I

Dear Allen Ginsberg, I’m staying in the apartment
next to your old apartment, number 14, you were
number 16, at 170 East 2nd Street beside the
Psychic up from Supper

And my friends they keep writing to ask have I
touched your door, and I haven’t yet

Today a boat ride Memorial Day on the East River
and bay sunset with beers and wieners between
the banks Of Manhattan where you lived, of Jersey
where you were born,

By Brooklyn where your beloved old Greybeard
stood aboard a ferry and wrote about you and
wrote about me, before either of us were bees or
brains or breathing

Aboard the same ferry we’ve all taken, fifty or a hundred or a
hundred and fifty moonrises
between us.

Set upon this sail boat going nowhere looking up at
the blue, looking across at the murky blue and
looking out at the skylines morph one into another

And the people on the other boats snap photos
photos photos while we push past captained by
barmen of the East Village where you lived and

Where I live, we tacked around to and fro past the
French lady who watched Whitman in her infancy,
you in prime of life, and me now with friends at
twilight,

Friends who know longing and loneliness and love
that life of sailing from one nothing to another,
tacking around, not aimless, but aimless. This isn’t
target shooting.

My friend is the Queen of the East Village, the
queen of my heart, perched on the deck,
dreadlocks past her bum and text tattoos
all over and the other night

We met this young blonde Ski Bunny, the Lucien
type you’d likely adore with brown eyes, flappy
blond hair, Columbia writing graduate:

He adored my friend QEV, and two nights earlier
he was mugged on 3rd Street between A and B, four
guys beat him up, kicked his delicate caving ribs as
he lay on the sidewalk took his passport and
money, floored at twenty-four.

He adored QEV, and she agreed to entertain him
if he’d marry me for a Green Card.

 

III

Dear Allen, today was cold brew coffee at 9th Street
Espresso on 10th Street opposite

The basketball courts at Tompkins Square Park
where a guy with fresh tight cornrows

Danced gaily to the beat of the hand-ballers
bouncing balls on the opposite court and young
ripped men

Went shirtless up and down the fitness circuit
pulling-up and pushing-down on the solid bars

And I added cream and sugar to the iced coffee
drank it from a straw sucking up

Words of wisdom from QEV that it’s better to lose
your mind amongst friends

Where you won’t be raped or murdered, even if
you can’t go back to see them again for a week or
two

 

IV

Dear One, The plaque on our building says you
died in 1997 the same year I wanted to die

For almost the first time; before I knew your name
and before I knew my name

You wrote your last poem the same year I wrote
my first poem something about the ‘child inside is
dying’

I was not knowing what I was really saying just as
you were finally sure and ready.

Did you take your last walk down 2nd Avenue for
the Ukrainian mushroom soup?

Did you stroll up the punk piercing and tattoo
shops on St Marks and buy an oversized umbrella
in an improvised downpour so you wouldn’t have
to

Rush home before making it all the way up to
Washington Square Park where you’d marched
against Moloch more than once

Sit down on a bench as the rain let up and hold
Orlovski’s hand or someone else’s hand or look at
your own hands or hold a paper cup of hot coffee?

Did you keep your beard long long after Memorial
day when the clammy heat set into the city and
began saturating all the apertures of all the city’s
denizen organisms?

Did your beard curl and frizz and stick to your
neck and interrupt your meditations? Did you
write to Louis after he was dead?

 

VII

Dear AG, now I walk through the East Village
thinking of the things I’ll write to you.

The Howl Festival wrapped up tonight at
Tompkins with me in the back row in front of the
grassy knoll dwellers,

I look upon them in their ignorant bliss of all the
piss and drug paraphernalia which form their
Persian carpet overnight after the park closes

Wondering if they’re really locals
or if they subwayed down from Hoboken for this.

Your angel headed hipsters have an organised
circus now, they name themselves now,

In some ways I suppose they always did. I met the
DJ who I left in a yellow cab on Broadway and 79th
street

Two years ago saying we shouldn’t act like lovers,
and at Crocodile where I can’t remain wholly
clothed ever

We acted like lovers after he told me about his
starfish other and I tried to listen helpfully. He
pulled me up and framed me

And waltzed me around the concrete underground
and dipped me like a strawberry in fondue while
nobody bothered to watch

He grazed my sweetness with his fingertips like he
did in the thundering rain on the Upper East Side
at 4am the first time we met

And I got wet as a hundred yellow cabs sped by on
the street. He adored me with his

Adoration and for that I adored him back dutifully
walking him up to 3rd Avenue and sending him on
his way.

Today I thought how you must have walked by
these old digs of yours right by my flooded
neighbour, Mary.

I thought how you must have walked by
remembering how you wrote for Naomi upstairs,
perhaps you wondered who’d write what up here
in the future.

Surely there’s only one good work for every floor
of every building in New York City,

And for 170 2nd Street, Kaddish was surely it.

 

IX

I sit naked before you and before the open barred
window in the half light of 1am

The fan turns in slow revolutions above us and the
candle in the bedroom begs to be lit

(one moment while I oblige its cupped waxy
whiteness smudging against its limits unaware of
its impermanence

wishing to fulfil itself ignorant of how each spark
to cinder evolution brings it nearer to its maker, or
knowing

It was made in the first instance to be Finished Up
like that. Self preservation is an oxymoron.)

The rain from kissing DJ outside when he dragged
me out onto the street to savour the cloudburst
cooled the Village

Cooled my room, cooled my belly, cooled the
community garden on Avenue B near 6th Street,
cooled the traffic cop’s boots

Cooled everything until only my chest remained a
blazing hearth stacked high with kindling roaring
inwards

Thought about walking into East Side Ink and
having the lion on my arm adorned with words

Thought about going to Central Park to find DJ and
the illusive organic hotdog stand

Thought about becoming an illegal immigrant. I
took a nap instead and dreamt of how

They took the French lady off New York license
plates because she’s in New Jersey waters.

Grey wants to see me after all, but I’m afraid of
being Finished Up, so I settled for blueberry beer, a
cheese plate,

Stalking a Great Dane through Tompkins after
dark, and a squirt of perfume on my bug-bitten
ankle instead.

 

XI

AG, in ABC I perch at the bar thinking of the old
tree in my childhood backyard ripe with sap its
dark chocolate branches sagging over monkey bars

I was small but strong enough to lift my soft body
up by the red metal rungs, hoist myself feet first
then knees

Until I’d slithered to the top. I’d reach for the trunk
and pick the honey molten sap bemused by the
realization that trees have blood, too

Thinking on how band-aids rip off fast or slow and
visited by occasional vagrant butterflies,

Some white, some black with poisonous tiger
orange centres; they’re all dead now—

The butterflies, the monkey bars, even the old tree
no doubt dead and uprooted and familiar only to
my child self

Who gazed and grazed upon them in the Springs
and consequent Summers of the mid 80s when the
foliage was full

And the plums on the plum trees were full, and the
acacia bush was blushing pink and full and round

And the infinite camouflaged broad beans in the
veggie patch behind the rock garden under the
clothes line, abundant and full

And the cockatoo couple with their punk yellow
Mohawks standing at full attention, up, up, up

They fluttered up to the sizzling powerlines over
the back fence, I named them Salt and Pepper, both
long dead now, too.

It was my whole world and I outlived it all, it’s all
dead and gone and I’m on the other side of this life
wondering:

Will I outlive this place too? And I doubt that I
could or even wish to.