Into The Fire

A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen

Mary Clark
Dedicated to Richard Spiegel, founder of the New York Poetry Festival
in appreciation for his clarity of vision and inspiration
Thanks to Poets & Writers for fair and generous support of the Poetry Festival
at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, 423 West 46th Street, New York City
Photographs by Mary Clark
Copyright 2014 by Mary Clark
All rights reserved. For permission to use any portion or all of this document or
photographs, please contact the author via her website:
http://maryclarkauthor.weebly.com
Mary Clark is the author of Miami Morning (2016) and Tally: An Intuitive Life (2013), All
Things That Matter Press. Children of Light, a poetry novel is online at tenpennyplayers.org.
A novella, Covenant, is a Kindle ebook. Her blog is: http://literaryeyes.wordpress.com

1 Poetic License
1978
Talk about miles to go, miles of snow, a transfigured night and all in sight covered in a
winding sheet of white.
Stopping by a snowy Ninth Avenue, face and hands wrapped against the wind, I
contemplated the divide before me. Ice-crystals glittered in streetlights and snow fenced
sidewalks. The city streets were deserted, and I was alone in the canyoned silence. On the
avenue’s arctic slope, deep within the haunting sound of a muted city I could hear gypsy cabs
snorting dragon-breath in the dark, and I would have stayed to watch fringes of icicles on fire
escapes glow in the dying light.
Crossing Ninth Avenue, I heard the wolf howl in the wind. Into a cumbersome gap hacked
in frozen snow I pioneered, and westward to find a narrow trail past four and five-story
buildings. Bare choirs of trees fell silent, only ticking now and then in frozen despair, until a
faint glow, just the slightest cinematic glimmer, fell on the crooked path. I leaned back, one hand
on a rack of ice, to see a living painting: a red brick building with tall arched windows of earth
and sky-colored glass, indigo peaked gables and copper crosses with a patina of green. They
sprang from a light gray luminous sky that seemed to be alive and breathing.
Double wood plank doors, painted in vertical stripes of chipped red, white and blue, were
shuttered against the cold and any vagrants or visitors who might venture in. Hiking up the steps,
kicking footholds in rime-encrusted snow, I peered through wire netting at an empty stairway to
heaven. Tracking again through Technicolor traces from the lighted windows, I discovered a
second set of steps and a brightly lit hallway.
A royal blue and white plaque with a strident red cross was visible through a crust of frost:
Welcome to St. Clement’s.
A bare bulb in a metal cage hung above the steps. Up and down the street of tenements and
brownstones, and on windowsills and steps festooned with snow, there was no other light.
On the far side of a railing, steps led to a single recessed arch, and winding down and up
again, I began knock-knocking-knocking on heaven’s door.
A small round bell bolted to the brick caught my eye. I heard the buzz resound and die.
Richard Spiegel, the director of the Poetry Festival at St. Clement’s, opened the door.
“Mary?”
In his early thirties, Richard’s long, wavy chestnut hair and trimmed beard shone with a soft
gleam of mahogany and substrata strands of red.
I had my poetic license in the back pocket of my blue jeans, and borders to cross. I stepped
inside. “I promised I’d come one day.” My eyes pulsated with red and white light as I thawed
from the glacial trek.
I was one of only three. We read wine-poetry and drank red wine in cups from St. Clement’s
kitchen.
In the news the next day I read a man had been murdered while we were breeding poetry, in
one of the buildings behind the church, hacked to pieces and carried in bags to the corner trash
can. A trail of blood in the snow marked the way to Ninth Avenue.

~

When the frost cleared, I returned to Hell’s Kitchen. It was a risk, a life in the arts, but I had
to forge my own way.
Jeff Jones, the administrator of the church and Theater at St. Clement’s, welcomed me to his
office. He was tall, the office small. He enormously filled the room, like a scene in “Alice in
Wonderland.”
“I came to a poetry reading here. I know Richard Spiegel from another reading series he ran
in Midtown several years ago. I’ve been thinking about working in a theater, behind the scenes.
Is there anything part-time?” Seeing his reaction, I amended, “or volunteer?”
“There’s lots to do,” Jeff said. “There’s nothing paid at this time.” He added, “But it’s a
place to start, and you might find something you can do.”
I was living in a Single Room Hotel and on the dole. I needed a job. This would be on-thejob training.
Jeff asked if I would like to help Richard with the poetry program, but I said, no, “I want to
do something different, to work with a group of people and get away from writing.” Writing, I
meant to say, was not enough.
“Do you know anything about stage managing?”
“I like lighting,” I said. “I would like to learn how to do that.”
“Would you be interested in helping build the set?
I perked up. “That sounds like fun.”
Jeff said to talk to Steve Cramer, the Technical Director. He asked again, “Are you sure you
don’t want to do something with poetry?”
No, I nodded, “I want to try this.”
Every theater is like a cave, a shadow-box. Down a flight of stairs beyond the offices in the
front hallway, the “downstairs space” was a glorified basement, except that it was lined with
large windows on the outside red brick wall that let in the light, opening on a brick wall, a
neighbor’s backyard garden and view of rooflines. Beside the windows, tall plywood boards
painted black leaned against the wall. These could be placed in the windows, blocking off any
light. All the other walls were painted light-absorbing matte black.
A tall, lean man, Steve Cramer, the Technical Director, or “TD,” was a young Abe Lincoln
look-alike, from Illinois or Indiana, and in time I learned that he was just as judicious and fair.
Steve and I positioned wooden platforms to form a stage and seating area.
“How do you lift these all by yourself?”
Moving one end, he placed it on the top edge of another. “Don’t lift when you can
leverage.”
Some platforms had rows of red seats bolted onto them. “Old Roxy seats,” he said. “We
salvaged them when they tore down the theater.”
We secured scrims in place to create a black backdrop and obscure the machine shop
backstage. He showed me how to repair holes and tears in the set’s walls with fabric and glue.
We tested the doors and windows.
“If you have to move furniture or other props, mark where they belong with small x’s in
white chalk.” The poetry program and the church both used the space, but they had to replace
anything they moved to its original location.
I watched the lighting crew work, clipping lights on the exposed grid. There were different
kinds of lights, and colored gels that fit on them. I picked up a light.
“Fresnel,” I said.
“Fer-nel,” the lighting director said.

Steve returned and he gave me the job of finishing nailing down the carpet.
I attended the first night and was thrilled when the actors came out and walked on that
carpet!

~
Jeff said, “At St. Clement’s, liturgy and the arts collide and divide, and sometimes coalesce
to create something new. If it comes together, it’s transcendent, but if not, chaotic.”
He worried that Richard was trying to do too much: benefits for causes, poets theater,
weekly readings. “Richard could use some help with the Poetry Festival.”
I wavered. After all, I was trying to put space between me and the Emily Dickinson
syndrome. But did Richard need help? He had been running poetry readings for some time.
Would he want me to help out? “I don’t know if he wants help.”
“I think he will.”
With ambivalence: excitement, caution, curiosity, anticipation, wondering if I fit in and if
this was what I wanted to do, I sat with Richard as the poets came in for the Monday night
reading.
After talking for a while, and watching the poets and audience come in, I asked him, “Would
you want me to help out with the poetry program?”
He answered quietly, but emphatically, with a discussion about scheduling readers.
At the next Monday night reading, I greeted people and collected donations at the door to
the downstairs theater. Afterwards, Richard, and poets Rochelle Ratner, Jim Bertolino, Maurice
Kenny, and I went out for coffee. We had a wonderful time and I did not get home ’til 2 a.m.
A compact, intense but friendly older man, Maurice was co-editor with Josh Gosciak of
Contact/II, a Bimonthly Poetry Review. I noticed that he was selling postcards of American
Indian women and artwork. Maurice said he was Native American, a Mohawk from upstate New
York. The postcards were from his Strawberry Press, bringing out the work of diverse Native
Americans.

~
In the front office, I scanned the church newsletter. It proclaimed that the vicar,
congregation and arts staff “explored changes in America’s social and moral values.”
A pen and ink drawing of the church building by church member and architect Simon
Thoresen depicted St. Clement’s sailing into a gale with all its gables and crosses flying.
Are we at sea?
In the front office, Richard held up a poster of whales serendipity-ing across a blue-white
expanse and the poetry program’s name bending in synchronicity. “A friend of mine did this,” he
explained. “What do you think?”
“It’s beautiful. But whales?”
“I know.”
On the other hand, are poets whales?
Was St. Clement’s a ship at sea, with whales sporting about, safe from the harpoon?
Michael Hadge, the Theater at St. Clement’s director, hot-booted in, carrying an armful of
scripts. He charged about in tight corduroy jeans, tailored cowboy shirt and polished boots,

scripts flying to the four winds. He and Anita Khanzadian, the theater’s second chair, were
planning the next season of Off-Off Broadway plays for the Theater at St. Clement’s.
Jeff Jones lounged behind his desk in the windowless middle office, conducting meetings
with panache. The Board of Managers at St. Clement’s attended the meetings along with the arts
program directors.
Yes, we are all managers.

Anita Khanzadian and Michael Hadge

On Monday nights Richard and I sat at the door to the downstairs theater while destitute
poets dropped change into a Poor Box to hear other equally starving poets. Richard used the
money to pay the poets and print flyers. And of course, buy wine.
We met several times a week to plan readings and write press releases. He proposed that I
take over the readings during the summer months so he could take a vacation. It all seemed too
much too fast.
My friend Sally, who wanted to be known as Kip, asked if I could get in touch with Muriel
Rukeyser.
Muriel Rukeyser? Was she kidding?
Kip said she wanted to protest the policies of the American Poetry Review.
“Her number’s in the phone book,” Richard told me. “She’ll talk to anyone.”
I never thought to look there. I forwarded the information to Kip.
One day, Richard approached me in the blue hallway, with a Cheshire grin. “I want you to
meet a friend of mine, an old man who lives in the Village near me.” He ushered me down the
hallway toward Jeff’s office.
A tall thin, elderly man with long flowing white hair and short beard and mustache, in a
wrinkled Arrow shirt, was setting out paintings on the filing cabinets, chairs and desks. He
greeted me with a smile, blue eyes paranoid but twinkling.
“PJ,” Richard said, “this is Mary. She’s going to help set up the display.”
PJ placed several pieces of artwork on a table. “I call these Impressions, my textile art.”
I reached out to touch them. Tactile, textile.
After the exhibit opened, PJ invited Richard and me to visit him at his home in Greenwich
Village. His garret was crammed with boxes of clippings, letters, typewritten pages, books,
newsletters, leaflets. Window frames crumbled at the touch. Electrical sockets hung loose in the
walls, which were covered with what looked like soot.
Touching long grimy tendrils above the stove, I said, “There must have been a fire.”

“No,” PJ replied. “There was no fire.”
Oh. My hand wavered.
“In a way,” he said, “there was a fire.”

