have been in school.
All those years after leaving home, living in rooming houses and old hotels, "If you're going to talk like that, go to your room" ...going to my room to write.
Shamokin was my perfect mirror...abandoned and gutted. My poems wrote themselves broken and wheezing...black, hard and dark in their attitudes, their intolerable judgment.
January 22, 1959 the Susquehanna River burst through the roof of the Knox Mine, up from Wilkes-Barre, flooding the entire honey-comb of mines throughout the lower northern anthracite coalfield: 12 miners dead, thousands of miners out of work forever. I was 7 years old. Within 5 years our textile industry had moved south for cheaper labor...thousands of mill workers out of work or moved out of the region forever.
i inherited the black-star hole
I inherited the voices and attitudes of the men and women who were shut down and abandoned. A tremendous anger...a tremendous silence.
One high school student, after listening to me read my poems about the gouged
earth, gouged people, sulfur creeks and mountain of slag, asked me if i was
an environmentalist. I flipped off the lights, opened the window, rearranged
my chair ...hacking and smoking.
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