norman savage, featured writer, thirteen poems

editor’s note: a year ago or so Puma Perl introduced me to Norman Savage, or simply SAVAGE. i traded email with this crazy old bastard, he’s 70 something, and fell in love with his writing. his poetry tells his story and the poems herein barely scratch the surface. SAVAGE lives in the war torn NYC and continues to survive despite a number of challenges he faces on a daily basis. unabashedly i love his work, and the man. Norman Savage is incredible and i am honored to present him as featured poet in the 8th edition of Heroin Love Songs.

featured writer

get me

I stare at him
through 103 m.p.h.—get me;
you missed me through bags
of scag; get me
out of impulse; take me
while fucking
anybody, swallowing
anything; get me
out of here, I’m waiting.

I know you’re waiting;
I’m waiting, too. Waiting
’til you start living.

I pushed harder
on the pleading
accelerator.

captain video

is dead.
He died
not far from me
in a cheap, transient
Lexington Ave.,
soon to be torn down
hotel
that the $2.00,
truck drivin, acne faced,
need to feel somethin
people
give
to the not too pretty,
no good connections,
street action lovers,
jacked-up,
diseased hallway,
fake leather,
mouse droppings,
blow-job missing
piece of the puzzle
hooker
contracts
to.

I wonder how
Ed Norton feels?

blues

Saturday night descends
like Elvin Jones
around my shoulders
as darkness supplies
the masturbatory comfort—
I look for signs:
The Daily News gets fucked,
and acquitted;
Agnew found stroking it
and coming
for the first time;
Richard reprimands him
for sticking to business;
Sartre blames his mother…
this is CRAZY
this IS absurd
to stop in the
m
i
d
d
l
e
of a sentence
finding each word
lacks the meaning
you thought
it had.

I reach
for my albums
to give myself
a chance;
like now,
Lady Day
to end the fever
shoots me
full of
medicine.

the bathroom at slugs

in the far east,
on third, between B & C
was hot. It was over thirty years ago
that even taking a piss in there
fucked with your imagination. It smelled
of sex, quinine, morphine, reefer, body odor
and wastes. Before sets, in-between, and after
there were lines. Sometimes singles, often times
couples of the same or different orientation.
There was a kind of understanding: sometimes
it took longer to get hard, or find a vein,
or role and fumble with a stick, and so you waited.
The ones with priority were the players. They needed
to do their business and get the hell back. Besides,
in truth, that’s why most of us came to Slugs
in The Far East. The other joints where cats could work
ideas into riffs for weeks or a month at a time,
like The Five Spot or Half-Note,
were already dead.

One night late Lee was on the bandstand blowing hard
sweating into the collar of a stained white shirt that had
pin-pricks of dried blood in the crook of his arm
when his common law entered. She walked up, opened
her purse, took a gun from it, and shot him dead
during his solo. She turned, walked calmly back,
placed the revolver on the wood-scared pock-marked bar,
and ordered a drink—scotch, I think. And waited.
The bartender, Frankie, served her without saying a word.

After awhile people started to breath, some whispered, and others
went back to the bathroom.
“That no good motherfucka sonofabitch deserved that killin’,”
an older chick nearby said, “that junkie bastard usin’ her bread
for his vein was bad enough, but his bitch’s vein too, that’s even worser…
someday he be back though, hope he learned his motherfuckin’ lesson.”

The ambulance came, and so did the cops. They took out one living
and one dead; which was which I couldn’t say.

I don’t know if Lee ever did come back. I do know this:
men will be men,
and women women; that is the task,
and that, my friends,
is the terror.

a Christmas greeting to my fellow humans

There are those
who always seem
to be happy; never knowing
accidents of any kind.
They have been winners
at genetic roulette, and
hardly ate a bone cooked
more than once. Usually
they smile, if not laugh
at the postman’s legs,
on the street, in supermarkets
only if in the company of others.
Perhaps they were prepared well
for life’s catastrophes, or have a faith
that transcends them. I’ve never seen them
in clinics, in gin
or Medicaid mills,
foraging for food
thrown out, for money disappeared
from a hole in the pocket
or head; stolen
without warning
or retribution.
Usually these aren’t the ones whose bodies are at war
against themselves: acne, tumors, diverticulitis,
dementia, boils, warts, madness; their lives aren’t waged
against landlords, and bosses, and politicians
who possess the trait that all men of power do: indifference.

I’ve not drank, nor written a poem, in ten years.
I’ve not been missed. The word has mattered
to those that own the presses. Tribal chiefs
and The Medicis have understood this well. Those writing
control only their demons; they only matter
if lucky, as commodity.