2 Ladders of Flame
Upstairs in St. Clement’s sanctuary’s vast open space, rows of tall arched windows
resembled trees, and their stained glass mosaics formed branches, flowers and leaves. The
peaked roof with hewn beams two stories high was Noah’s Ark come to rest upside down on
Manhattan Island, filled with seminal winds and sounds of the flood.
A red carpet on the stairs and in the offices was worn but still warmed to the glow from the
windows’ mosaics. These mosaics were not primary colors and depictions of saints or scenes
from the Bible, but Longfellow’s forest primeval—lichen green on fallen trees, earthy orange,
and clouds streaking into blue.
Watty Strouss, a member of the church’s Board of Managers, said, “Oh, they’re actually not
stained glass. They’re leaded glass.”
“There’s beauty under the grime.”
“We’d like to restore them, but it’s very expensive. Each piece needs to be cleaned and reset with new binding.”
A heavy wire mesh covered all the street-front windows, crisscrossing the muted mosaics.
The protective mesh made the church look almost medieval.
“Oh,” Watty said, the word “oh” a major part of his vocabulary and depending on the
inflection, having different meanings like the Chinese language. “Someone didn’t like our being
an anti-war church and threw a Molotov cocktail through an upstairs window.”
In the 1960s, he told me, Joan Baez was married in the church. Later she referred to it as
“that funky little peace church on the West Side.” Watty sighed. “She couldn’t remember our
name.”
The upstairs space was both the Sanctuary where services were held and a theater. In the
1960s it had been remodeled to accommodate the American Place Theater. After American Place
left for new digs in the basement of a high-rise on West 46th between Sixth and Seventh
Avenues, another Theater at St. Clement’s was born. That incarnation had a good run, but
collapsed amid questions of missing funds. The current Theater at St. Clement’s started in the
early 1970s and operated in the downstairs space, which was also called the downstairs theater.
The church’s main income came from renting the Upstairs Space to outside theater groups.
Every Sunday church services were held onstage, making use of the current play’s set to match
the sermon’s theme. Vestry members with blue jeans beneath their robes rolled out altar and
pulpit and lowered a large crystal cross from its station in the light grid high in the beams.
So, the Upstairs Space had several names as well, depending on its current use and who was
using it: the Upstairs Space, the Sanctuary, and the Upstairs Theater.
Alone at the massive gray metal desk in the front office I heard sounds in the church: voices,
stories, pieces of song, wind in the sanctuary, birds in the oak tree, the organist practicing hymns,
tales of the flower fund and the trust for burying the poor.
From where I stood on the church steps, I could see lines of tenements come riding out of
the setting sun, full-tilt railroad flats roaring toward midtown Manhattan. Skyscrapers rose in
Pyrrhic tower after tower, the Hudson River sang through the streets of its power; scarlet mist

filled the air, diffusing over playgrounds and bars, vacant lots, delis, schools and cars. Fire
escapes flared the red of steel mill fires, and flames slashed across tenement faces.
I walked into the street:
This is the fire, this is the glow
as flames rise in the core,
heat rises ethereal, takes on new forms,
almost human, they flow
along fire escapes: angels, angels
walking on ladders of flame

~
Denise Levertov’s speech, “The Education of the Poet,” at the Donnell Library, was
thrilling, incredible. The auditorium was packed. It startled me so many people would turn out
for a talk on poetry.
The Poetry Festival reading drew eighty people, almost a full house. There was a notice in
the Daily News “Leisure” section, put in by the readers.
The poets:
Susan Axelrod, Linda Stern, Kathryn Cullen DuPont, Keelin Curran, Amy Roth
Soon afterward at a Poetry Festival reading I met Dan Stokes, who looked like a young,
roly-poly Bacchus. He was the editor of the East River Review, a series of poetry pamphlets, and
the New York Culture Review, publishing articles on poets and writers, especially those who
broke with tradition.
Dan asked me if I would like to read manuscripts that had been sent to him. “I’m way
behind.”
I said yes, and he gave me the address of the New York Culture Review bookstore, and we
set a time for me to pick them up. Daniel M.J. Stokes lived in the back of his bookstore on East
Fourth Street near First Avenue.
He was a post Beat poet with a brusque exterior but an affable heart. His poems about the
tortures and joie de vivre of love, poverty, crime, and freedom, made him part of the François
Villon tradition.
PJ was also free, but in a way that seemed to have nothing to do with society. “I have a
theory,” PJ said at my next visit, “that intuition is a motivating force in our lives.”
“Intuition? Isn’t that just a way of sensing things?”
“No, it’s more than that. The intuition is a program we build ourselves, and it’s linked to
every part of our nature and the environment. And it begins in infancy, unconsciously, as we
build up a memory-storage of amiable and hostile experiences.” This intuitive program leads us
to act and respond in either a positive or negative way, instantaneously, before we know it.
“And it is based on what. . .”
“What is valuable. A person evaluates every action for its worth.”

~

In my Single Room Occupancy (SRO) room on the Upper West Side for working and
indigent women, I was reading The Aesthetics of Silence by Susan Sontag, and Film Form by
Sergei Eisenstein.
From the book on film, Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies, I made these notes:
modern film “involves a struggle to remain faithful to the transitory, multisuggestive
complication of a movie image and/or negative space. Negative space, the command of
experience… an artist can set resonating… so that there is a murmur of poetic action enlarging
the terrain of the film, giving the scene an extra-objective breath.”
Extra-objectively, “Loba; Part 2” by Diane di Prima was lighting up my nights. Sharing its
love of adventure, with all its risk and elation, the wildness of the words brought me back to my
beginnings in Florida. Henry Miller said Paris was his mother. Florida was both my mother and
father.
My long poem about Florida and childhood was in Richard’s hands.
Waves half dark, half light leap and spin
flashing hooves and windswept manes
sleek black flanks and spinning wheels
of a chariot carrying the moon
wings of darkness flutter and fall
palms bow and bend and arc in the wind
as the surf sings
strength and renewal
strength and renewal
Richard suggested I read part of it in May with Duane Locke, an Immanentist poet from the
University of Tampa. I lost my breath and could not speak. I was too shy to read my own work.
In a 1976 issue of Dan Stokes’ New York Culture Review, Locke wrote about
“Immanentism.”
It is a linguistic reality engendered by a heightened and intensified awareness, a quality
of consciousness different from the habitual and ordinary consciousness... The immanent
poem results from a fusion of the subject and object, the inner and the outer, the knower
and the known into a qualitatively different and new substantial reality.
Richard asked me to schedule June and July.
At Womanbooks on the Upper West Side, I heard two good poets: Akua Lezli Hope and
Audre Lorde. It was raining cats and dogs, overwhelming umbrellas and street drains. After the
reading, I hung around, trying to work up the courage to ask Audre Lorde to read at St.
Clement’s, but I was too miserable about my own life: needing love, work that earned money,
success as a writer, to approach her. She left suddenly and the woman from the bookstore said
she had not been feeling well but came to read that evening anyway.

~

Early on a Monday evening, Dan Stokes came into the downstairs space before his reading.
Richard and I and Dan and another poet began drinking the wine.
“Not going to be an audience,” Dan assured us. “No one ever comes to my readings.” He
belched.
The poet Barbara Holland came in. She was not amused. There was definitely fire there
under the surface, heating the magma, and her slopes were covered with cinders and sulfuric ash.
A small audience filtered into the seats. They were not amused.
I started work on a new piece, “Buffy,” about a child who lived on an island. The view was
subconscious, subliminal. It had an odd style, I thought: my style.
Her father, absent, an enemy or stranger, fluttered his long silky wings when
passing through windows and doors, weaving in and out magically, always in
mid-flight, then settling a moment on the back of her mother’s chair... He was her
bird now, a bird of prey.
Kip said she thought it should be a mixture of poetry, prose and dialogue. “You could be the
Henry James of psychological poetry.”
Sid Bernard said my writing was too dense, with a confusing concentration of images. He
was right. I was being true to the direction my writing, and my life, were taking me in. I had
more work to do.
It was a full house in the 99-seat downstairs theatre for the chamber theater production of
“Travellers,” directed by Maurice Edwards. This “concert piece for theater” set Ilsa Gilbert’s
words to music by Jim Green. The singers performed eight pieces, including “Lizzie Strata,”
“Sarah Lee Cake,” “Lawrence of Astoria,” and “Mama and Papa Ionescu.” The program was
funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts, known as NYSCA, pronounced
“nisca” by all those affected by the government agency.
Ilsa Gilbert’s poetry and lyrics evoked the constants in our lives: feelings for home, musings
about family, suffering and overcoming, often with humor. As a poet, playwright, lyricist and
librettist, she was active in the 1960s and 70s Off-Off Broadway avant-garde theater in
Greenwich Village. In 1967, her play, “The Bundle Man,” with composer and counter tenor
Marshall Coid, ran at The Old Reliable Theater Tavern in the East Village. She worked with
many musicians and composers on her particular brand of chamber opera.
As we talked, I found her to be sweet and funny, but also reserved, cosmopolitan, driven,
and savvy: a vintage New Yorker.

~
Steve Cramer saw me scribbling in the front office. “There’ll be work to do on the next
production,” he told me, on “Voices,” by Susan Griffin. Susan Griffin was a poet, and this play
was unusually subtle word-work for the Theater.
Estelle Parsons directed the cast of Catherine Burns, Susan Greenhill, Rochelle Oliver, Anne
Shropshire and Janet Ward. The actresses were appearing, as with all Theater at St. Clement’s
and Poetry Festival productions, with permission from the Actors’ Equity Association. This, I
learned, was because actors were to be paid for their work under union rules, and these were
either low paying or unpaid performances.

On the program’s back page, the Theater’s mission was described in more detail:
Ultimately, we choose plays that reckon with moral conscience. What is the
responsibility of an individual to his or her self and to others? Of an individual to
society at large? Or, on the corporate level, of the faceless conglomerate to the
anonymous citizen?
I was aware of having dropped out of my parents’ way of life. These questions, these
statements of purpose, intrigued me. How could people of all races, religions, and various
cultures and beliefs, live together in an authentic and respectful way? How could I contribute, in
some small way, to the answer?

3 Frontiers
A party at Dan’s East Village store was a drunken revel; it all passed by like a film with
each person creating his own resonating terrain, all sizes and intensities, all flux, but concrete
images fixed in memory: the smiling rogue Richard and philosopher-cabbie Donald Lev, witchy
Barbara Holland and Old Bohemian PJ, the word-vet Irving Stettner and dark-eyed keen Kip,
party-on Dan and effusive Sookie.
At the Port Authority Bus terminal I was sick, seeing Kip off, and Richard had to bring me
home.
The Duane Locke reading fell through; he did not show up. Harry Smith and others were in
attendance for this event and everyone had time to meet new people, greet old friends, and
discuss their projects. Harry published The Smith, a well-respected literary magazine and small
press.
The Bob Heman reading engaged touch, hearing, and sight. He passed around experimental
poetry in designs, printed by Clown War. One of these on white card stock with gray and black
print looked like a group of formal gardens; would any words/weeds stray outside the
boundaries. Rebels?
In the little theater, Ira Lewis’ play, “Every Place Is Newark,” began in mid-May. Ira was
lean and hungry, but in a funny-ironic way.
“My father was born in Newark,” I told him, “and so were his father and mother. I went to
Rutgers-Newark for the last two years of college. I actually liked the city.”
Yes, he said, but he wanted to show a truism about modern American lives. He was
excoriating suburbia.
“Amiri Baraka lives there.”
“And Dizzy Gillespie.”
We started to talk about city life, its ups and downs, and its stimulation as well as risk for
artists.
No one showed up for the Ted Berrigan reading, except Ted Berrigan, Nina Silver, Rich and
me. There was a big reading with Ted Berrigan’s wife, Alice Notley, at the Poetry Project at St.
Marks that same night. He joked about his wife’s fame. After an amicable talk, we threw in the
proverbs and the towel.
Rich and I and Nina went to her home and talked about our personal problems. Richard was
carrying a collection of Joseph Low’s prints and PJ’s printing work.

PJ worked for Egmont Aren’s Flying Stag Press in the mid-1920s and later started his own
press. In 1930, his book, Biblio-Typographica: A Survey of Contemporary Fine Printing Style,
was published by Covici-Friede. Later, he worked for Van Rees Press, designing hundreds of
books for major and university presses.
Richard and I sat on the floor, going through the broadsides, pamphlets and letters. There
were letters to and from Bennett Cerf, Ward Ritchie, and other publishers, printers and
typographers. Richard said he hoped to help PJ find places to sell or donate his collection.

~
A visit with a friend, Janice, was the comic relief I needed: she has been working on her
master’s thesis, a page a day, for the past three years.
At the Gotham Book Mart, I bought a copy of POETS. I saw Richard’s review, and poetry
by Irving Stettner (of Stroker magazine, whom Kip was so taken with at Dan’s party), Don Lev
and Barbara Holland—the whole group. I was happy for them and confident that one day my
work would be good enough to be published with them.
Dan and I drafted a letter to Robert Creeley asking him to do an article for Dan’s lit-crit
magazine, New York Culture Review, on Louis Zukofsky, a poet in Brooklyn who had died more
than a week ago. I took copies of Dan’s East River Review chapbook to distribute.
The Ted Berrigan turnout woke me up. I decided to work more on publicity: press releases,
packets with bios, flyers in other parts of the city, as well in the neighborhood. I gathered a sheaf
of flyers and a roll of scotch tape and started down the block toward Tenth Avenue.
Walking down the street was like going on a magic carpet ride. Though all the buildings
were three, four and five-stories, they came in a variety of styles and ornamentation, in shades of
brown, red, tan, or green, some well-kept, others derelict or chipped and worn about the edges.
There were red brick tenements and brownstones with flights of steps up to the front doors, and
more modern apartment houses with street level entrances.
The first thing I saw was a man walking a dog on the flat roof of a ramshackle three-story
Furnished Room hotel across from the church. An adjacent four-story tenement in not much
better condition leaned against the ruin of a five-story brownstone with tinned up windows on
the first floor, one framing a whorl of blue spray paint.
Crossing the street, I began taping flyers to lampposts, passing a two-story building and a
gated cobblestone alley with ivy covered walls. At the end of the alleyway, I saw leafy trees, part
of a courtyard and another brick building with a wrought-iron railing on along a second floor
balcony. It was like a piece of New Orleans in midtown Manhattan. On the other side of the
alley, a building with a brownstone-style façade was painted cool lime-green offsetting ornate
black fire escapes: another touch of New Orleans, I thought, remembering a trip with my parents
to that city when I was eleven or twelve.
Midway down the block I peered through a tall metal fence painted enamel black. What I
saw surprised me, even though I could see the fence and trees from the church. This park, a
playground, cut through from West 46th to West 45th Streets, and must have been several
hundred feet wide. The double gates were open wide and I ventured in. To my left I saw a full
basketball court, and on my right, young men playing handball while others looked on. The hard
ball hitting the wall alternated with their thin sneakers hitting the ground, punctuated by cries at
winning or errant shots, laughter and quick critiques.

