Monday, July 18, 2016


Oh come back, whatever heart
you have left.  It is my life
you save.  The poem is done.
                         —John Wieners
This from the last 3 lines of Wieners’ “A Poem for Painters,”
in his San Francisco masterpiece The Hotel Wentley Poems.
Somewhere in Polk Gulch, purportedly about being painted
by Paul Klee, nine years and ten days before I, myself,
crawled through a drainpipe in Fort Smith, Arkansas, ugly
and slapped.  I cried, too, halfway between San Francisco
and Boston, knowing even then, perhaps, that I’d be nowhere
but anywhere until I was either here or there.  Here being
one block down from the eastern tip of Nob Hill, which is
just a few short blocks east of Polk Gulch, which, also, to-
wards (or almost to), I walk almost daily.  This, the neighbor-
hood of the Hotel Wentley at a certain time.  This is as certain
as can be, that it is less than a mile from me, now, sitting at
my desk, looking over the rooftops of the Tenderloin to
my right, and the nibs of the landmark shortscrapers
of the Financial District to my left. I had the great honor
of hearing him read from his own voice, in person, a
couple of times when he was alive.  And also, when he
was alive (somewhat, it seemed to me) at the Corbetts’
party in the South End (Boston, of course – so grand
were Bill and Beverly’s parties there, so lucky I felt,
and if ever there were a man as good at paying homage,
be it to greats such as Wieners or to unknowns, such as I
was when I took my very first poetry class at MIT,
where it was free to me, an employee, just under 30
years old).  This particular party, held shortly after the
inaugural of Pressed Wafer, a press the name of which
derived from another line of John Wieners’ poetry.  And
it was there that I first officially met him, Wieners.  I’ve
no idea exactly what I said to him but I do remember
cradling his hand for a moment, over-excitedly, a
hand that, as I do recall, could rarely be seen, only
emerging occasionally from whatever longer-than-
arms’-length jacket he’d be wearing.  But when
they did stretch through and out of those overly long
sleeves, they’d reach out—through Kentucky and
over the Hoover Dam—like a bridge across a fucked-
up continent, and to a down and outcast heart, which
is how I at least think of mine now, mouldering, even,
never able to crack, though, like Klee’s poetried
portrait, or the memory of that lovely and surreal
party held in honor of a man who was and is a
superhero to many, certainly to myself.  All of
this just clings to my insides, gripping at lung and
tarnish, at whatever heart there is or might be.  It’d
be nothing but a hollow wish, this living, during
times like these, were it not for you and yours
to come and save.  My gratitude to you all,
those who are always at the rescue.