I can’t tell, it’s not that I won’t, I will, what was/is about Ted Berrigan. Either I never met or when I did I had already read the poet. Ted was the first & as far as I recall the poet who I met first & as far as I recall, the poet who I met with no true “introduction”. No one I knew either knew nothing of his work or just never mentioned him to me. So when I first saw him, heard him, I was knocked on my ass. No question. Here was the large solid buck of a man commanding everyone’s eyes/ears. Rapture. I assume thoughts in the most comforting engaging way. As if we’re a vaudeville magician – comedian-m.c. It’s like when you go to a museum exhibit & they have this huge ancient sculpture or tomb in a room that’s all wrong but somehow after a second or so, it’s perfect. & it was perfect. I hitch-hiked to Naropa with a buddy, Kevin. We were such dorks. I had just fallen in love & my whole life was climbing out & I ran. Ran to see Ginsberg & to get to the bottom of this poetry thing. Well we had some time to spare & if I remember right, Berrigan was doing a class & Kevin & I split up. The class was basically Ted talking non-stop. A few questions. A word-statement-something, would set off this avalanche. I was so confused. So fucking amazing. I remember stealing Red Wagon & On the Range. Later getting them signed at which he told me that On the Range was a strange book. Yes it is. Needless to say between love & Ted & a tremendous amount of very cheap tequila, I ended up chasing Kevin down some main street in Boulder with my knife threatening to cut his head off. I woke at the door step of a Dr. No glasses. No shirt. As I stumbled my way back to our camp I found my glasses & Kevin asleep. I would compare all my energy & emotion to the sensation of being electrocuted. But it was better than that. Electricity mellows you out. I was dazzled. I remember that Ted died the same month/year that Noah was born & I clipped his obit from either Time or Newsweek. Either way he is to me probably the greatest. He took everything, whether working class intellect Asian poetry Trisian Tzara – Frank O’Hara to baseball-pills-love & slapstick. A true descendant of Whitman – Ginsberg’s cousin. Pound’s nephew. I can’t stop from being amazed. Here are a few of my faves:
She is always two blue eyes
She is never lost in sleep
All her dreams are light & air
They sometimes melt the sun
She makes me smile, or
She makes me cry, she
Makes me laugh, and I talk to her
With really nothing particularly to say
Something to Remember
Caesar’s ghost must be above suspicion.
Radio just played Misfits. Now the Ramones. Again I forgot where I lay my head. I would put Ted alongside Li Po without question.
I would be insane not to add 2 poems from Frank O’Hara:
Why I Am Not a Painter
I am not a painter, I am a poet.Why? I think I would rather be a painter, but I am not. Well, for instance, Mike Goldbergis starting a painting. I drop in."Sit down and have a drink" he says. I drink; we drink. I lookup. "You have SARDINES in it." "Yes, it needed something there.""Oh." I go and the days go byand I drop in again. The paintingis going on, and I go, and the daysgo by. I drop in. The painting is finished. "Where's SARDINES?"All that's left is just letters, "It was too much," Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of a color: orange. I write a line about orange. Pretty soon it is a whole page of words, not lines.Then another page. There should be so much more, not of orange, of words, of how terrible orange is and life. Days go by. It is even in prose, I am a real poet. My poem is finished and I haven't mentioned orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.
The Day Lady Died
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday three days after Bastille Day, yes it is 1959, and I go get a shoeshine because I will get off the 4:19 in East Hampton at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner and I don't know the people who will feed me I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun and have a hamburger and a malted and buy an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets in Ghana are doing these days I go on to the bank and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard) doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or Brendan Behan's new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres of Genet, but I don't, I stick with Verlaine after practically going to sleep with quandariness and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega, and then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatere and casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a cartonof Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT while she whispered a song along the keyboard to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing.
As much as this prison wears me down & separation breaks my heart, I feel as if this amazing, though sad, parade has just passed by & the streets are silent with no one but myself & some idea of others though so far away. I stand in the middle of the street staring into that space where only a short time before it was glorious. & now Social Distortion on radio. Lopez seconds the motion that Mike Ness is a God. So again I ask myself “what is prison & who defines?” Thanks, Joel.
So this morning it was 9 below & wind chill around -20. Work wasn’t called off so I go in & start breaking my pallets & this guy asks me “how cold is it?” I tell him & he goes “what does the weather have to be not to work?” Well I’m not sure, but I know where this is going so I go “Look, we’re in prison. It’s their rules now.” I mean how clear does it have to be? If you can’t vote you have no power. It’s 1+1. Basic political math. It wasn’t that cold. My boss told me I might get yelled at for not wearing my coat (wearing sweatshirts). I explained you can’t tear things apart wearing a jacket & it was for like 20 minutes. Reality check. Did Bright Eyes get a Grammy?