Maple trees shaded a bench by the basketball court. On the other side of the gate, I saw more
trees and a bench by the handball courts. I walked toward a row of majestic plane trees in the
middle of the park. A concrete ramp led to another level, where children played on a swing set
and a seesaw, watched by adults who stood beside a large toy train. Three open cars painted blue
and yellow and a platform with small stationary motorcycles followed a bright red locomotive, a
concrete barrel with a chimney and curved metal handholds.
I wanted to stay, but I had a mission to accomplish. Leaving the park, I felt the call of St.
Clement’s, but hurried down the block toward Tenth Avenue to post more flyers.
I passed a building that looked like an old movie theater, abandoned but with an aura of
dignity. A weed-strewn lot lay between it and the backs of tenements lining Tenth Avenue. On
the corner I bought a cup of tea in a small grocery store similar to the ones on Ninth Avenue, this
one run not by Greeks, but Puerto Ricans.
On the corner of Tenth Avenue, I saw the remains of the elevated West Side Highway, and
beyond the Hudson River, the Palisades rising in dusty green. It was like being at the edge of the
world. I felt a sense of peace, and excitement: this was a trip, a fall into the rabbit hole, into a
world that was both new and familiar, and one that had something to say to me.

4 Martyrs and Saints
On a weekday futzing around the church while “Voices” was in rehearsal, I was asked to
follow the book of the play, and when or if an actress forgot a line, to start reading it to her.
Estelle Parsons was sitting several rows behind me. I was enchanted by the words and their
voices, but very aware of where everyone was, and ready to react, following the script and never
falling behind.
Near the end, suddenly, an actress paused. Was that a dramatic pause?
The wavering actress stared at me.
I looked down at the book again and put my finger on the line only to find it had been
crossed out. By then, the actress had already remembered her line. It all happened in a matter of
seconds. I sighed, shoulders slumped.
As soon as the rehearsal ended, I jumped out of my chair. Estelle Parsons bellowed as I
hopped up the stairs to the hallway: “Who was that?”
The actress came into the hall where I was quivering. “It’s okay,” she said. “That line was
changed yesterday.”
She and another actress were smiling. The other one said, “Don’t worry about it. You were
fine.”
I fled to the East Village. Dan gave me copies of the latest East River Review, listing me as
“Associate Editor.” It was ironic that my work was being rejected by small magazines and large
presses, and at the same time I was choosing work to be published, and writing rejection letters.

~
Isabel Martin, a hyperkinetic woman, suggested a reading of the jailed South Korean poet
Kim Chi Ha’s poetry. She had written a poem to him. She gave me the name of Ko Won (Won

Ko), poet and professor at Brooklyn College, who also was a proponent and a translator of Kim
Chi Ha.
Rich wanted to ask Allen Ginsberg to read a section of The Odyssey at an anti-nuclear event
he was planning for a Sunday at St. Clement’s on August 6th, “Hiroshima day.”
He asked me to go with him to Allen Ginsberg’s reading at a nuclear disarmament rally. We
met several poets we knew and moved forward, a gentle tide, until there we were, the Poets of
Our Time, right up in front of the crowd. Some were serious, dolorous but antennas up; others
smiling and on the tips of their toes. Ginsberg threw himself into the reading. His animation
sparked our responses: nodding heads, nodding bodies, a few handclaps, friendly murmurs.
I think I’m in love—with Allen Ginsberg!
In the excitement Richard and I were swept away. Rich had no chance to ask Ginsberg to
read at the St. Clement’s anti-nuclear event. We rode over the East River to a party at Maurice
Kenny’s Brooklyn apartment, and after that, unwilling to give up the day, although it was
midnight, we walked to the Esplanade overlooking New York harbor.
Another late night, working with Richard until 3 a.m., and the next day I delivered a
proposal to Poets & Writers, which funds mainly poets’ fees.
I called Ko Won. He agreed to read in July. Isabel Martin and I talked for an hour on the
phone; she was irrepressible. And maybe a little crazy. Amnesty International, she told me, was
starting a petition to free Kim Chi Ha.
Ko Won called back. He asked not to read with Isabel Martin, intimating that she was on an
ego-trip. I called Isabel and gave her August 21st to read, the date I wanted for the women poets’
jamboree, but I had promised her a reading. So I arrange and rearrange.
And then, talking to myself, I rearranged again. Ko Won would read his own poetry in
August, and Isabel and the others Kim Chi Ha’s work in July. The upshot was two good
readings, instead of one.

~
Richard, PJ and I spent the afternoon in Washington Square Park. PJ had lived the life of a
young Bohemian in the Roaring 20s, he told us, with an open marriage. A fine press printer, an
artist and book designer, he had lived a full life.
“Come with me to my garret.” PJ stopped at the Jefferson Square Market for fruit and
vegetables. The vendor gave him six oranges and five avocados for a dollar. Upstairs in his
garret, Rich and I surveyed the remains of PJ’s life.
His front room was piled high with papers, books, photographs and paintings and drawings
of every size. A path led halfway to the front where it vanished into a thicket of debris.
“Help the Old Man get this together,” he asked me, “sort through it with me.”
In my diary I wrote:
PJ is a chronicle, a living record, of time. He gives people a sense of time
passing, of cultural history, of the unfulfilled promise(s) of the past. There were
literary breakthroughs which have never really been taken up by other people, the
next generation; for instance, Joyce’s Ulysses.
Richard is striving against the futile, a race with death, trying to help PJ
become published and recognized.

~
On July 3rd, a small group showed up for the reading of Kim Chi Ha’s poetry. It was the
first reading I had scheduled, so Richard’s approval was reassuring.
Isabel Martin was happy, even though it was a small audience. “These are people who
wouldn’t otherwise have heard of Kim Chi Ha.”
Kim Chi Ha (Kim Chi-ha, Kim Ji-ha) was a Catholic priest who criticized the repressive
regime of Park Chung Hee, South Korea’s president. He was jailed in 1972 and tortured for
objecting to the execution of eight men, apparently innocent, on charges that they belonged to a
pro-communist group. The existence of this group, he and others said, sprang more from
paranoia and the “rule by fear” policy than reality. He was released with about 70 others in 1975
and warned not to make public statements about the torture of prisoners. Some of the other freed
prisoners broke their silence and Kim Chi Ha joined them, and went farther, speaking up for
those still in jail. He was arrested and imprisoned again. His deep love of his country and his
people come through in his lyrical and narrative poems.
Talk about martyrs and saints. Is that the way to go? Is that the way to be?

5 Only the Journey
Richard heard that he was accepted for an internship with the National Endowment for the
Arts. He would leave at the end of September. The Poetry Festival was my responsibility until he
returned.
Dan asked if I could fill in at his bookstore while he was on vacation this summer. Money.
Food. Paying my rent on time. I said yes.
In July, Richard arranged for PJ to read at St. Clement’s on his 79th birthday. He helped PJ
set up a table in the little downstairs theater and display copies of Hue and Cry, a four page
pamphlet about the “end of the world” of art and intellect, and The Maze of Love, a poster with a
maze above a long explanation of the contradictions and complications of love.
Hue and Cry was filled with what I felt were pessimistic statements like “No News Is Fit To
Print” because “Nobody Reads Anymore.” I found it very cranky and only smiled politely when
PJ asked me what I thought of it. I said I would take it home and read it. One headline, though,
did catch my eye: “Intellectual Leadership.”
PJ read some of his work and recited a Bohemian poem by Robert Claremont:
When I’m dead with my hat in my hand
To the hungry worms I’ll say I still don’t understand.

~
Once a month, the Poetry Festival held an Open Reading. Any poet courageous enough to
show up could read for five minutes. After setting up and seeing that everything was organized, I
walked back up to the front hallway to wait for late arrivals. Opening the front doors I looked up
and down the street. Light spilled onto the steps. A beacon, I hoped.

My Florida poem was rejected by New Rivers Press. With the encouragement of an agent, I
had written a short novel, The Sailor Circus, using the poem as a starting point. She had been
sitting on it for more than a year. I asked Ilsa Gilbert to read it for me. She took the manuscript
home with her.
At night I worked on the poem:
the spirit a thin white line
slinging through space in an arc
knowing no destination
only the journey
and the drive to be free

~
I sailed to the Village on summer winds. The city had hired me to help PJ clean and neaten
his apartment and shop for food. Many of my visits, though, were off the clock. We were
organizing his artwork, book design and fine press papers, and publishing samples of his
writings. PJ designed the covers, I typed the text and together we assembled the chapbooks. Over
cups of tea, we talked philosophy.
In his garret sorting through his papers, I felt myself entering the 1920s, another history, a
place and time filled with people on the verge of discovery. All this brilliance and joie de vivre
now was turning to dust.
I showed PJ a photograph of the artist as a young man, and one of a tall elegant woman.
“When I look back on it, I realize my wife and I were intuitively together for a long time.”
“Really?” Is that possible? “That sounds wonderful.”
“But we began experimenting and taking chances with our love,” he said, “and we drifted
apart, she to one and I to another. I convinced myself I was in love with this other woman, but in
fact I felt my wife wanted to be free of me.”
When PJ realized he was losing his wife, he became ill. Undergoing heart surgery he died on
the operating table. He was brought back to life, to his dismay.
“You see, I am Papa’s remains,” PJ said as we left his garret to walk through the Village,
“the ghost of my wife’s husband and my children’s father. That man died forty years ago. He had
a good full life and he died.” He rested on the corner of Eighth Street. “Since then, I’ve had to
create new identities, new reasons to live.”
PJ held up a skeletal hand. “People say they can see through ghosts. I think the opposite is
true. Ghosts can see through people. And I can see through most people.”

~
Working on publicity for the coming poetry readings, I opened the church doors to let the
breeze in. Steve Cramer and Jeff Jones were downstairs building the set for Peter Handke’s play,
“The Ride Across Lake Constance.”
In the front office, all sizes and colors of letterhead, envelopes, and other office supplies
were piled on open shelves on the back wall. A small closet held phone lines and more office

supplies. In a corner between the door to the main hall and the front windows, a wood frame
provided pigeon holes for everyone’s mail. It perched unsteadily on a battered black horizontal
filing cabinet. A large glass bottle partly filled with pennies and nickels sat by the other door
leading to the library. Richard had started a small press library at St. Clement’s. I continued to
add to the collection.
On the wall above the desk, a red, white and blue Bread and Puppet Theater poster
punctuated the space. This was where the staff met once a week to discuss the programs and theglory-is-in-the-trying to coordinate the turmoil that was St. Clement’s.
I wrote in my diary: I’m secure because I feel I’ve found a place for myself in the world of
writing here in NY since I joined St. C’s.
Poetry in performance came naturally to this place. The Open Reading at the end of July was
very successful. Richard Rees and Mike Ponder of St. Paul’s & St. Andrew’s poetry group came,
as well as the peripatetic Barbara Holland and Isabel Martin and many others. Leah Gilliard and
Magdalena Gomez did a poetry-dance performance of Leah’s poetry. WBAI recorded the
evening.
The Hiroshima event coincided with a day of rain. Heavy metal rain. August heat. Half the
performers did not show up. It was a bomb, or a fizzle. But Richard said it was the intention that
mattered. “All we can do is put it out there. It’s their failure if they don’t come.”
I had my misgivings about the conceptualized form of the event. I felt the outrage about
Hiroshima as a new and ominous event, and as a moral failure, but could not dismiss as less
horrible all the other killing in World War II.

~
Summertime with Richard and PJ, or with Richard or Dan, or a group of poets, traversing
the Village from east to west and back again, with forays into Soho, browsing bookstores and art
galleries and grabbing cheap drinks at sidewalk cafés.
Talk about Ars Poetica.
How poetica are the ars
when we stumble from the bars
to fall headlong into the stars
I was reading Turgenev’s The Torrents of Spring, Virgin Soil, and Smoke. Richard and I
took the subway to the Brooklyn Museum to see Bob Heman’s exhibit.
By late August I was beginning to re-focus. I would start a magazine and my own press: The
Public Press. I composed and published a brochure, “The Public Press, A Proposal for a Public
Publishing Corporation.” It would be modeled on the public broadcasting system, funded by the
government, private donations, subscriptions and sponsors
The proposal said in part:
It could make printing facilities accessible to everyone.
It could publish new writers, and educational and informational books; documentary and
photographic essays; regional histories; books on health care and other issues.

