New York Is No More

poem from Song Of The Cheated Soul

(Author's Note: I have decided to post new poetry to this site until the release of my up and coming poetry collection, Song Of The Cheated Soul due out later this year.)

New York used to be a squatters town

and

a misfits town

and a union town.

This is where you could

find a cheap room at the Chelsea

or the Dexter House

with a bathroom down the hall.

Or at the Commander.

Many SROs vanished into the

remains of burnt out

warehouses once run by

“who wants to know industries”

only to succumb to the midnight storms

of “Jewish lightning”.

This was the town

where the truly strange

and burned out radicals sat at diners with

coffee stained napkins

sitting under coffee stained cups

screaming about the price of rent

or the loss of tenements under the weight of Lincoln Center.

Here punks

Rabbis

the smiling hustler

and the honest con men

and the artist

were the lower East Side

and where one could always find a cheap meal of well-cooked dumplings across from CBGB

or at the Wo Hop in China Town

where the cops and locals gathered

but where out-a-towners passed without notice.

Our liberal mayor Koch

declared that it was official policy

that City Hall would no longer worry about

the poor or the homeless

and forced them to the outer boroughs

with one stroke of a pen.

And when more cardboard communities

sprung up like cattails in a polluted heart

than bodies removed from Manhattan

or placed in Potter’s Field

the gun was handed over

to a whiney crossdressing ex-prosecutor

who was placed in the Mayor’s chair

turning the homeless into outlaws under the lights of Broadway

and the theaters were vacated

for the price of the SRO heartbeat.

City Hall unleased the Clorox tide at last

washing away the pimps

the artists

the squeegee men

the graffiti

the honest pan handler

and the grinning hustler

and the avenue corner whores

while keeping those on the Wall Street payroll

in place

even New York was washed away

turning everything clean as Chinese marble.

For those who

never saw morning

or for those whose morning came too soon

subway diving onto the third rail

under the graffiti walls

of midtown became just another pastime.

You could always tell what borough you were in by the local baseball fans.

The Mets would find no home in the Bronx

while the Yankees received the Bronx cheer in Queens.

In Brooklyn

the Dodgers will be forever hated

or dead.

The last ticket has been punched at Ebbets Field.

This is the great indignity that came by way of

learning the true game of sports

and is passed down as a birthright

for all native Brooklynites

even those not yet born.

This indignity of a team moving from the borough

of loyal saints

to the city for fair-weather angels

which sits as a scar on the soul

of everyone who must now look up

just to find another pastime.

While Manhattan has no face for any of the teams

unless it’s the playoffs.

It is still a town of Dutch oven summers

where the concrete is hotter than the 85 degree air.

The heat keeps everyone in the subways on edge

with the fear of an undefined but always present threat.

Now this where the truly cheated out run their debts

only to be taken by another deal

from those who make a living

through 1962 World Fair promises

of a clean future only afforded

to those whose wallets are as thick as the

Sunday edition of the New York Times

while all others dream of escaping

the old processing plant

of the tombs

which delivers another gone tenant

to another landlord

like room service

churning out the nameless assholes

to the yearless avenues.

The only con greater than the subway sermons

are the real estate deals

which turn judges

into executors

tenants into the condemned

and the landlords into judges.

This has become the town

where events and places are named after artists

who could no longer live here

were they still alive.

There is Ginsberg’s Howl Festival

the Mozart café

and Poe’s restaurant.

This has never been a town

of permanence.

Each bar

each diner and each building

vanish as quick as the subway conductor’s face

into the forward tunnel

and faster than a breath

but with the sound of passing thunder.

Nothing is ever left behind.

Not the memory of what was where

or the names of those swept

out to the suburbs

or even those

who

fell out of time and onto

the subway platforms

This city has never been a morning town

New York has always been an insomniac’s town.

All of its true professionals

its night workers

have become nothing more

than just another commodity

for the wealthy squares who vanish on the other side

of the George Washington Bridge

or across the L.I.E

or

the exit to White Plains.

And from across the mid-town tunnel

from the Long Island of the cheated

the bored children of the Exodus have escaped their garrisons known as villages

and have decided to return

to the city

as if coming back

to a holy land.

The only price is their souls

which become tainted meat

for landlords

to lay their gospel of the rented truth

of the tenements.

2

What is the labor pool

but a discount bin which is rummaged through by only

the truly wealthiest fingers

looking to cheat the hopelessly cheated?

On all the professional walls

all the clocks no longer keep track of the minutes or even the hours of each day.

Instead, they measure the drudgery of the grocery cashier and the convenience store clerk alike. What ticks away on these clocks

is no longer time but the overtime hours robbed from each worker by each manager.

But despite their position,

both clerk and boss know that they will forever live on shut in hours,

where all fantasies are teenage dreams of something better

and have replaced the reality that years no longer matter in the land of the cheated;

one always flows into another and they all seem the same.

This is the town where Stonewall blew up

in the face of the NYPD

where night sticks were replaced

by high heeled shoes

that came down on the skulls

of blood thirsty cops

like the Congo rain.

Traffic,

that is the only consistency

in the cheated heart of an indifferent city.

Here in each

of these rooms

dirt and steam heat are neither friend

nor enemy

but the last things we can trust

until the next rent demand

or visit to housing court.

And all good fortune ends

when you are reduced to walking through

the street light and neon store front parade

like a moth through a flame

with no thought of coming out alive.

