Butterflies & Ghetto Guts
a beautiful glance of coal-black skin, an arrow of recognition
There was not only a physical compatibility which we happened upon that cold March night, but there also appeared this intangible spiritual embrace: artistic, young, friendly (if those words could be used to describe lovers).
For a year we walked through public institutions and Livonia, New York backroads, through universities and cosmopolitan slums, eating scholarly criticisms and digesting innovative spirits. We shat out poems.
At home we baked fresh breads and sipped beer from Chinese cups, incensing the air with our mere presence.(Our elders would anger at just the fact of our being. When we tried to explain, it only enraged them. So we wrote.)
At work we confronted Public, that suspicious abstract that walks into your home without saying hello, although occasionally strangers became instant friends and allowed for Discovery.
The monies we earned were meager, but our plate always seemed full: the menu of simple faith and wild greens and powdered milk. (He detested the milk, I couldn't even use it in the mixes. But for the most part he ate in silence, which is a humility of sorts.)
The future remained for us quite open, quite unknown, although we did fondle little plans: tiny africas and exotics. Most of the time it was just enough to watch the world pass by, our friends drifting through to complain or inspire. I would be moved by a face on a swift-moving bus, a beautiful glance of coal-black skin, an arrow of recognition.
If I started on another picture I feared that I might lose it: vignettes, cameos, mind-slides clicking: " Mama's not gonna help you." he said. "You're on your own and you've got a long way to go."
So I recalled shaking hands with a philosopher-mathematician who asked me my name and when I pronounced it he pulled back in fraudulent academics. But some man did cling to him, some motherless chap who drooled kisses and spattered the philosopher's lapel, drowning his prestige. I left embarassed for the both of them. Sorry I had wasted an hour of their zen, of the young group's San Franciscan gullibility, so hungry for gurus and leaders they followed their trails of steaming turds like hunters.
She said: "Watch where you're going, you might get stepped on." But it was too late. I had already started my own trail.
"Timeless" would be unconscious of trends, traditions, modes, habits, customs, styles, paces, ideas...
Innovations are timeless. "West Side Story" in 400 years. Charlie Chaplin. Marlon Brando. Popeye. Hitler.
I am on the brink of superiority, fighting prissiness and exagerrated hyperbole, gifted as advertiser of unjustified virtues, virtuous energy redeemed through poetry, poetic dialogue.
But virtuousity can be unbalanced. This is the danger: of falling off mountain tops into lakes of chocolate-think. Coated pills for the young. Storytime best sellers.
It would be wonderful to write a book for children without coating the pill of reality. Not that fantasy doesn't have its place. On the contrary, it occupies a broad spectrum from Disney to Dali. It's just that we don't see Dali. His creations expand as untouchables, as Easter, and Disney mickey mouses while Mylai rumbles. It must be a lonely dirt road.
It was these "ohs" that gave me perspective, that gently set me onto Sanity, that fickle tightrope. Below there gathered scholars, academicians, professional critics, editors and of course the bookbinders. I wanted to be binded as reference to a phenomena eternal. I wanted to allow myself, through a small vocabulary (carried to the logarithmic nth) to expand, permitting medicine to be pornographic and fucking to be medicinal.
Think of all the ways one can be "godly".
Why are we fighting, when there is no-answer? Why are we killing when stars might be looking?
Why do we stubborn in tradition and patriot, wrapping our dead in the ignorance of flags?
Come join us now, we have gathered information: watch for wild dandelion and the May burdock.
Sit by the blank page and wait for no-answer. It comes of a sudden unexpected gushing.
Hold onto Life's current, mysterious and generous: flowing through welfare halls, beer saloons, classrooms (the internet)...
"Butterflies & Ghetto Guts" is the author's journal entry for March 1978, while he was teaching a course in creative writing at the Free University at R.I.T. in Rochester, New York. Thirty three years later he would add a word to his entry that didn't exist then, namely "the internet"......