It could open offices in inner cities, and have regional offices to publish books about those
areas, and be information, and possibly, distribution centers.
The Public Press would “help create a market for contemporary literature and to influence
the formation of our cultural heritage.”

~
In the fall, the Theater at St. Clement’s, known as TASC, as in “task,” began its new season.
At the poetry program there were open readings, featured readers, and benefits for small presses.
The poetry workshop conducted by Janet Bloom was going well.
I gave Dan a copy of my prose poem “Celebrations.” I missed him at the store so I slipped it
under his door. When I saw him next, he said he liked it and wanted to publish it.
Richard left for the internship at the National Endowment for the Arts. Everything was
gaining speed, and I welcomed the excitement, but at the same time, felt myself losing my grip
on another possible life. And I felt the absence of Richard from the poetry program, and from the
Three’s Company of PJ and me.
An old man, a young man, what more can a girl want?
Suddenly, I was responsible for a program that meant a lot to Richard, and left to fend for
myself with the errant knight PJ.
I admired PJ’s intellect, but I felt my concepts too different from his for us to go on much
longer. In my diary I wrote:
I think people can work together on things and he does not. I think more highly of
people than he does, and long ago I found that my experiences were not unique.
But it’s more than that. His concept is “death and renascence.” Mine is the slow
construction of an independent life. I am interested in the way people do that. I do
it through symbols and fantasies, living out, not repressing fantasies. I accept
emotional involvement as a given part of reality. And I feel/think/sense that PJ is
emotionally involved with Richard and me, but denies it.
Richard came back for a weekend, and we had lunch with PJ and his daughter Judy
Tomkins. She had married first an actor, and then Calvin Tomkins, the art critic for the New
Yorker, from whom she was later divorced. Judy was a well-known photographer, and PJ was
very proud of her success. Like her father, she was tall and thin, with a similar forward bend to
her stature, but a more delicate frame.
Richard’s resentment of me coming, unintentionally, between him and PJ, was, I hoped,
resolved into a stronger bond, as he and I reaffirmed ourselves in relation to each other and to PJ.
PJ’s coolness toward “romantic love” and cryptic remark that “love is a delusion” had an
equal and opposite effect on me. I told Richard I was not going to suppress my feelings of love
and affection anymore. “Not act cool, because I’m not cool.”
Instead of burying alive the need to love, I will have to learn to control the pain. I know that
I really do care when I’m not sure I do or don’t think I do.
The last time I hid my feelings, I was afraid I had killed them, especially as the months
passed and the numbness remained.

It’s a delusion to believe that love exists, and it’s a delusion to think it doesn’t.
Now that I knew these delusions, PJ would call it a “paradox of delusion,” I could know
which delusion I was under.
It was important to me, in any case, to succeed with these men, on my own terms.

6 On the Cusp of Oceans
In October, I saw the director of a staged reading of Harry Smith’s play, “Trinity,” and in
passing, asked, “How’s it going?”
“It’s been postponed.”
“It has?”
Then I learned that William Packard’s “Ty Cobb” had been cancelled. It had been scheduled
because it had been done before and was a sure thing.
“No one,” I remarked, “told me.”
Last minute I scrambled a few poet-eggs and made a minimal omelet, a feast for ten or
twelve. On the front steps I watched the light fading over the remnants of the West Side
Highway.
“Trinity” was rescheduled for mid-December. William Packard called and wanted to
reschedule his piece. Donald Lev showed up for his reading and apologized for not being
prepared. No one had finalized the date with him.
What a mess.
In the staff meetings, I sat in a corner and spoke seldom.
Anita said, “Speak up. We can’t hear you.”
That made me sit up; I heard in her tone of voice no criticism but a desire to really hear me.
In my diary, I expressed the feeling that it would take more than one person to run St.
Clement’s Poetry Festival. Maybe it was not for me. Leah Gilliard would probably end up
running the program. I wanted to stay until spring to make it one year of “helping out.”
Shall I stop under the greenwood tree? Ride the drunken boat with Rimbaud, let the waves
take me?
Susan Fromberg Schaeffer responded to my letter for the East River Review and sent some
poems. I thought they might not have been her best, but Rick Pistone, the other associate editor,
liked them. Dan, Rick and Schaeffer were all from Brooklyn.
Hmm. Maybe it’s a Brooklyn thing.
Smiling, I closed the bookstore’s door and walked back, passing La Mama and CBGB’s, to
Astor Square and the subway to the West Side.

~
Early November, the Clyde Repertory Company show was not as successful as I had hoped,
but the readers were really quite remarkable: Richard Howard and Judith Johnson Sherwin.
Richard Howard was thoughtful and academic. His book, Untitled Subjects, had won the
Pulitzer Prize in 1969. Judith Johnson Sherwin looked like a pioneer, which she was in the
feminist literary movement.

The agent sent my short novel back in a box with a letter. She could not spend time
developing young writers; she needed to work with the established writers she had brought with
her from the publishing house.
Soon after I rode the subway to Fourth Street in Greenwich Village. Richard had confided in
me that PJ’s given name was Paul Johnston.
I came into his garret, warbling, “Paul Johnston.”
“Who?” I heard PJ call as he came to the hallway. “I haven’t seen that guy around here in
years.”
PJ and I were working on a long piece that illuminated one of his many personalities. Often
he referred to himself in the third person, and each “identity” was a fully conceived, although
symbiotic, individual. I mailed the finished version to The Smith.
Feeling some satisfaction from this work, but worried about my prospects with my other
work, I told the Board members at St. Clement’s that I was eking out a subsistence existence.
They said they would reimburse my expenses: transportation, mailing, phone.
“I didn’t know you were in pain,” Vicar Henry Sturtevant said.
Meanwhile, in the upstairs sanctuary/theater, Michael Moriarty was directing a play called
“Potter’s Field.” Leaving his acting career in about the same place.
Settling in at the poetry desk, I read a note from experimental writer, poet and critic Richard
Kostelanetz: he liked the idea of The Public Press. I had been feeling sorry for myself after
hearing Adrienne Rich across town, introduced by the elusive Audre Lorde. I was a spectator,
not a writer. People, like Rich, in the poetry community, reading, performing, organizing, and/or
publishing, had very little time for writing.
The audience was made up of writers who write and writers who put words on pages
sporadically and with a false sense of elation at “writing.” I had heard a lot of amateurish poetry
at St. Clement’s.
At the same time, there were those who were a cut above: poets, directors, actors, musicians.
One of these, Martin Donegan, directing and acting in William Packard’s one-act play caught my
ear and eye. I found myself attracted to him. Isn’t he the sort of person I should be interested in?
Someone in the arts?
My attraction, though, refused to cross the line. After the reading, I walked home alone.
PJ called three days in a row. I had never felt so useful, and so used, working at St. C’s, and
with Dan and PJ. I had no time for writing and felt very discouraged about that. A letter came
intuitively from PJ: you “have been made to feel guilty for your compassionate nature, your
amiability.”
There I am by a marsh flooded with sky, on the cusp of oceans.

~
Kip returned to an agonizing love affair in the Midwest. My sad sack boyfriend had bitten
the dust. Dan often was in a drunken stupor. I was lonely.
And then PJ went into the hospital. I visited him and came back devastated: Is it over so
soon?
At St. Clement’s I worked on postcards and press releases for Harry Smith’s show,
“Trinity,” but I was distracted. Humans overcome by machines, and not even knowing it: that
was a good theme. The little church dwarfed by the Twin Towers. The light on the churchyard

tree all night: made it look like “something unnatural.” For me, though, humans were still
overcome by not knowing themselves and one another.
Sometimes, I thought my amiability was passivity: I can’t say no. But maybe PJ was right: I
had a need, which I asserted, to be amiable.
PJ was due home from the hospital in a few days. My parents were in Florida visiting my
grandmother. Rich and I spent a lot of time together over the holiday. Richard and I cleaned PJ’s
apartment, and visited him after he came home.
And then the PJ piece came back from The Smith. Sidney Bernard, the editor, wrote they
were using a piece by Rich and PJ in the next issue.
This was news to me. Richard nodded when I told him, and said it was based on PJ’s ideas,
but basically he wrote it.
Richard once said I had “angelic composure” and I took this opportunity to fetch my halo.
So we had the same idea, or a parallel one, right down to what publication to send it to.
We rushed to PJ’s to tell him the news. Assembled around the battered desk, PJ, Rich and I
toasted the article. PJ proposed we self-publish the other piece. He wanted to design the
booklet’s cover and choose the font. It was an opportunity for me to learn the art of book design
from a master.
Whisking by Dan’s store soon after, he showed me an atrocious cover for Celebrations, of a
naked woman severed into several pieces.
“What happened?”
Dan said, “She goes through a lot...”
I tucked my eyes back into my head. “This is a strong character. She comes through it.”
“I think it’s powerful!”
I saw the distress on his face. I could see what the artist was responding to in the writing. I
did like the lines and stars flying away.
“She’s a good artist,” he interjected. “I paid her to do this.” He pointed out the quality of the
cover: blue print on beige cardstock.
I calmed down a bit: I can live with it.

~
Early December, David Ferguson was a featured reader. The Times wrote, “Tonight at 8,
David Ferguson, the poet, playwright and publisher of the literary magazine Box 749, will read
his poems to a background of music composed by Thomas E. Barker.”
Dan showed up for the Monday night reading almost recovered from his weeks of drinking.
There was a good crowd of forty or so, and afterward he and I went to the Village for a late night
dinner.
He said, “You understand me.” And he was desperate for a girlfriend.
“Uh-huh.” I clasped my hands apprehensively.
“I need someone to explain me.”
“Umm.”
“Can you write something about me?”
“Like a brochure?”
“Something like that.”
“A Guide to Dan Stokes.”

We laughed and celebrated.
“Sure.” How the heck was I going to do that? “You can give it out at the bookstore and at
your parties.”
“How about the Poetry Festival Christmas party?”
“Okay.” So I’m writing a brochure to explain Dan to the world, and especially to women,
for the Christmas party.
Barbara Holland cruised into the front office before the reading to ask me to sign a letter to
Governor Carey to commute poet Edward dePasquale’s sentence “as the captain of this... er...
ship.”
I said, yes, “The Titanic.” I felt the PoFest was sinking, massively, this fall.
Richard said he was coming back as director but on the other hand was encouraging me to
take the job.
We’re all inconsistent, in constant change.

~
For Christmas, I brought PJ a fruit cake, and we devoured half of it together, with dark
brewed tea, in his dilapidated, tiny kitchen.
Home to working class, middle class suburban New Jersey for Christmas. My mother
already had tickets for the King Tut exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I gave her one
for Christmas, so, she said, she had an extra for a friend. I gave my father Jamaican coffee, my
brother a tee-shirt and calendar. I took back to the city a sweater, socks, towel set and a book,
Bright Lights, by Marian Seldes.
Seldes mentioned being in a play by Anne Sexton at St. Clement’s. When I read about Anne
Sexton’s aversion to the shabby neighborhood, I had an equal and opposite reaction: it raised my
populist hackles and I loved Hell’s Kitchen and St. Clement’s even more.

~
Jeff Jones arrived at the Poetry Festival’s Christmas Party, hovering comfortably, a glass of
wine in his hand. Henry looked anxious for a good time. Dan Stokes brought a half-drunk sailor
friend from Denmark.
I put “A Guide to Dan Stokes” on the table by the door. It said, in part/art: “Although born
into poverty, he has used courage, a realistic vision and tenacity to successfully run his bookstore
and publish the East River Review literary magazine. His special need to be useful, to treat others
as equals and be treated equal in return means that he needs an extraordinary woman, with a
sense of humor, compassion and dedication to work to match his own.”
“What’s most important about him,” his friend Rick Pistone wrote, “is not just the poetry,
but the poetry of his friendship.”
The evening started slow. A woman pranced and howled for half an hour. Sid Bernard, a
Bohemian but not as old as PJ, his grey hair parted in the middle and tied back in a ponytail, read
his very dry tracts. Vicar Henry disappeared. In time people began to mingle, and there were
flows of conversation, like currents in a lagoon fed by the sea.