I’ve just come from the supermarket. I do not need
a basket. They watch me, as I watch them.
I saw a couple holding hands as they debated
salsa: too hot for him, too mild for her.
He whispered something in her ear, and they laughed.
She leaned in closer, and rested her head
on his shoulder. I moved
on.

blizzards

I grew up
in a blizzard
of bullshit.
When I finally came
out of the gash
the doctor
should have
handed me
a muffler
and ear flaps.
Instead,
he gave me
a shovel–
and I’ve been digging
out ever since.

a poem to my readers

The best ones
are the people
who come to me cold–
without ever seeing
my face or hearing
my voice or experiencing
my charms.
They breathe
on the words
I’ve written
and
if they like them
they read on
or
if they don’t
they leave;
it’s an easy commerce.
The good thing is:
either way
we’re both
still breathing.

My words
are selfishly crafted;
they’re not designed
to stop a war,
or foreclosure,
or make the world a better place.
Sometimes, quite the opposite.
But, speaking just for me,
at times, have saved
at least
my life.
Perhaps, the same
can be said
for yours.
Some might say
that that is
a cheap victory,
and that might be true,
but it’s
ours.

addiction

I know that feeling well:
you can’t wait
to be alone
inside a room,
a stall,
a hallway,
where no one
can see you,
find you,
talk to you,
confront you,
pressure you,
upset you,
deconstruct you,
unmask you,
torture you,
demand of you,
finger you,
command you,
annoy you,
remind you,
deny you,
kill you,
love you,
acknowledge you,
praise you,
cherish you,
worship you,
adore you,
look at you,
measure you,
accept you,
cheat on you,
misplace you,
lean on you…
and just sip
from the lip
or inject a tip
of a bottle
or a syringe
of mother’s milk
into your mouth
or vein
that soothes
the creases
in your soul.
It’s like walking
into a Chinese laundry
on a blue winter’s day,
and the steam heat
embraces you as does
the old familiar Chinese couple
behind the counter
for a hundred years,
and you know
their love
has its own rhythm and
you’d love to have
that rhythm
but you don’t;
and then
you smell the steam
from the old irons
held in their beautiful crooked hands
swollen with arthritic pain
as you drop off your stains
knowing they will come back
pressed out and you can once again
be clean and fresh.

Be sure
not to lose
your ticket.

crosshairs

We’re always
the target.
There’s always
somebody or something
taking aim.
It could be a sniper
not yet born,
or a virus
not yet mutated.
Better it be over
quickly, like a plane
landing in your coffee cup;
or your heart
exploding; or your brain
aneurysm imploding.
It could be a bullet
meant for someone else,
or a ricocheted shard
off the sidewalk
into your eye.
Perhaps
a schizophrenic
thought you were God
and pushed God,
the false God,
under the train?

But usually
the crosshairs
is looked through
by you.
You’re the best
shot in the world.
You never miss.
You know where
your soft parts are.
You might do it quickly–
if you’re lucky
–or do something
that bears fruit
six months later.

It does not much matter
the method or the means.
We’re all good
and we should be:
we practice
all the time.

Rimbaud phones me on a slow night

at two a.m.–
never a good sign
–and says,
“fuck poetry,
I ain’t no kid anymore;
gonna run guns
to Ethiopia.
Why don’t ya join me?”
“I’m on my other line,” I mutter,
with Poe. Fucking call waiting,
Hold on,” I tell him.
“Fuck him, man,
he’s still hung-up
on that Lenore chick.”
Which was true,
but I ain’t gonna tell
Poe that. Besides,
I’ve got a few ghosts myself.
“I’ll call ya back,” I sez,
but knew I wouldn’t cuz
he’d just romance me
and I never could stand that.
And just when I was gonna tell Edgar
to can it, forget about the chick,
Baudelaire barges in
with a bottle of green gold,
loaded, telling me our cocks
were really hands
on life support, and time
was shit anyway.
I gulp a shot down
and forget about Edgar
and we tumble into
each other and hope Verlaine
doesn’t show, but he does,
and wants to nibble our ears,
but Charlie wouldn’t let him,
and I tell him to call Rimbaud back
but after he said that, that crazy sonofabitch shot him.
I gave him a drink and thought about taking the phone
off the hook but had another drink myself and Charlie
started reading Spleen to us and our eyes bugged
and in she walked…
parting the curtains
with that hip of hers,
knifing it, all beads
and black panties
and a stamp collector’s bag
in the palm of her hand…”uptown dope,”
she whispered
and slipped a nail
under its lip.

