Memories of the Bowery




I saw that sack of shit chauffeured past
bums building barrel fires on the Bowery
to keep warm in 1970 when his daddy
made him rich as high treason and
misdemeanours in his brain-dead mind
vets & down-and-outers slept on street.

I yelled to my friend in a loft off Delancey
Throw down the key my sweet
get me off this fuckin’ street
on stairs to artists’ lofts bums sleep
like ghosts from razed burlesque halls
of ancient poolrooms and eight balls
of faded wreaths, pennants, and the play
long since blended in dismal golden gray.

Throw down the key and let me in.
I gotta new felt tip pen and want
to write about vicarious pimp sins
of Mott Street’s ancient opium dens
they say in Hell’s Kitchen I wanna buy in.
The factory lofts of old truckmens’ raging fits
in mothers mystic closets now shelters artists.

The years pass like tapes going round in my brain
pimps, poets, presidents, piss, dogshit and trains
nothing happens, no parts fit, the same at the top
as at the bottom, the tape goes around
one side loses, the other gains, and the
lie in the middle remains the same.

You walk past me, I walk past you
and the bums walk crazily
from side to side fighting the gravity of puke
beneath the seagull’s liberty.
Throw down the key, my sweet
and get me off this street.
The pimps are dressed in white.
Suburbanites drive pimp Cadillacs too
shop at stores full of lamps and La Machines
slam car doors to lock them into
the American dream at Wall St. rates.
Bend down and kiss the asphalt.
You voted for it, rip it off . . . scheme . . .
make your play in Losing Street scene.

Turn away from the young gun quickly,
a subterranean rose drama in Little Italy.
(Rosetta with your dreamy eyes
lips grown calm at fourteen
half smile, half scowl no one knows)

Switchbladed from love to hate
slick as the pockets of your
black motorcycle jacket.

A replay of Dallas on T. V.
Throw down the key.
Who knows but what super star
may fall out of the American orbit tonite.

Hey man, there’s Van Gogh
ringing the bell on Amsterdam
A thousand merchants pathetically
meeting his eyes. He lends an ear.

Past Bill Burroughs’ bunker, the ancient Y
To John Giorno’s, I have to say “hi”
scat past Andy’s Factory
for fifteen minutes into the future.
To Max’s K.C. speedshift
the night is fluid and swift
red and white surrealistic gate
end of Lexington Avenue.

Fear and crime
kaleidoscopic dada vu
cut out my face, put in you.

Gladiator rock and superbike 2,000cc
collage of purple nights and odysseys.
Let it all hang out, put it all back in
and the cockroaches shall inherit
the grime, the pills, the alcohol,
the overdose of life and the spit
in barrel fires sizzling on the Bowery.

They play the block jive of broken banjos
the last tangos with old Marlon Brando’s
when cold Nor’easter throws cruel cold
over the waterfront, rubbing hands of old.
I remember their trying to hold her great love.

Drag fucking patriotic wings like phoney drones
past locked cars, windows of latest cell phones
to praise God and bend down to kiss the asphalt.


—Charles Plymell
Montage: Claire Palmer


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