People from Folk City and the Centerfold, friends of Dan and friends of his friends came,
and played guitar, flute and harmonica.
In the midst of our melding, an older African-American man rushed in and sat down at the
piano. He began to play the most amazing ragtime piano I had ever heard.
“Hello,” I said.
“Are you Mary?”
“Yes.”
“I was told to come here and play for you.” He waved toward the east. Broadway? Who was
he? The party took off. People began dancing. He riffed out a Christmas song. A group gathered
around the piano to join in.
“Henry left,” I said to Jeff. “But now it’s a great party.”
“Isn’t that the way Henry is?”
Singing and dancing, the crowd drank two cases of wine, 50 bottles of beer, and one gallon
of vodka and a fifth of scotch. As the party deepened into the spirit of Saturnalia cum Christmas,
near midnight, someone asked for a Jewish song, and the piano man was amenable. He started
playing “Hava Negila.”
Dan’s Danish friend was even drunker and objected, “It’s Christmas.”
I told him we did not discriminate at St. Clement’s.
Someone said, the religions are related. After a short philosophical exchange, the sailor
began pushing people away from the piano. The pianist stopped and held his hands above the
keys. He looked to me. Dan and another man wrestled down the sailor and carried him out of the
downstairs space to the hallway, through the double doors, down the icy front steps. We laughed
when a cab miraculously appeared, at that moment, in front of the church. They chucked the
sailor into the backseat.
The party lasted until 3 a.m. when Dan and I more or less sent the survivors out into the
cold.
Before the party, Dan said, “I’m not going to do the East River Review anymore, after your
book and issue #10.” He asked if he could work on something of mine.
I thought about the Public Press, revising the concept again: primarily a distribution and
promotion system for any kind of book. That was what we needed most of all. If we could get a
press, then people could print their own work, and we would distribute and publicize it, by a
catalog to subscribers and potential subscribers and through advertising.
Richard said that he put in an application for the Public Press with the NEA. Our
relationship is on the verge, of what I could not be sure. Nothing was the same after he returned.
I felt he was trying to compete with Dan, who had grown closer to me. We both wanted to do
poets theater.
What will my future be with him or at St. Clement’s?

7 Transition
1979
Walking to St. Clement’s, I saw the pearly sky, the kind that foretells a storm. Barbara
Holland called to say she had not known she had been scheduled for the reading next week.
Another disaster: unless I could pull it together.

Barbara said she could read that night, but Contact/II was also supposed to be involved. I
had no phone number for Maurice Kenny, so I had to mail a letter. All along I thought she was
working on the show.
Isn’t this fun?
My name was in the Poetry Calendar for a reading at Dan’s bookstore in the East Village. It
gave me chills, or was that the January weather?
The Poetry Calendar was a monthly publication, a heavy stock 11” x 17” sheet with the
schedule of NYC poetry readings on one side, and information about the readings’ locations,
workshops, and advertisements on the other side.
Richard returned from his internship, but not fully to the Poetry Festival. I wondered at his
hesitating. Richard and his girlfriend Barbara Fisher were creating their own poetry series and
publishing chapbooks.
“Ambivalence,” said PJ. “You were intuitively in communication, but Rich is in transition
and cycles back and forth from his previous identity to his new one. He cannot decide.”
Since Richard was ambivalent about continuing at St. Clement’s, I was anointed Interim
Director. Jeff invited me to a Finance Committee meeting, and I attended with a good sense of
mystery. Humor. Dread.
Inside the church at the poetry desk, I was desperately seeking poetry. Henry Sturtevant
asked me to bring poets to a Sunday service, so I invited several whose elegiac epiphanies or
lasting lyricism might harmonize with the lesson for that day. I rushed in to find the service was
not upstairs in the sanctuary. Downstairs in the less glorious space used by the Theater at St.
Clement’s, I saw a full-sized Indian tepee in the middle of the room. Long Tall Chief Henry, who
apparently wanted to live the life of a nomad, roam the Great Plains and build spare dramatic
structures, smiled hello and climbed inside.
We hunkered around an imaginary fire, our words tiny prayers while outside the modern
world charged at us like a herd of buffalo.
In January, I saw my first “Barbara Holland In Concert.” Her powerful personality flew out
at the audience like many bats out of hell. She read in a trance, both passionate and beguiling,
that held the attention of the audience whether they wanted to hear what she said or not. Her
stage presence followed her off-stage, a strange brew of enchantment and intimidation.
In February, at a publication party for the East River Review, sponsored by Poets & Writers,
Dan Stokes became more involved in the Poetry Festival. As an advisor and aide-de-camp he
suggested poets and programs, and brought East Village poets and writers to St. Clement’s.
We the merry staff of St. Clement’s met again for a Finance Meeting. Henry and two church
wardens, Jeff, Mike, Anita and I met in the cramped middle office. We talked about Henry’s
salary, church supplies, printing, paint, electric and phone bills, fixing the lock on the front door,
boiler maintenance and fuel.
The discussion left us all KO’d.
I began scheduling more poets theater, sharing that interest with Richard. “Lyrics and
Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay” in mid-February was presented by two young actors, Jon
Imparato and Elissa Napolin. They brought me a book of Millay’s poetry and I shared it with
Richard and Barbara Fisher at a Spring party in PJ’s spruced-up garret.
The classic “Spoon River Anthology” evening was followed a few weeks later by the
rambling, rambunctious East Village and St. Marks poets of Rose Lesniak’s Out There Press.
Jeff Jones’ “Nightcoil,” was scheduled for March 19. A “new play by Jeffrey M. Jones,”
said the notice in St. Clement’s The Seed, a large postcard for mailing: “an experimental

language piece, in which two separate but related streams of action occur simultaneously onstage
in two adjacent rooms.”
In the spring, Richard broke away. He was moving on to a new life with Barbara Fisher, but
he wanted to continue his wanton poet ways. I understood his dilemma; I even felt his terror, not
to mention my own at finding myself alone with the life of the poetry program in my hands.
Before he left, he accused me, for good measure, of pushing him out of the Poetry Festival.
Although I was hurt by his words, I could no more change my trajectory than he could
change his.

~
Henry the Vicar began loping about the neighborhood on the scent of one cause or another.
We called him when someone came in off the street and needed counsel. The arts staff was the
only presence on-site and let in strangers who wanted to visit the church for old time’s sake or go
to the chapel to pray. Sometimes they tried on the vestments. Sometimes they drank all the
communion wine.
God knows we all thought about drinking the communion wine.
In my script reading for the theater, I found one of interest, “Zelda,” by Kaye McDonough. I
showed it to Mike and Anita. After they read it, Anita said, “We liked it,” and Mike added, “We
might do it.”
“If you don’t, I’d like to do it at the Poetry Festival.”
A week or two later, Anita said that would be okay with Mike, since he was leaning toward
some other plays.

~
Taking the A Train I hummed my way to 14th Street, jogged to Union Square and headed
south on University Place to the Cedar Tavern. On the second floor, Dan Stokes was by the bar,
waiting to speak his poems; he knew most all by heart. A long polished bar and chairs and tables
(made of cedar?) glittered beneath the plate glass sky roof and windows on the street gave the
place a dark glamorous look. It was legendary as a watering hole in the 1950s and 60s for, it was
said, Corso, Kerouac and Beat poets and Pollock, Warhol and other modern artists. Don Lev and
Enid Dame ran the late night readings with the right mix of order and disorder, like a fine drink.
Dan held forth with his brand of panic and forgiveness.
The Poetry Festival’s Open Reading at the end of March had about 15 readers, among them
Ilsa Gilbert, Karl Kulokowski of Gusto Press and Driftwood East, and Shel Horowitz. Dan
Stokes helped out at the door.
I sold three booklets of my Florida poem, one to Ilsa, one to Karl and one to Isabel Martin.
A woman poet whispered to me, “Isabel Martin is not her real name.” I shrugged, or
flinched: let the woman be. The back-biting was getting to me.
Holy week was set up. In the afternoon before the open reading, I fearlessly called poets
Edmond Chibeau and Rose Lesniak, and actor Jon Imparato to set up future events.
I am making progress toward communication.

~
Dan Stokes published a delectable morsel of Celebrations in a special edition of the East
River Review. “For those who remember that experience that predates life: childhood.”
One part not included was:
Venetian blind poses, Venetian blind blues.
A life grew smaller behind them, trying to see through,
engulfed in a large leather chair, made of men,
I waded into his ice-sea blue eyes.
What are we going to do with you? he asked.
Throw me back. My father, who art in this world,
outside this school beyond my understanding,
I am a girl-child waiting to be born.

~
Sitting outside clutching a copy of Celebrations and a notebook to capture the scene before
me and in my mind, I saw on the sidewalk nearby, a bicycle wheels up, and a blond-haired boy
working on the chain, a neighbor sweeping the sidewalk across the street, below a Furnished
Room sign; behind me in the hallway, a rustle of dreams.
An Amazon in blue denim overalls and white tee-shirt came to sit on the church steps.
I introduced myself and the Amazon said her name was Jill.
I had been observing a river of metal flowers that ran in a sparkling stream diagonally across
the street. “They’re bottle caps, I said, “imbedded in the asphalt.”
“Billy the Kid put them there, every one.” Jill’s gaze traveled across the street. “He goes
back and forth from 414 to the store and he flicks them off baby beers. Rose says all he does is
drink and shout.”
The convenience store next to the church was the same kind that you would find in a gas
station in the rest of the country.
“He’s not as loud as Bad Bennie.”
Jill tilted her head. “Bad Bennie’s a drug addict.”
She said she had been in the neighborhood about five years. “It’s good to talk to someone
from the church—”
The tall blond boy, playing tag with another kid, had stepped into the street. Jill stood up,
her long frame blocking the sun and called to him, “Jason! Go inside!”
He laughed and swung by one hand around a lamppost.
“Now!”
In a moment they were both gone, into their rabbit warren, a five-story apartment building
next to the church.
A man, thin and damaged in a plaid shirt and faded jeans worn at the knee, his gray-brown
hair falling in a chunk to one side, came out of the Furnished Room place across the street. 414
West 46th Street was a hotel similar to mine, but co-ed, a furnished room with kitchen and
bathroom down the hall.

He joined me while I was enjoying the first spring sun on the church steps.
“I’m Rafael,” he said. “I’ve seen you coming and going from the church, always in a hurry.”
I laughed, and going—where? “I know. I’m busy.”
“What do you do here?”
“Poetry.”
He was silent.
Not an unusual response to the word “poetry.” He must be bored or unable to think of a
response.
After a moment, he said, “I love poetry.”
In the playground, children were laughing and calling to one another. One kid whistled to
another.
“I was a schoolteacher.” Rafael said. “Before... ” and then: “Long ago.”
At a staff meeting, Brooke Bushong, the senior warden, said she had noticed I was getting to
know people in the neighborhood. “Do you want to go the block association meeting tomorrow
and represent us?”
“I’d like to do that,” I said.
“We need someone to be our liaison.”
It was obvious that no one else wanted to do it. Most of the congregation commuted in from
the boroughs or other parts of Manhattan. The church’s members had moved out of Hell’s
Kitchen a long time ago, and the crowds that came in the 1960s had moved on.
At Hartley House, a former Settlement House, the Block Association held its meetings. The
first floor hall resembled a large arts and crafts room, which it was during the day.
A tall woman with light red-copper hair was standing across the room, and her presence
enveloped the people gathered around her in a warm soft-red aura. It was the fire of resilience,
edgy yet modest, a peculiar blend that suited Hell’s Kitchen.
Watty Strouss, who was not only a Board member at St. Clement’s but also lived on the
block, stood next to me.
“Who is that?”
“Oh,” he said. “Alex. She used to be president of the block association. Alexandra Palmer.”
At the meeting, Alex spoke about the playground down the block: how many trees were
damaged, benches in need of repair, and children’s play equipment broken and dangerous.
In the lobby afterward, I saw her talking with several people. I was thinking that the word
“timid” is in the word “intimidating” when she smiled at me. “Would you like to get a cup of
tea?”
I introduced myself, and suggested, “We could sit out on the church steps.” On our way I
asked Alex, “What do you do in the park?”
“I’m a volunteer,” she answered. “I’ve been trying for years to get a Parks Worker to
organize basketball and handball tournaments. We need educational and artistic activities. A
Recreation Worker could show the movies on Friday nights in the summer.”
“Who does it now?”
“I do,” Alex did a childlike skip.
I laughed. She did it again. We skipped and hopped a few times, laughing at how outrageous
we looked.
“Parks used to do it,” she said, “but they stopped. I thought it was so much fun for the kids, I
bought a projector. I asked where they got the films and now I show the movies.”
We bought tea at the corner store and walked back to the church stoop.