It takes a special woman
to have men forget
who is crazy and who
they are and listen
to music from other rooms
far, far, away.

a little more dope, please

Got enough kindness,
thank you very much.
Food, uhuh,
got plenty of that, too.
Money? I’m OK for now
with that.
A woman? You kiddin?
I’ll pass.
Got my four walls,
some paper,
and a Bic–
if I need em.
It’s dreams, man,
that I’m short of;
and I’m getting old-old,
so old that my old dreams
have gotten tired, too,
and can’t make the leap
into my head
without some help.
So…
pass the dope, wouldya?
I’ve got the spike&spoon,
I’ve got the cotton&belt,
a glass of water rests
on my table & I’ve got the will
to sleep&encourage
rebellion
damning what separates me
from the dimming light.

my father

from wherever
he is standing
or sitting
or sleeping,
and snuggle
next to a worm
or the charcoal hothouse
with as little
or with as much
understanding
as when he slid
down the wet fleshy mouth
held opened
and fastened
by pain
and promises.
If he does
indeed fall,
which is much more likely,
he’ll not notice
the bounce
of objects
near,
how they will lift themselves
and sometimes fly
from their moorings;
he will not feel
the heft of three hundred pounds
making room for itself;
he will not hear the sounds
that bodies sing when kissing
concrete, or woolen carpets,
or floorboards, tiles, linoleum,
or the soft feathers
of pillows
scarred by the indentations
of dreams.
He will have died
without being suckled
by all the women
who held him
through endless days
and nights; he will
have died
without his sons
who suckled him
in ways
they shouldn’t have,
coming to rescue
a panoply of errors
of judgment,
of haste,
of impulsiveness,
of lies, deceits,
betrayals, of pitting
one against the other,
in self-serving cruel
and merciless acts
of benevolence.
when his breath
cuts the dust of rest
and reward, he will have gleaned
no further understanding
of who
or why
this is,
only a lament
to a world
unaware
of how fine
and generous
a gentleman
he truly was.

my father, revisited

cloaked
in a loving garb,
having fully realized
the reasons for adulation
single-mindedly succeeded
in redirecting my paths
to approximate a lumbering,
diseased and labored mixture
of blood and bone.
His thick and corpulent flesh
helped repel
a tissue thin, pin shaped,
needle of truth
that insistently jabbed
against his fleshy grain:
as much as he was a lover,
was he a sinner
to those who loved
and trusted him.
He used
their love,
their trust,
in indecent ways
repugnant,
even to himself,
that a balm
of constant consumption,
was one of the few remedies
to rid himself of the disgust
that ate at him as he,
ate at them,
satiated the starkness
of steel.

If he knew then,
that he’d lived,
beyond
matrimonial slavery
and familial idolatry,
he’d have turned Jell-O
into concrete,
ice cream,
into lava
hot from the core
to his gullet,
money,
into bullets,
Cadillac’s,
into shotguns,
to effect
an exit
for an audience
of one.
My mother
who,
in her last two
poker playing decades,
knew,
in her heart
of hearts
she needn’t run,
or even walk,
to win
at his own game
of self-serving
whinery.
she knew,
she’d proceed
him, knew,
how much
he’d detest
her coming
in first.
His thoughts
distracted
by the whir
of sickness’
inconsistencies,
unpredictability’s,
that needed signatures,
exactness, a chosen,
if not intelligible,
nightmare, harsh
in daylight’s principles,
unforgiving in their erratic pejorative
of moving all
of what they might,
tunelessly,
try to move him.
The nerve of her,
to leave him
so fat and breathy.
the audacity
to just stop
caring
unable to think
beyond her next
minute.
Always
so stingy
in the ways
of sex;
always
so unaware
of his needs
beyond
his next feeding
or outburst
of disappointment
of disapproval
in the sounds
of voices
only he could hear
of crass, but soothing,
eastern european inflections,
intimating deep and luxurious
goose down and feathered
armaments.
French toast festooned with churned,
and freshly made,
barrel butter, cinnamon, the dark cloves
and tracks, running down lanes,
with recently tapped
maple syrup, singing,
almost gurgling, in their crevices.
There’d be eggs,
if he wanted them, bacon,
of course,
if he wanted it, and
coffee, black and hot,
with a steamed mixture
of sweet milk, and honey, and,
home made
sticky buns, if
he wanted them.
How could
so much love
go unpunished?
And still,
he felt,
picked on;
still,
he felt
unappreciated
by all he felt holy:
money
and memory.

Now,
the onion gears,
once so sharp
and pungent,
whirl away
in a soft pulp
unable
to catch
and control
what had come
so naturally to him.
Of course,
he was bred
from it
and for it;
bred
to control
a spiked
and wicked, duplicitous,
untrustworthy,
capricious,
and an inchoate
world with what power
he could muster
or bluff.
He bullied,
bought,
bungled,
and blighted
his private landscape;
he watered some,
ignored others,
reversed fields,
began again until
each blade of grass
groveled and fought
against every other blade
for whatever drop of water
was kept hidden
in a bucket
he professed
had leaks
and would
eventually
go dry.

