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not Shakespeare or Mickey Spillane
fold yourself in half, you're back again
living on a candy bar a day in the cheapest
room in town--
trying to be a writer, not a great writer but
somebody who got checks for what he writes
and he lives upon those checks
and he doesn't need an automobile or a
girlfriend and he needn't go to work,
just be a writer, pumping it out, day after
day, day and night, words hot upon the paper,
2 and 1/2 cents a word, 5 cents a word, any-
thing, pulp magazines, stories about detectives
and aviators, or for the sex mags--great escapades
of a fantastic fucker, and at the same time send out
serious stuff, poems to POETRY, A MAGAZINE
OF VERSE.

the candy bar is the meat and the cheap wine
is the blood and the long-legged, long-haired
girls are let go to the others so you can get the
word down for the pulps, for the sex rags, for the
ATLANTIC MONTHLY and HARPER'S and
ESQUIRE and the NEW YORKER, those dirty cold fucks who keep sending it back while printing the clever and careful crap.

young young young, only wanting the Word.
going mad on wine in the streets and in the bars.
fights, broken glass, crazy women screaming in
your cheap rooms.
a familiar member of the drunk tank at North
Avenue 21, Lincoln Heights.

sifting through the madness for the word, the line,
the way.
a check from somewhere?
dreaming of a letter from a great editor:
"God, man, you don't know how long we've been
waiting for you!"

no way.

it finally comes down to less words, after 5 short
stories and 20 poems a week, it comes down to less
words and more wine and more crazy women and
broken glass and screaming and vengeful landlords
and police raids

you young, taller than the mountains in your
imagination, stinking drunk, screaming
"SCREW YOU GUYS! I'M A GENIUS!"

handcuffs on in back, always too tight, the
steel cutting into the wrists, snap! --the
sharp brutal pain...
"Shut up, buddy, or I'll knock the crap outta
you!"...

fold yourself in half and there you were
36 years ago.
and a greater more interesting time
could never be had.
I had the faith then that I don't even have
now.

and the funniest thing, the woman, slobbering
drunk, hair in face, staggering...

"let her go fellows, it's me, I'm the bastard, I'm
your man, she's a subnormal from lower
Dixic, a brain-damage case..."

"god damn you, shut up!" from the cop,
shoving me through the door, down the
stairway fast
wherein it took all my effort not to fall
straight forward, which was what he
wanted, handcuffs behind me I would
be unable to break my fall....

I break into song:
"MY HEART IS A HOBO..."

I hear a curse and then all else is
blackness.

all I want is 2 and 1/2 or 5 cents a
word.
son of a bitch, I ache to be a writer
of any kind.

don't they understand?

© Frank Silvanski

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