Alex said Officer B. held the first handball tournament in the playground. “It was the police
versus the neighborhood kids.” She added, “I think most of the kids were in gangs.”
Hot dog, shish-ke-bab and pretzel vendors pushed their carts across Ninth Avenue, doused
the coals and dumped them steaming into the gutter, folded their umbrellas and stored their carts
in a shed behind the corner bar.
“I’m locking the park in a little while,” Alex said.
“Why do you lock the park?”
She told me that the Parks Department and the block association decided to put up a fence
with gates on West 45th and 46th. Thieves were using the park to sort through suitcases, purses
and shopping bags they stole from people in Times Square and Broadway crowds, and from cars
belonging to theater-goers parked along the side streets.
“They took what they wanted and left the rest. It was a big mess. They were also using it as
a shortcut to get away. At night, the pimps and prostitutes hung out there. The pimps would play
basketball!” She mimed someone dribbling a basketball: thump thump. “They plugged their
radios into the lamppost and turned up the volume. In the early morning they shouted at the
prostitutes. The women screamed back. The noise kept people awake all night. That’s why we
had to get a fence.”
“I’ll help you.”

8 HK Tales
In Hell’s Kitchen, there was music wherever I went: from the old wood, stone, brick, blood
and sweat building to the counterpoint of the church and neighborhood, in poetry readings, in
theater rehearsals, in the playground.
On the church stoop with the front doors open, I heard behind me a rustling more purposeful
and sublime than the river breeze. In the front hall of all possibilities, sky and faith, linoleum and
medieval-style light suspended from a chain, I turned to see Jesus walking toward the doorway.
He had come in for a respite, a nap on one of the dressing room cots, something withered from
the fridge, a man used to deserts and unimpeded light sandal-padding toward the work he was
meant to do.
Although I had these sources of inspiration, I was seeking still a steady source of income.
Going to job interviews and being rejected, even with a high quality college education and all the
energy of youth, I cycled from feelings of invincibility to thoughts of suicide.
I had no real job, an on-and-off again boyfriend, and no reason for being that made any
sense.
And Richard: was he making himself so miserable because he felt left out, rejected and
made miserable by PJ and me?
At PJ’s I discussed my turmoil of thoughts, new information and feelings. I was learning
when and when not to assert myself, speak up, and take action. “It looks like I’m always
changing my mind.”
“You’re adjusting to your own sense of innocence,” he replied, “although it may appear to
others to be a change of mind or of principles.”
“It’s not, though.” After a moment, I said, “But I’m changing.”
“It’s what I think of as flexible integrity,” he said, “versus righteous integrity. With
righteous integrity, you must prove to others that you are innocent. You’re always making an

issue out of everything to come between you and others.” Playing power games, he said, is a
defense for the feeling of not being innocent.
“Flexible integrity?” That sounded wrong.
“Flexible integrity is necessary for a person to realign with his innocent, amiable self. It’s an
internal process and can’t be seen or understood by others.”

~
In the playground, Alex was standing by a tree near the children’s sprinkler. A garden ran
beside the 45th Street sidewalk just inside the fence. At the top of a tall white flagpole, a U. S.
flag flew high above the trees. A brick park house with a peaked tin roof had restrooms on either
side, a water fountain nearby.
In one corner at picnic tables and benches, a man and a teenage girl were sitting; I
recognized her as one of the prostitutes who walked the street in the evening, and sometimes
during the day.
“What is it?”
“It’s burned,” Alex pointed to the thin wiry tree. “I think someone tried to burn down this
tree.”
“Will it live?”
“We’ll see,” Alex placed her hand on the burned area. “I don’t think it’s too bad. I was
thinking of the fort that was here years ago. One night the teenage gang set it on fire. The trees
around it were burned, but they survived.”
Coming back from the playground, I saw the church doors swing open. A vampire stepped
out and stood on the top step, a tall man in a black suit and black shirt and black hair swept back,
and a majestic face. Walking down the steps, his black and scarlet cape caught the breeze and
billowed out, and he walked down the block that way.
It was Raul Julia on his way back to the play, Dracula, on Broadway. He had been
rehearsing “The Passion According to St. Mark” for Sunday’s Good Friday service.
On my 30th birthday, I reaffirmed myself: I can have friends without performing for them. If
I lose them, I will survive.
Soon after, I traveled to Harlem to meet the Metamorphosis Writing Collective, a small
group of African-American poets. They were interested in finding places to read, expanding their
reach. It was hard to break into the “all-white” reading circuit. I scheduled them, including poets
Kurtis Lamkin and Regina Williams, to read in July.
On the way home, walking up the subway steps, I felt the cold through my shoes, Looking
down, I saw how worn the soles were, and a hole in the toe of one.
I called Ken Diego at NET and he said he was coming to Ed Chibeau’s play, “Quicksilver
Messenger Service,” on April 9.
Barbara Fisher directed Rochelle Ratner’s “Tellings,” a chamber theater piece about her
relationship with her mother. Only a dozen people came. Rochelle, dark-haired, industrious and
dedicated to her love of the spoken and written word, was less ruffled than the rest of us.
The voice is familiar.
Power transferred to the brain
And then the heart.

Or is the heart first?
Two weeks ago
mother asked what she’d taught me.
Hands twisting in her lap.
Sure she’d given nothing.
Barbara and Richard were publishing poetry chapbooks and Waterways magazine. They had
formed the New York Waterways Project, with her group Ten Penny Players, and were planning
readings at the South Street Seaport, Westbeth Pier, and other places on the waterfront.
After the show, an elderly man dressed like a dapper clown stopped to talk with me. Bruce
Milholland had written the original play, “Napoleon on Broadway” that became the film “On
The Twentieth Century” when he was a young man.
“Carole Lombard,” I said. “Did you write the screenplay?”
“No.” He smiled tellingly. “They gave it to Ben Hecht.”
“Yes, well.” I acknowledged the reason for that and at the same time, empathy for Bruce.
We talked about writing and he asked, “Have you read Tolstoy’s short stories?”
“No, I didn’t know he wrote short stories.”
“He wrote the best short stories.” He recommended Childhood , Boyhood and Youth.
I checked it out of the library, devoured it and made a copy of one story for Alex.
My short novel was sent back by Faith Sale at Dutton, for the usual reason: no plot. Should I
put in bold letters every thirty pages the word PLOT?
Time was the structure of the novel: the children grow up; at the end two are reunited, but
there is no finality: “marriage or death,” as E.M. Forster said.
Isabel Martin read the Florida poem and called it “a poetry novel.” I liked that.
At the next reading, three poets with a sense of humor revved up the audience.
The poets:
Margot da Silva, Shirley Powell and Jack Ramey
The next week came the whirlwind: Jana Harris and the filmmaker Alexis Krasilovsky. Jana
was blonde and beautiful, fresh from the Pacific Northwest, with a bright literary future already
beginning to flower.
Alexis was a hippie-with-a-mission, a wonderful natural force of “flower power” aged like
wine to determination and flair. She blew in the front doors carrying her large film and camera
bags. “On the run,” she said, and told me of filming in Tennessee and leaving, driving through
the night, after interviewing people in Memphis about Martin Luther King’s assassination.
On the phone, I arranged a June reading with the editor, Patricia Lee, for Freshtones: An
Anthology of Poetry, Fiction, Essays and Photography by Women. The book contained one of
my poems, and other new as well as established writers. The introduction was by June Jordan.
I was concerned about audience attendance. A recent show, T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” by
actor Jim Curran, drew twenty people. The Gegenschein Review party afterward had more than
fifty people. So it was impossible to know.
I had seen the Eliot show weeks before in a space the size of a modest living room on the
second floor of an industrial building in the West 30s, with about six other people. I was blown
away by the poetry.

Jack Ramey sent me two guest tickets for his “Evening with Dylan Thomas” at the 13th
Street Theater. After the show, he asked if he should keep in touch.
I said yes, “Send me a note if you need a space.”
Loyd Williamson’s Masque Ensemble Co. was interested in doing a performance piece with
dance, music and the poetry of e e cummings. Dennis Thread of the Masque Ensemble Company
came to see the downstairs space, and postponed the show because they wanted more than one
night. I had arranged for a time in TASC’s schedule when three nights in June were available,
but the Theater’s schedule changed last minute.
The alternative was to use the downstairs theater when TASC never did, in August, the
hottest month of the year.
At a staff meeting, I proposed a “Summer Poetry Festival,” a month-long program of
“poetry theater, combining dance, music and poetry,” for the month of August.
Mike resisted the idea at first. He was afraid people would confuse the “less professional”
poets theater with the Theater at St. Clement’s productions. Anita and Jeff were more supportive.
I met with Jeff and then others until the Summer Poetry Festival received their approval. I
began scheduling groups and individual actors to bring performances of the poetry of T.S. Eliot,
e e cummings, Sappho, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and contemporary poets, to the public at
a very reasonable price of $2.50 to $3.
Mike and Henry objected to Jim Curran’s one-man show of T.S. Eliot’s poetry.
Henry said that he had heard from people whose judgment he respected that “Jim is a lousy
actor,” who does “very poor work.”
“Can you really stand behind this?” Mike asked in his two-fisted way.
“If you do,” Jeff said, “we’ll let it go on, but we’ll evaluate it and if the program is
embarrassing, it will hurt your credibility.”
I wondered why Jim Curran has been treated like this at St. Clement’s. Any artist or work of
art has its admirers and detractors, and I could have dragged in a number of people to rave about
his performance of Eliot’s poetry.
In particular, the Theater staff did not like his proposal for “Scenes from Shakespeare.”
Jeff said it was amateurish and trite.
Mike said people would confuse it with the Theater, and it had to be high quality or it would
reflect badly on the theater program.
The growth of the Poetry Festival was being attended by quite a bit of hysteria: turmoil for
me and for St. Clement’s. At the same time, there had been gratification too for me, in the last
few weeks.
Alex came to sit on the church stoop. She had been planting flowers in the tree pits around
the oak and maple trees on the street. People stopped to say, “Why are you doing this? You know
they will be trampled.”
“Alex, I think they look beautiful.”
“Last year someone was throwing rocks at me from that rooftop. Little pieces of brick.” She
indicated a building across the street with a long flat roof without a raised cornice.
“But you didn’t stop.”
Alex’s laughter was water rippling over rocks in a stream. “Just call me Pollyanna Palmer!”
Amid all this poetry, I stood in the church doorway, looking for direction and a place to call
home.

9 Summer Poetry Festival
In the midsummer heat, the Metamorphosis Writing Collective appeared at St. Clement’s.
Kurtis Lamkin accompanied his words playing the Kora, a twenty-string African harp. Regina
Williams poems described life for poor, rural people of color.
Hanging out on the church steps with Alex Palmer, I told her my frustration at getting
attention for the poetry program. She worked at the New York Times in the Style Department.
She said, “The mail room is on the first floor, off the lobby. Take the press releases there.”
The Poetry Project at St. Marks needed a place to perform until their church was renovated,
after being hit by a lightning bolt, and a fire that almost completely destroyed the preRevolutionary building in the East Village. Bob Holman organized a three-day event, created by
members of the St. Marks Poetry Theatre Workshop, for the Summer Poetry Festival at St.
Clement’s. Bob was about 30, with medium-brown hair only a little longer than American
standard and wearing denim dungarees one shoulder-strap unfastened over a snug-fitting tee.
St. Clement’s liturgical director, Ann Folke, came in to help out, and the program “Scenes
from Shakespeare” was changed to “Shakespeare’s Sonnets.”
Not a big fan of Shakespeare’s play (it’s like being hit with a word-mallet in the face), I had
been quietly rooting for the sonnets, from which spring some of the most memorable and
amazing lines in English literature.
Three other actors besides Jim, one also a poet, were recruited for this program. They would
ensure its high quality. William Packard was a poet and teacher, who published the New York
Quarterly. The other two were world-wise avant-garde Ann Folke, and the young actress, Elissa
Napolin.
The Summer Poetry Festival blasted off at the end of July and continued through August,
the hottest time of the year, mucho caliente.
“Mind the Piper’s Tune” directed by Martin Donegan, actors Martin Donegan,
Lynn Hardy, Joseph Hardy and Deborah Houston.
“Four Quartets,” by T. S. Eliot, performed by Jim Curran
The Times “Weekender Guide” featured three events; one of them Jim Curran’s “Four
Quartets.” The show sold out. People had to be turned away. The audiences applauded loudly.
Jim was flying after his success and ran up to me. “I’ve got a great idea for ‘Shakespeare‘s
Sonnets’.”
“What?”
“I’ll get up and be the center and the others will work off me.”
“Oh no. The program is just fine the way it is. Everyone’s equal, everyone gets equal time.”
“But it’s not dynamic enough. We need to act!”
“I don’t think so. The poems are the center—”
But he was off and running, stopping William Packard in the hallway.
Packard’s face turned from blank to livid. “Absolutely not!”
Jim buttonholed the two women. Ann Folke waved him away. Elissa backed into a corner
backstage.
“This has been rehearsed,” I said to Jim. “It’s too late.”
“I can pull it off,” he said. “You saw what happened the other night. Standing room only,”
he enthused, “the applause.”

