On August 13, four friends and I gave a poetry reading at Arts Upstairs in Phoenicia, New York. The event became an impromptu benefit for Doctors Without Borders. Below is the letter I wrote to the organization, along with a check for $50.
My friend Alan Fliegel has been asking me to do a poetry reading at his shop ("60 Main: A Community Store") here in Phoenicia, New York, for a few months. Finally we organized it, for last Saturday, the 13th. I asked my wife, Violet Snow, to read, and Anique Taylor. (The three of us met at a poetry workshop at the St. Mark's Church in the East Village of Manhattan, in 1985.) Then we added Marx Dorrity, the journalist, poet, novelist. And Paul McMahon, the legendary fluid, interstitial songwriter (and guitarist) agreed to sing.
A week before the reading, I ran into my friend Andrea, who told me about the Somalia crisis. "Maybe we can pass the hat," I thought. Last Saturday, at the reading, we had a jar for contributions -- we made exactly $49. ("That's a spiritual number, seven sevens," I thought, but at that moment, my old friend Jeffrey Gross gave me an extra dollar, to make an even 50.)
So I'm sending you the $50 we collected, in a hamlet in the Catskills, for the suffering people -- our sisters and brothers -- in Somalia.
My wife read this poem:
I fly my bike down Avenue B
under a slice of moon.
It's September, my bike is in
love. We two share love secrets
all through Chinatown, pass
Feast Parking, Drown the Clown,
Balloon Water Race,
then head back uptown,
die happy on First,
gorging on moon garbage.
This is a poem by Anique:
A LOVE POEM IN SPITE OF ITSELF
In the old, green beach chair on the roof above you
You, who offer up your stirring hazelness
Only often enough to keep me remembering
Mist streamers falling from clouds to the skyline
To the Cooper Union clock room
To St. George's Ukrainian Church
Dappled pigeons bathing in the rooftop puddles
splattering ripple baths over the garage
The roof above your
Yellow blanket windows
Empty six-pack fortresses piled high by the door
Wooden milk crate bookcases
Paper bags folded by the cleaning fluids in the
And sleeping munchkin daughter
in blanket pajamas.
(Your hands like nettles in my bed)
Rose, civet, patchouli, musk
Black tar dreams floating you far mellow away from me.
When I was three-years-old,
they made a big fuss over Kathy Allen
The ceiling falling like eggshells, like us
A pasty-faced baby in a candy pink snowsuit
(Cobalt, alizarin, tahini, khona)
When she was five, she burned her hand
Her palm wrinkled up and shrunk in like sizzled bacon
"How?" I asked my mother.
"She touched a hot, hot iron.
So you remember.
Don't you ever, ever touch..."
I nodded, big-eyed & solemn, "I'll keep safe," I lied
A baby, even then I knew a burning
that never even shows, my love
And even fortyish now, on the damp, green morning roof chair
I think I have stayed so long that here is no exit free from fire
Patchouly, missing musk, and everybody burning somehow.
But others know this too, and they continue somehow
(Bitter rue, agrimony, tansy, ragwort)
Even as we sleep and burn,
On any warm morning
Young trees that line my street for the first time this year
May be thinking of blooming
(Even as you sleep and burn)
And even now
There are people walking up and down St. Marks Place
Carrying newborn babies in their arms
In warm bundles
Like secret fruit.
Here's one of the poems I read:
The Physics of Gaining Weight
By eating matter,
I got fatter.
Here is one of Marx Dorrity's poems:
continue to hide
Emblem of light,
In your caves
of leaves, drink
the crushed wrapping,
on a reverend pond.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.