She told him he needed a lover
And she had nothing to give
In her drunkenness
In her soberness
In her cocaine highs
He told her she’d given him something
He couldn’t say what
In his drunkenness
In his soberness
In his lonely blues
They both fell in love with phantoms
Whose kisses were cold as death
In their drunkenness
In their soberness
In the twinkling cocaine of the stars
What I'm Hiding From
(Or: Why I Live in California)
for Kaviraj George Dowden
I'm hiding from people like you, George
Who want to know the color of my soul's underwear
And whether there's fire in my brainstem
Or if I can crack poetry nuts without
A Norton's nutcracker
I'm afraid to tell them
How many times I can come in one night
Because this earth is a dangerous place
To tell people anything
They can stamp a number on
And the truth is I
Sometimes write poems
To keep the world away
But most of the time
It's really a coded map
To let the seekers like yourself
Find what's left of me.
POEM FOR THOSE WHO HAVE LIFTED THEIR VOICE
for Lawrence Ferlinghetti
It is a time of total lostness
When the soul of America lies mutilated
In a caved-in bomb shelter in Baghdad
When I look to every mailbox
For offers of help
When the numbers on gas stations
Echo like the body count in Vietnam
When a PEN executive tells me
“You can’t read a poem against the war
Because you haven’t paid your dues”
When a Marine sergeant in a wheelchair
Who says “Don’t kill”
Knows more than
The President of the United States
When Kenneth Rexroth lies buried
Under blood-red leaves
And the grass no longer grows and
The rivers no longer flow
For all the petrochemicals
You cannot write lyric poems
In a time of utter hatred
I have only my heart to offer
However little it matters—
But if I did not offer it
The sin would be compounded.
"The Spirit of St. Francis"
for Robert Newrock, 2
"I'm the king here," he says
daydreaming at the unreal blue sky
above this million-dollar mansion
in Manhattan Beach--
his paint-spotted black tennies
with holes in the sole and heel
on display as he stretches on a chaise longue.
(His new and better ones are in the backseat of his Volvo.)
Robert Newrock, United States Marine Corps in Korea and Vietnam--
his body like the Rock of Gibraltar,
never a shade less hard
though his face grows craggier every day.
He's got women on his mind--
suburban housewives, pregnant and with children,
they sprawl naked by the cerulean pool in his dreams
and invite him to paint bacchanalian orgies in their future
which only he can consummate and satiate--
because "we wouldn't be here if it weren't for lust."
Robert Newrock, painter, preacher, athlete,
sailor come home to success
with a tattoo that makes his arm look big enough
to nail his beliefs in peace and harmony
to a visionary cross, or raise a colossal sculpture
called "The Spirit of St. Francis"
as a guardian spirit over San Francisco Bay.
"I want the good life," he says.
"This is the good life."
Then he talks to the women, the real ones.
"Give me that child ... I'll hold him up in the water
and someday he'll be a champion swimmer"--
but the little boy's afraid,
and Robert's love is patient.
"Just tell him to think about it for a while,"
he tells the mother, and goes back to dreaming at the sky--
he sees his island in Brazil,
his 35 acres, his hermit's shack filled
with giant paintings of the sky, the waves, the stars
and sometimes naked brown-skinned women who dig
his pidgin Portuguese.
It's all too much to think of
in this little fenced-in yard
in Manhattan Beach--
the maids are upstairs making lunch,
the women are leaving him--
all he has left is the sunshine in his eyes
and he smiles because
it makes him feel like a king.
Nicosia is also well-known for his own poetry and fiction, much of which has been published in literary magazines. He frequently reads this material in public. He published a collection of his poetry, Lunatics, Lovers, Poets, Vets & Bargirls with Host Publications in Austin, Texas, in 1991, and has a new collection called Love, California Style forthcoming in 2001 from Buchenroth Publishing. He is also the author of a nonfiction novel about the tragic suicide of his friend Richard Raff, called Bughouse Blues.
Born November 18, 1949, in Berwyn, Illinois, just outside Chicago, Gerald Nicosia received a B.A. (1971) and an M.A. (1973) in English and American Literature, with Highest Distinction in English, from the University of Illinois in Chicago. In the late 1970's, Mr. Nicosia traveled the United States and Canada, interviewing over 300 people who knew Jack Kerouac. His biography of Kerouac, Memory Babe (Grove Press, 1983), earned the Distinguished Young Writer Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters while still a work-in-progress in 1978. Upon publication, it garnered over 200 reviews worldwide, and has generally been recognized as the definitive book on Kerouac’s life and work. It has been translated into French, Spanish, and Czech, and is currently in print in a revised U.S. edition from the University of California Press.
more info at geraldnicosia.com