“I know, and it was great. But that’s the way you rehearsed your program. This is different,
and you have three other people to think of.”
He seemed to calm down, and I left them to go back up front to open the doors and greet the
audience. When I came back later, William Packard was in a warrior trance and Elissa was
crying in the corner. Ann Folke had a wry look on her face.
“You have to go on,” I said to Packard. “The audience is here and—”
“I don’t care. I won’t work with him.”
I was shocked. “He’s a little high right now, I know. I need you and the others to be calm, to
bring this together.” I turned to the other actors. “I’ll talk to him again.”
Packard sulked while I comforted Elissa.
Jim came backstage again and I took him aside. “Jim, you sit down with the others and do it
straight.” No nonsense.
He looked abashed. “Okay,” he said sullenly.
Talk about a pox on your poetry.
No matter how well Packard and Ann and Elissa did, Jim popped up or went over the top
when his turn came and disrupted the flow. Packard began to mumble and glare. The audience
looked confused and in time, uncomfortable.
Standing in back watching the slug fest become sluggish, I felt my anger rising. As far as I
was concerned, the two men were acting like children. Worse, in fact.
I felt disappointed for the audience who deserved much better.
Jim was unconscious; he thought the evening went well. Still hopping and jumping the next
day in the hallway the next day, he saw Estelle Parsons on the stairway.
He called up to her, “Would you like to do a show of scenes from Shakespeare?”
“I’d never do that,” she answered.
The Shakespeare program went without mention, although Ann, whom I respected very
much, gave me told-you-so looks. Several people, though, I thought, were at fault there.

~
The Times carried a write-up of “what they call poets theater” and listed the coming events.
Even then it did not occur to me that Alex might be working her magic.
The Soho News, the Village Voice, New York and Cue magazines listed the program.
The St. Marks performances were seemingly improvised, like abstract or DaDa art. PJ
would be proud to see the Village sensibility alive and thrashing/trashing/word-bashing.
“Clear The Range” by Bob Holman and Bob Rosenthal, adapted from poet Ted
Berrigan’s wacky Western novel, published by Adventures in Poetry/Coach
House South in 1977
“Chrononhotonthologos” by Henry Carey, showcased his special humor
“Delouz Entango” by Janet Hamill, “a contemporary tale of love.”
“Starship Vasco” by Daniel Krakauer, “a soap opera of daily life in the distant
future aboard a spaceship.”
“Barbecue Music” by Jim Brodey, took on “the theater”
A scene from “Grinding Out the Bucks” by Lizbeth Theisen, a spoof of the 1970s

Bob Holman (center) and others in a St. Marks Poetry Project
Performance piece at St. Clement’s Summer Poetry Festival, August 1979

In the next show, Clyde Repertory brought to the stage the poetry of Sappho, Shakespeare,
Emily Dickinson, Diane Ackerman, Barbara Holland, Ulf Goebel, Susan Badger, Melissa
Cannon and Lois Moyles. Ulf Goebel, a poet and translator, was the mainspring of Clyde.
“Midsummer Clyde” performed by:
Kurt Erickson, Mary Lee Floden, Michael Immerman, Lorna Koch, Karen
Mistell, Ruth Kinter, Jan Moyer, Cynthia Savage and Doug Wester
The White Mask Players combined dance and music with poetry.
White Mask Players:
Musician Jim Haggerty, poets Howard Berland, Kendell Lide, Terry Hayes and
Doloris Holmes
“Eliot Among The Nightingales” by the Sunday Brunch Company, featured the light verse
of T. S. Eliot, his correspondence with Groucho Marx, and the jazz poem/play “Sweeney
Agonistes.”

10 Lights, Action
The next theater piece was “Zelda,” by the poet Kaye McDonough. The play “about the life
and Mind of Zelda Fitzgerald” had been published by City Lights in San Francisco. This was its
first production in New York City. A rising director from the Public Theater, Nancy Gabor,
agreed to direct.
Actors:
Sara Croft - Zelda Fitzgerald
Anita Keal - Virginia Woolf
Jeanne Allen - Gertrude Stein
Peter Ratray - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Frank Dwyer - Ernest Hemingway

Fred Rivera did offstage voices
Dress rehearsal the night before the opening flowed intuitively, revealing all the richness of
the words and subtlety of the artists’ relationships. Through it all, the female perspective on art,
love, and endurance, rang out in a sweet-sad-humorous mantra.
The actors told me they had invited agents and producers from Off-Broadway theaters and
many said they would attend the first night’s public performance.
Press releases were published in the Times and other New York newspapers and magazines.
The following day the phone rang in the front office. I picked it up and a man asked for the
director of the Poetry Festival.
“That’s me,” I said, pleased.
“I’m a lawyer with WR and we represent the Fitzgerald estate.”
“Uh-huh.”
“If you proceed with the performance of this play, Zelda, you and St. Clement’s will be
sued.”
“Oh. Why?”
“We believe there may be copyright infringement.” He rattled off other violations, but my
consciousness was ebbing away.
“But this is a published play. By City Lights.” How could there be a copyright problem?
How could they not have known about it?
“It is? We’ll need to see the book.”
“Well, I don’t know. I only have three copies.”
“Send two to us.”
“Okay.”
A few minutes later, there was another call. This time it was an attorney for a woman who
had written a play called “Zelda,” based on Zelda’s writings and letters. Another copy of the
book for them.
I spun out of the office to find Anita. Jeff was home and Mike on vacation.
“Call our attorneys,” Anita said.
The number was on the phone in the front office. I called. The lawyer told me, “This is WR,
the same firm that represents the Fitzgerald estate and Scotty Fitzgerald. It’s a conflict of
interest. I can’t represent you.”
I gulped; after all, St. Clement’s was only a pro bono client of WR. The lawyer heard my
voice shaking, and said, oh what the hell. “I’ll give you advice,” he said. “But that’s all I can
do.”
“All right.”
“Send the copies and I’ll see that this gets resolved as quickly as possible.”
“I’ll take them there myself.”
“No,” he said, “we’ll send a courier.”
“Oh, thanks!”
“What kind of production were you doing? This is the poetry program?”
“We had lighting,” I said. “There’s no set, just a bare stage and stools for the actors.”
“Don’t use the lighting. Make it a reading. Have them hold the books in their hands. And
don’t charge admission.”
I sat down. All that work. What was I going to tell the director and the actors? Not to
mention Kaye McDonough?

“What did he say?” Anita’s no-nonsense presence filled the room.
I told her.
“That’s right,” she said. “If it’s just a bunch of people getting together to read a book, then
it’s protected by the First Amendment.”
My throat was dry. My hands were cold. I hoped, though, that the law firms could deal with
this and we could go ahead with the performance.
I called Jeff. “We can’t take a chance,” he said. “You have to do what the lawyer said. It’s
got to be a reading.”
I found the books and put them in envelopes. A bike courier came in and whisked them
away.
“I don’t have enough books to go around. There’s only one left and it has to go to the other
lawyer. The poetry program can’t afford to copy the whole book for each actor. And City Lights
is too far away to send them.”
Anita and I chewed on this and came to an unsatisfactory conclusion. Each actor’s part
would be copied separately. They would not have the other’s roles in front of them. Their
memory would have to serve them. I set out with the last book and made these copies. It was
time-consuming and the other lawyer was waiting. Rushing back to the church, I got the copy in
an envelope and prepared to race across town with it. Anita had found someone to take it across
town.
I felt my head spinning and the blood drain from my face. Slipping toward the floor I groped
my way to the library and sank onto the couch. I had to call the director and let her know. And
the actors, all their hopes, all their work. This could have been their big break. Agents and
producers in the audience. How could I explain this to them? Was the church being too cautious?
What happened to our rebellious: we’re outcasts; we’re on the fringe attitude?
Time’s a wasting. I got up. Why am I so weak?
The next performance of e e cummings’ poetry, with dance and music, was coming in for
rehearsal that afternoon. I met their director and told him the story. He blanched, but a half hour
later after his actors and dancers had arrived, he asked if the lights could be set for their
performance?
I stood in the downstairs theater space, staring up at the lights on the grid, knowing this
decision would mean no turning back. The Technical Director was working for a stipend and
could only be asked to do so much. She had agreed to set the lights for each performance, but no
more. I called her.
The cummings’ director thanked me profusely, saying the extra rehearsal under the lights,
since there was movement—dance—in the program, helped them immensely.
I called the director of Zelda and she was livid. She could not understand why we, the
church administrator and I, were caving in.
“You don’t understand,” I tried to explain. “We have no lawyers. Our lawyers are their
lawyers. Jeff says we have to do what they say.”
“No, no, we have to talk. I’m coming in!”
When she arrived, she kicked up a storm, refusing to do the play as a reading. Finally, I
convinced her to have the actors hold the books, that is, the copies of their parts, in their hands.
“Oh, and I have to tell you I had the lights changed.”
“What?”
“For the next show. They’re in rehearsal.”
She screamed. “Put them back!”

“I can’t. It’s done. You have to accept it. We have to make the best of this.”
She and I talked to the actors as they came in, one by one, and the last two together. They
were devastated, incredulous, confused. Several had tears in their eyes.
“Oh my god, after such a beautiful rehearsal.”
“I‘ve invited an agent...”
They looked at the pages I handed out: like the tattered remains of their dreams.
“This isn’t the whole book?”
“No, only your part. I hope I got it all.”
“Should we even go on?”
“One of the people I invited is the play development person at Circle Rep.”
The audience arrived, a full house. Men in suits introduced themselves as lawyers for the
aggrieved parties.
The director passed by. “I’m going to use the lights.”
“You can’t, they’ve been changed!” I whispered. “It won’t work.”
“Yes, it will.” She sailed to the light board
One young lawyer leaned against the wall behind the seats next to me. The lights went out
and the stage lights went on, in all the wrong places. The actors fumbled their way to their places
and sat on their stools or stood beside them, pages in their hands. One began to speak, in
darkness, and lights went out and others on, flashing on empty stage and parts of faces. One
actress as she was speaking leaned into the light.
The timing was off, the rhythm kept changing. As the performance fragmented, the actors
became desperate, losing their connection to one another and the audience.
At the end, the lawyer next to me said, “I don’t think this poses any threat.”
My answering look contained all the anger I had felt that day.
The next day the lawyers for all parties called to say there was no copyright infringement or
other problem with the play.
The lawyer from WR called me. “I’m sorry,” he said. “When we saw the book, we realized
it wasn’t what we thought it was.”
“Do you think they knew there was no problem all along?” I asked Jeff.
“I think they wanted to disrupt it.”
Poor Kaye. I sent her a telegram. “Legal problems.”
She wrote to me, a calm letter, wondering how they had not heard of the book and the play
before. The play had been produced in Chicago.
Then I remembered the New York Times notice. Success can bite you.
City Lights wrote, expressing their amazement.
The last show of the Festival, “damn everything but the circus!” by Loyd Williamson’s
Masque Ensemble Company, set the poetry of e e cummings, to music and dance. I had a
lighting director, but no one to run the big spotlight. Ann Folke came to the rescue. She was a
Renaissance woman. The show was a hit. Audiences filled the theater as two young hunks and
one nymph sported about the stage. It was Bacchanalia time in the city.

11 Encore Glow
I went to Richard and Barbara’s Waterways Project book fair and poetry reading on the
Hudson near Westbeth. Don Lev, Vincent Campo, Sidney Bernard and Janet Bloom were there.
Jeff Wright was one of the readers, while I was talking to Richard, and Don Lev joined us. He

and Don and Sid Bernard said they had seen the Summer Poetry Festival publicity, especially in
the Times, and Richard mentioned Newsday and congratulated me.
The Waterways event was a success. There were many small presses at tables on the pier
and a marathon reading taking place. Richard had made the right decision for him.
I walked away, feeling the split between us even more.
After the Summer Poetry Festival ended, Jeff was favorably impressed by the quality and
encouraged me to run the e e cummings performance an extra weekend in September. He spoke
to Mike, who agreed, and they offered the poetry program the space again the next summer. I
received 10% of the box office as compensation for my work. The Summer Poetry Festival had
thrived and I thought, “I have finally found something that works.”
Sitting on the church steps, I mused, “If I can promote poetry, I can promote anything.”
In the encore glow, heat radiated from the red brick church as two rows of tall arched
windows glowed from within.
The e e cummings’ show opened for a five night run. The press was not as receptive as I had
hoped. The theater, however, was filled each night.
Taking a walk, I gamboled through the Book Fair on Fifth Avenue. And there was Richard.
He organized the poetry readings for the Book Fair. I ran into Bob Holman, who was acting
strange and said he was “whacked out” or something like that, and Don Lev, David Gershator
and Sid Bernard “Witnessing The Seventies,” the usual crew in other words.
Dan Stokes was back from another trip to California. I went to his reading; afterward we
went drinking. I was not looking forward to drinking, but was glad I did. I felt better, relaxed. I
needed that outlet. The day before, Jim Curran was on my back: I don’t do enough or care about
“Four Quartets.” It was all very serious. It was good to be loose again, feel the California
dreams, East Village vibes, linger at Dojo’s or Hiro’s all vegetarian, a pile of spinach and alfalfa
sprouts and tahini sauce, then some homemade ice cream.
Dan looked tan and tranquil. He said he found people out there were more open, honest, no
unpeeling of layers to find what some person is really like.
I was glad he found that, what he was looking for; I thought he’d be disappointed and find
California had changed, and people as competitive as they were here.
He told me he was moving there in a year or so when his lease was up. Open a bookstore out
there, Los Angeles area.
Over cold sesame noodles, he looked at me. “Did I ever tell you, you were cutesysardonic?”
I loved it. That’s me.