The power brokers

the Wall Street boys

the real estate boards

the college boards of NYU

and Columbia

and advertisement boards

are the true gods of New York

basking with their inflated egos

made of junk bonds

but sooner or later they all

get dragged down to the street level

and torn apart like so many toys

which outstayed their welcome

when the payoff becomes too great a price

or when they are recalled when the sales run dry.

But Catholic guilt

and Albany

will reflate these holy egos

while “Jewish lightning” burns down

the tenements and SROs built before the gods were born.

This is the season of crime.

3


This is the town where all its squatters

knew the good deal of the warehoused apartment building

and the art of tapping the city’s power lines.

Where rents meant nothing

and communities began to flower

in the squatter’s victory garden

while those in Saint Luke’s saw their fortunes run dry.

Sooner or later all the state’s

and the country’s radicals

found themselves pressed against

the gilded walls of Madison Ave.

And whose fists splintered the closed doors

of Park Avenue

where the true crimes take place

where the truly wealthy rig the game

for all Wall Street players

on the back of the longshoreman

long ago.

This is the town under the wary gaze from the eyes

of the suburbs of those

who always wait for the last crackhead

to die in the silent room of the wards

or the unfeeling streets.

This is where the punk rockers

flowered along the Bowery

like ragweed

in the furious winds of two minute songs.

They were the last of those whose souls would never be for sale

only to be worn out on the black snow sidewalks

and along the tattooed walls.

but the tide of the No Wave

washed over the lower east side

as Lydia Lunch’s load gun pointed at every

square heart ripe to be crushed under the weight of true poetry.

This was the town of accents

from all the old countries.

The bending of each word

by each speaker

was as if they were marked

by the touch of those boroughs

which they called a natural home.

Each block was a country

each neighborhood was a nation.

With the poetry of their accents

locals without pretention

took a number at the local delis

in the hope of scoring their corned-beef

or Pumpernickel bread.

Now they will forever be waiting in lines

with numbers that will never be called.

Their countries and nations are now gone

having been washed away by the great flood

of the west.

To find those accents in the year of our lord

2015

you have to go deep into the archives of any library

or read from the stenographer’s

reports taken down

in cases

overseen by judges for hire

owned by the truly wealthy

with the funds to white-out

American letters of discontent

in a system where the game is rigged

and the only marker for the forgotten

is a coffin with a serial number.

What we have all learned

Heaven is the tenement with no landlords at all.

For it is the landlords and building owners alike who have turned the fire hoses

on the artists born in the season of genius

and whose words and paintings

and films were as gray as the streets that they adorned

as being beautiful in its crude language

and dangerous reproach.

For it was the language

of those who looked up

not for another past time

but to the idea that the stars were

the big stage for all those children who once wore safety pins

and cable wire just to keep their paints up.

The chance of being on TV was just around the corner.

These were the writers who wrote themselves out of favor

with academia and onto the yellowed pages of forgotten books

which now collect dust in a warehouse.

While its musicians could close their eyes and listen to the sound

Of the incoming one train

Or the heavy traffic on the Henry Hudson

And hear the beat and the rhythm

of each note

of each beat

of the city’s heart.

Some finally made it big

and now live above the streets or in some other town.

Ok Miss Midler we remember you when you were still singing in bath houses

while squares were being blown

by transsexuals too low to call the cops

or to get a taxi home.

Did you ever say

That peasants are among my ranks

And I’m among theirs

Anyone who has grown used to

Moving under the eyes of indifference

Or did you sing on indifferently?

Today New York City acts as a wino in the last throes

of alcohol sickness.

Having replaced itself with

with a glossed dream of mediocrity.

You can see this dream in all the life style magazines

Which has replaced art

With banality and boredom

Of bad artists.

The city would lose itself altogether

Were it not for the stains on its clothes

Of an excess it would sooner forget.

Its new skin

Is that of a museum city

Where you can find the past

It still tries to live off of

And which outta-towners embrace

because of all the “cool books”

and movies

just as long as it never again

Leaves its display case where everything is safe.

Even the Chelsea now has been wiped clean

Of all art

And is now open to gray suit business men

And gawking European tourists.

Like any other museum city,

London

Paris

And

Chicago

New York leans heavily on its main attractions

Some borne from 911

Others which once belonged

To the wild eyed natives.

Ground zero was the great hole in the

Ground for all gawkers

From all the corners of the earth

To come and stare at slack jawed.

That hole has only grown though

Swallowing one community after another

And their place new featureless buildings

As weeds in a once proud garden.

911 turned into the greatest land grab by the world’s wealthy

Since the Trail of Tears.

The once great port city of misfits

Weirdos

Outcasts

and the truly brilliant

is now gone for good

having found an eviction notice on its door.


4


The great cliché of New York

“When this city sneezes the world gets a head cold”.

The virus is the Robber Baron class.

There is nowhere left in New York law

Or culture where their presence isn’t felt.

Along the northern wall of Lincoln center and on a banner on the front

Of the museum of natural history

David and Charles Koch’s names

Become the main attraction.

And what about the Rockefellers?

They are still the most hated family

By the old timers here.

They walked through the streets

Throwing pennies to the peasants

When everything cost a dime

And until recently

A kid caught with weed

Could get the same sentence as a murderer.

Their reach, both the Koch’s and the Rockefellers alike,

is far beyond the political world

Of this city and reaches throats

Of the good old democratic machine.

My Reading Of An Early Draft Of Poem

Source

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