Now,
most things
are dry.
Now,
the exception
is the constant.
Now,
he cannot control
not even his bowels.
In this,
his cataract times,
his hardened wax times,
as his colors drip and run,
washing themselves free
of creation’s embrace,
as his sounds of songs and sex
get muted and lost
in the straw and sawdust
of creation’s wheeze,
he counts the minutes
to his next feeding,
he tosses aside
those minutes
as the day
diminishes
and the night
grips him
with geometry
stripped
from memory
or desire.
Now,
he keeps
a light on
at his bedside
while the television
roars,
as if
demons
are afraid
if someone is awake
or has company. They see
his naked lumbering
on legs jiggling with fat
and weakness; they see
the flesh from his belly
belittling, and hiding,
his genitals,
as he rummages
for anything
to chew on. They see
him lumber back
and into bed, a bowl
or dish,
or plate, in one hand,
a glass of liquid
in the other. They see,
as he nods, his head
falling side ward, with and to
the wine,
the barbiturate,
the analgesic
he had ingested
earlier, and consistently
to give the TV screen
the opportunity
to become blank
and soundless.

One day,
much like today,
or tomorrow, a day
that might have held
a laugh,
or a promise,
he will go,
without especially meaning to,
beyond me, beyond
all of us,
but won’t be
disappointed.

junk sick

Maybe it starts with a flutter,
a body vibration
in the tips of your fingers
or a ripple behind your neck.
Perhaps it begins with voices
vying for space in a motel
where the No Vacancy neon
has lost a letter or two.
Maybe that’s followed
by a craving for stillness;
or maybe there are ghosts
in your morning coffee;
or perhaps there is a silence
of love
and its perils:
your mother’s nipple, once,
as big as your thumb,
now receding from view,
the slam of a door
and your lover’s footsteps
retreating and getting fainter
as the evening’s rush swallows
what you thought was;

or maybe it starts
with some success–
accidental or not
and suddenly you’re naked
standing in a forest
of doubt, surrounded
by fear,
a feeling of fraud
corroding the wires
to your heart, disbelief
punching your worth silly;

or perhaps it comes
from nothing, a nowhere day
in November, idle thoughts,
dreamless, stagnant,
until you look, unknowingly,
at a vein
in the crook of your arm
scarred over
from how many times you’ve traveled down it,
hundreds, maybe thousands of times,
sliding the spike in
like getting into well-worn slippers,
and you remember the ease and the warmth
of the amniotic highway,
suckling, murmuring, nurturing
a life you blessedly know nothing of,
yet know where the key to all things
is hidden.

You now are able to locate the ache
and lean, ever so gently,
into remedies
that can take seconds or years
as your unconscious churns
to fulfil. But no matter–
you have nothing
but time

you might think

that I’ve learned something—
after putting Porches
with Volkswagen souls, silk
suits and ties and Egyptian cotton shirts,
cashmere socks, friends, promises,
ghosts, Kleenex hours
as thick as bouillabaisse
in my arm—
I would have come away
wiser.

But here I am
still loving
with my dick
still sucking
the needle
replaced with the green tit
of a Heineken bottle backed
by scotch, tequila and later
cognac; a head full of lush
looking up, yeah
it’s time, finally
time to go and not
a minute too soon;
stumbling into Saturday night’s morning;
a route home; how much
to tip; are my cells saturated
enough; is there anybody
to go home with; anybody
who might hear the whisper
of desperation too?
Last Call, oh
shit…

They come slower
and not as sure
they do. Struggling to sip
radiator fluid; nickel lives
rusted by 10 cent memories
of making it. Women
and money
like horse shit. Pockets thick
for spending. Cars loaded
with laughter speeding crazy
towardsIdon’tgiveashitwhere,
underthetable, whenhe’snothome,
aslongasit’sgood, you know
it’sgottabegood.

You might think
that after the streets
and rooftops; eager
to please 20-year old’s,
and more eager 40-year old’s,
whiteandblackandbrownandyellow
with thighs like mars bars;
the nights of cancer,
and suicide days; three quick holes
in the chest; more scared
I’d have to do this again.
But then there are the nights
that sweat, snapping our fingers
knowing we’d found it,
for a second, privileged,
above the cut,
not even angry,
the gut filled, the eye
frozen, the brain connecting,
you might think
I’d had enough. Wrong,
and right, right
and wrong;
nana nana nananananana;
a kid, huh,

with orange-red cheeks
big as basketballs;
wanting the sugar;
wanting the rush; wanting
to eat it all…
and that would not be enough
and nothing
would not be enough.

You might think
the letter that God sent
would have something more
than a rent due notice;
I’m daring you,
I’m double daring you:
your mother’s Tralala;
you suck wind and dress funny.
Well, c’mon.
You know where the fuck I am—
It wouldn’t mean shit
if you didn’t.

 

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