POEM: throw down your sock, Allen: an East Village bestiary

throw down your sock, Allen:
an East Village bestiary

sit on the church steps, she says
see that building across the street?
that’s where Ginsberg lived
I don’t cry, but I could
just think of the poets who stood
on this East Village sidewalk,
yelling up to the fourth floor
for Allen to throw down the key
wrapped in an old sock

a few blocks away is another spot
where Ginsberg lived, home
of the famous fire escape photo
of Jack Kerouac, who wrote most
of The Subterraneans here
imagine Jack and Allen talking
late into the night
about poetry and the Buddha
and Neal, always Neal

the tallest building in the East Village
was once the castle of the King
of the Stooges, son of Ypsilanti
who enjoyed taking off his shirt
and whose anarchic anthem now serves
as background music for Carnival Cruise ads
the only reasons he’s not spinning in his grave are
(a) he’s not dead and (b) all that money

DETOUR: A bird. A real live bird.

there’s no sign at all
that Frank O’Hara lived here
at 441 E. 9th St.
one of the principals of the
New York School
Frank taught us to write
with the bare nerve endings
pressed against the page

this Mexican restaurant?
Auden lived upstairs, perusing
his copy of The Times of London
and bemoaning the recent
liberation theology at St. Mark’s
Trotsky worked in the basement
years earlier, until the distant sound
of palace gunshots sent him back
to the New Russia

there’s a Buddha in the piercing shop
where Anne Waldman used to live
she the protector and chronicler
of what was started here
somewhere under the floor
is a time capsule
with a single hit of acid
waiting to expand the consciousness
of a construction worker or perhaps
the building superintendent

if you’re hungry, there’s a Chipotle
on the spot where Andy Warhol presented
The Velvet Underground
lost your appetite? I’m not surprised

when he was still called LeRoi Jones
he lived here with his wife and two kids
on the day Malcolm stopped breathing
he decided not to live here anymore
(his wife and two kids still did)

the yuppies are eight deep
outside what used to be The Tin Palace
but the Tin Emperor has left
taking his jester with him
no more saxophones filling the night
while the patrons crunch shells underfoot
now, aspiring actors in waist-down aprons
and crisp white Oxfords hover over
sidewalk tables full of hedge fund managers
you can keep your tired and your poor
thank you very much

finally there’s a nice young man
strumming a guitar in the empty
backroom bar
where Uncle Walt’s Lite Brite face
watches over the poets
in a blue-red benediction
I contain multitudes of light bulbs
says Uncle Walt

14 April 2012
the East Village

/ / /

It’s National Poetry Writing Month! A poem a day, each day in April. I wrote this poem after taking the East Village Poetry Walk, which I highly recommend. For more about the Tin Palace (mentioned in #10), here’s my interview with its founder, Paul Pines.