~
That fall, I had to conduct a number of open readings alone, greeting the readers, asking
people to be guest readers at another time and date. At the Open Readings, I introduced the poets
one by one. Thrown into the sea, I was learning to swim.
In October there was one exception to a month of open readings: Rose Drachler and Janet
Bloom.
Rose Drachler performed her poem, “The Evening of the Sixth Day, A Fugue,” with Charlie
Morrow and the Ocarino Band playing “Creation Music” and a vocalist singing “beginning-ofbeing sounds.”

Rose began publishing in her 60s and was well-known to the poetry seers of the 1970s and
80s. Steeped in Jewish tradition, she was at the same time an innovative poet. Her books,
Burrowing In, Digging Out published in 1974, and The Choice in 1977, published by David
Meltzer and experimental writer Jerome Rothenberg. She was encouraged in her work as a poet
by John Yau and John Ashbery.
The arts staff and other notables were meeting in the front office behind closed doors. There
was a show in the upstairs theatre, one of those rentals that kept us alive.
I was in the front hall winnowing people out from the theatre crowd, asking if they were
there for the poetry reading. I was not going to lose anyone to the superfluous event in the
grander space, even if it was the greatest play ever it was nothing compared to poetry.
The poets wanted music stands and stools. I ran upstairs and pilfered several, edging my
way onstage, ready to fight for my poets, but I met no resistance. With a long-legged stool in one
hand and a gangly music stand in the other I came down the main stairs. The theatre audience
was milling around.
The doorbell on the cloister door rang. Setting down the music stand, I opened it to see a
man with a red bandana tied around his head.
Who dresses like that? I wondered.
“Are you here for the poetry reading?”
“No,” he mouthed.
As he stepped into the hall, I asked, “The show upstairs?”
He pressed himself against the wall and stared straight at me. Beautiful eyes, I thought, big
brown eyes. He looks like Al Pacino.
It is Al Pacino. “Are you here to see your friend, Mike?” Mike had studied at the Actors
Studio on West 44th Street, I had learned, and one of his friends from those days was Al Pacino.
He nodded yes.
I escorted him to the front office door. “Mike, there’s someone here—”
The door flew open and Pacino slipped in. Mike clapped him on the shoulder and shoved the
door closed in my face.
You’re welcome.
I turned to see a dozen people staring at me.
“Was that Al Pacino?” a young woman asked.
“Yeah.” Music stand and stool held high as standards to carry into battle, I rode away on the
white horse of the unknown poet.

~
A Home Planet News marathon reading was held in early November with more than forty
poets reading. Richard Spiegel was the Master of Ceremonies.
Home Planet News, published by Donald Lev and Enid Dame, was the voice of taxi driver
and worker poets, late Beat poets and café poets, and multi-everything poets. The tabloid-style
publication contained articles on writers, writing, small press publishing, and of course, original
contemporary poetry. Alison Colbert, RobertOh Faber, Richard Davidson, James Story, and
Barbara Holland were published in Volume I, No. 1 of Home Planet News.
Don Lev played the Poet in Robert Downey Sr.’s classic underground film, “Putney
Swope.”

Enid was an upbeat Post-Beat feminist poet. Her satire lacked the cynicism that defeats its
purpose, and her good-humored but tongue-in-cheek sensibility was one of those paradoxes that
make a person unique.
The readers streamed onstage one after another, with humble and/or self-conscious and/or
appreciative laughter and encouragement often in the form of jokes or obscure allusions from the
others.
Among the poets:
Stanley Barkan, Fred Bauman, Ed Butscher, Alison Colbert, Vincent Corvaia,
Enid Dame, Richard Davidson, RobertOh Faber, Marjorie Finnell, David
Gershator, Daniela Gioseffi, Arlene Goldberg, Roberta Gould, Linda Gutterman,
Boruk Glasgow, Barbara Holland, Robert Kramer, Susan Kronenberg, Don Lev,
Joel Lewis, Shelley Messing, William Packard, John Burnett Payne, Shirley
Powell, Zack Rogow, Virginia Scott, Layle Silbert, Phyllis Stern, James Story,
Steve and Gloria Tropp, Lehman Weichselbaum and Eunice Wolfgram
In the milling mass, Al G, a writer for a leftist mag/rag, struck up a conversation with me. I
was fascinated by his old-fashioned radicalism.
I saw Barbara Fisher talking with him. She strode over to me, clenching her fists and baring
her teeth: “He’s a terrible man!”
To me, poetry was not an impotent force. Words were greater than war, if we could break
away from our preconceived notions—learned in a similar way to the decanted people of Brave
New World —of power as violence.
Writing to Lynn Holst of the Public Theater, I proposed a marathon reading for next summer
at the Delacorte in Central Park. It would be, “a gathering of the great poets, the great voices, of
our time, because I believe that it is necessary for people to face the complexities of modern life,
to begin to describe and analyze these complexities, and surrender the idea that any truth about
the world, about people or events, can be expressed in simplistic statements.”
I went on to say I was not “necessarily saying that poetry can save the world, only that for
those who want to change their way of thinking or to listen to a different way of thinking, poetry
may be the way in which they can do that.” It was what we could aspire to, not as celebrities, but
as people of conscience who were diligently charting the complications, subtleties and
metamorphoses in our lives.

12 Intuition
The personnel committee at St. Clement’s approved the job description of poetry director. If
it worked out, I could quit working for PJ.
Coming in from the cold, as the holidays approached and the theater went into dormancy, I
hopped into the church.
Mike was at the front desk listening to his phone messages. Anita was sitting in the big chair
by the windows reading her mail. Scripts and St. Clement’s mailer, “The Seed,” were piled here
and there.
Mike and Anita put fingers to their lips.
“What?”

“Al’s rehearsing,” Mike said, “for his play, ‘Richard III.’”
Of course, I had to have a cup of tea. I headed for the kitchen. A distinctive voice rolled into
the hallway. The stairs creaked and there was silence. I put on the teapot and waited quietly. Of
course, I had to peer through the hole in the wall, cut there to let directors and techies see what
was happening onstage.
Short, trim, dark-haired, Pacino was sitting on a stool in front of a music stand with the
script before him, his virtuous face lifted to the light from the tall windows on one side of the
little theater. The big black boards used to darken the space for theater productions had been
taken down. In summer you could look out at the sky and the roses in Rose’s backyard garden. I
turned around, poured my tea and left. The stairs creaked.
He was a hard-worker, stubborn, and dedicated, but try as I might I could not see him as the
nervous, wily Richard III.

~
PJ went back into the hospital for more than a week; I saw him only twice. Quitting was not
possible, until he was better. I had not saved any money, and my Food Stamps were intermittent.
The agency kept duplicating, and terminating them.
Ann Folke and Russell Marano did a reading of Russell’s Poems from a Mountain Ghetto.
She had discovered him and encouraged him to come to the city. The book told about his
growing up in Glen Elk, a section of Clarksburg, West Virginia “where those who had not yet
been fully assimilated into the community—Italian immigrants, and the descendants of African
slaves, vie with ‘poor whites’ from Appalachia.” His poems, although not great, were fresh. A
donation at the door helped defray his expenses.
In early December, the Mideast Poets reading:
Mirène Ghossein, Minoo Southgate, Ferda Calis, Joe Santore and Kadri LelAraby
Mirène Ghossein, last name also spelled Ghuysan, was a poet, journalist and translator.
Adonis (Ali Ahmad Sa’id), born in Syria in 1930, was one of the poets she translated. The Blood
of Adonis, Transpositions of Selected Poems of Adonis, translated by Samuel Hazo, Mirène
Ghossein, and Kamal Boullatai, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1971.
Her book, The World of Rashid Hussein, was published by Three Continents Press. Rashid
Hussein, the Palestinian poet, died in a 1977 apartment fire in Brooklyn. Several years ago, Ann
Folke Wells presented his play, “Inquiry,” at the church.
“Tonight’s reading,” Mirène said, “is dedicated to him.”
Minoo Southgate translated from Persian to English, Iskandarnamah: A Persian Medieval
Alexander-Romance, Persian Heritage Series, published by Columbia University Press in 1978,
and Modern Persian Short Stories, brought out by Three Continents Press.
Ferda Calis, a graduate of New York University and student of Turkish drama, read Turkish
poetry in the original Turkish. Joe Santore read Turkish and Arabic poems in English.
Kadri Lel-Araby played “interludes on the oud.”
All in all, an enjoyable and enlightening evening.

~
At St. Marks on December 10, I met an erstwhile David Ignatow. While the crowd swirled
around us, it occurred to me that in this place we were both sojourners.
And Dan Stokes? He found a girlfriend and I ceased to exist. I was only a substitute until he
found what he wanted, or could have. No invitation to his Christmas party. I sent him one to the
Poetry Festival’s. I went to Dan’s and the store was closed and dark. I raged across the East
Village: all that stuff about how he was “warm and generous” and other people were not, that he
used to tell me, was all a lie. He was just a selfish bastard.
St. Marks Place and Cooper Union appeared deserted and dolorous. I felt the cold.
In the Poetry Festival’s Christmas Party notice, I had promised wine, cheese, cookies, piano
playing, an open reading, and “native dancing and carousing.” I knew it was impossible to
recreate last year’s party, but “there’s always hope.”
Back at St. Clement’s I reviewed the year’s attendance. That year, approximately 2,030
people came to the Poetry Festival, not counting readers and performers.
Since their July reading at the Poetry Festival, Kurtis Lamkin and Regina Williams of the
Metamorphosis Writing Collective had been on the circuit: the Countee Cullen Library, Emilie
Glen’s in the Village, and the NYU Loeb Student Center.
For the coming year I had scheduled Joan Larkin, Virginia Scott, and Carol Polcovar. I
marveled: it’s turning into a woman’s reading series.
I stood on the steps in the winter sunset.
In the dying embers of day, an angel pauses on a fire escape to look down at the street, and I
winced but was fascinated to see fire flashing from his eyes.

~
Working on PJ’s cryptic writing, I played with his new definition of Intuition.
At an elemental level, he described how we learn what advances our desires, and what
thwarts our wishes. When we judge the action or its consequence harmful to ourselves or others,
we learn to rationalize; we dissemble, all to ensure our “emotional security” by convincing
ourselves of our innocence.
I made notes. What’s valuable and what’s not? How do we make these judgments?
Talking with him I challenged his ideas on building the intuition in childhood. “What kind
of intellect can a child have? What level of perceptual awareness?”
“A child’s sensory and perceptual apprehension of the world is pretty great,” PJ said. “It has
to be for the learning process to take place. The intellect evolves, often seeming to the individual
to match the world’s maturation. It’s an incredible process, both gradual and immediate.” Then,
he added, “But the concept of time is another subject.”
“You see, you keep piling one lie on top of another and another on top of that,” PJ said,
developing his theory of rationalizing guilt. “And the deeper you get into rationalization, the
more you get away from ever becoming amiable again.”
This is a process over time, he said, and can lead to justification of whole sets of actions.
Eventually we feel the overload and break down, and start over again with the slate wiped clean,

or we continue to heap one justification on another until the intuition, swamped by guilt and lies
becomes more hostile than amiable, and is unable to change.
“What about your conscience? Doesn’t that give you a guidepost to follow?”
“The idea is that once a person becomes saturated with guilt, he has to abandon his
conscience, because he can’t do anything against his conscience, so he forgets he has one at all,
and he is no longer a man integrated at all. He has no integrity anymore. You run across these
people everywhere you go, as you know.”
I nodded.
Winter with PJ was a return to innocence, a primitive meta-state when human beings held
the future in their opposing thumbs and “emanated” abstract renderings on cave walls.
He showed me a series of small designs he called “Emanations.” He said that he may have
chosen the colors to work with on his watercolors and designs, but there was no way he could
have planned the forms that came out.
“It was purely an intuitive thing,” he said. “And the intuition brings you back to innocence.”

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful