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
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.
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 squeegee men
the honest pan handler
and the grinning hustler
and the avenue corner whores
while keeping those on the Wall Street payroll
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.
the Dodgers will be forever hated
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
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
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
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
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
to lay their gospel of the rented truth
of the tenements.
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.
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
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 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
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.
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
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
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
you have to go deep into the archives of any library
or read from the stenographer’s
reports taken down
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”
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,
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
and the truly brilliant
is now gone for good
having found an eviction notice on its door.
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
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