UNDERGROUND VOICES: POETRY
ROBERT BOHM

A Slave of Will, the Intrinsic Is What We Make It
for Joyce Steins


I wonít degrade what we did, wonít call
that mix of beer and humping
sex. It was much more
than that: a spectacular
failure to connect even when connected. I held on

to you as I
went in, falling

it seemed

past the logic of things, beyond why
shale crumbles or the right womanís
thigh is like

the infinite. Thatís when

there on he floor

from below me
your mid
section slammed up

against my belly, trying
to rise straight through me
and escape through the ceiling, hating

my over
drinking and punching of walls. It was then
that I

came, each of us
so slick with sweat
in the downtown walkup that we slid
out of each othersí clutches, you

sliding out the door and me
slipping
off to sleep. We
never

saw each other after that, our
on-again off-again love-thing
finished at last. So now

42 years later, Iím not sure what
I feel when

googling you
I locate

your 14-year-old obituary
in the Times. The writing
is very clear
but predictably

says nothing about
us, which means

I canít find anything to anchor me
in the fact of your death, although there is
mention of details which indicate
your trajectory, how
you never stopped going
after getting away from me: a year

later you received
your anthropology degree and following that there was
a stint working at
the American Museum of Natural History. You were still then

more or less
the woman I knew, angular-
faced, tallish, in your
20s, hanging

out with west side motorcycle riders, your old flame Bobby Dane bragging
that no matter how much education you got
you still had room in your heart
for the scrappers you knew when young. The part

of the obit in which you end up
owning your own
trendy restaurants and drinkjoints, even that
is no surprise, I guess, particularly

that one place you had, Le Bar Bat
on W. 57th St., with its

blue handblown glass bats gliding
wings spread
in dim light
on this side of that line beyond which

the ambience ends
and whatever is out there returns, as did

also
and repeatedly

the unsublimated you, with your
art and child abuse fundraisers and
long before them

(the obit writers didnít know about this, did they?)

you once getting
multiple sclerosis mixed up with
rheumatoid arthritis in your panic to rid the world

of pain. About that same time
one night you dubbed yourself
Moon Madonna in my flat
on Thompson St. in the Village, then years later

according to the Times
you became
ďthe self-styled Mama IguanaĒ
at your Tex-Mex cafe on 19th, going
from table to table, talking up
the patrons while secretly

(this is the info I bring to the picture)

every bit of you was still
your Slavic building-supervisor daddyís
big-boned daughter in love

with his toolbox, in which he lugged
around, you once claimed, everything
one needed in order to take apart

cubism and understand it
inside out. A Coney Island night
was when you said it, us swigging
from a Schlitz quart while you
pontificated about

everything, including
one of your favorite topics:
the amusement parkís Wonder Wheel, which symbolized
you maintained
all that sucked about people, our

circular logic in particular, ďthe way
we think our thoughts are actually going someplace
when the mind gets on
its ferris wheel, but eventually it gets off
in the same fucking spot where it got on!Ē Staring

at me, you laughed
grumpily then, a lover-of-life
brought low by your own

gifts. But you
figured a way

out, didnít
cave in, didnít
let yourself or anyone else

hold you back.

Earlier, I didnít know what to feel
about your death. Now I do:
that itís one of those moments
when what I feel doesnít count.

Your life spoke for itself.


Poem for Gregory Corso

Filthy streetsnow piled on the corner
of Thompson and Prince. I noticed it
but only half-assedly, looking down
from the walkup designed
by an architect who knew more about
the bare-bones of things than any poet did. Which

is why (the bare-boned
part) so many of us but not him
ended up living in those ratholes, crawling
over kidsí heads if we had to, anything
to get our mescalin or day-old chop suey, all the time hoping
the linoleum peeling from the rotted floorboards

would teach our skin to curl up at the edges too, revealing
that we also
had decayed underneath. That
was the poem each of us hoped
to scrawl, an epic to honor

(in your words)
ďa property with a single ruin
-- Me,Ē the me being the banged up ego

you saw as the holy grail in which
eternal spirit chose to be carried from one
location to another. And so
knowing we were
the anointed, we crowded
into the Village, pushing
out the Italians and Ukrainians, in order

to make space for our poems. You however
orphaned at birth and an ex
con by twenty
had

grown up there and were holding on
to it, sometimes slipping through
jimmied doors to steal
whatever it is that makes an unsuspecting pipefitter
hum Frank Sinatra songs
at dawn. Anyway, not long ago

I read in the paper
how you died in 2001, a year or two after
a filmmaker found your mother
still alive, a woman

youíd never met and had long thought dead. Consequently

for all those years she was less substantive
than the Italian ruins
you liked to visit, those remnants
of a lost empire
of make-believe
that you loved but didnít really
believe in and then

in the end
there she was, Mother, and you
were finally home, dead. The sadness

that walks among us now, holding
a Gucci bag and saying
the parties in Chelsea are nicer than ever, isnít
for you. This poem

however

is


Another Poem for Sajitha

Darker than a grand piano
on a stage
with the key lid down
for the night

the oceanís depths
are the heart's
most wounded parts spread everywhere
while far above

waves fling white foamflecks
into a light
unechoed down here, except

by fish pulsing near the ocean floor, their scales coated
with luminescent bacteria that make
the depths glow like a chemical charge igniting

a synapse in the brain, this being
the act

of me thinking
about your hand dragging
a brush across a canvas and suddenly
thereís a fish swimming into view, the water

dark yet also
glimmering









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