Hanging with the poets…


Posted on August 28th, by James McAllen in Uncategorized. 2 comments

Life has been good the last few weeks. The job is good. My personal life is good. My health is good. I even lost a pound or two. Everything is wonderful. Except my writing. I’m bone dry. I’ve written one blog in two weeks. The muse is fickle. She abandons you when you’re not in pain.

Last night I was the featured reader at a the Bellmore Memorial Library. It’s usually a poets event, but I was asked to read by my new cousin-in-law Christina. I said yes as soon as she asked, but all day I was regretting it. It’s one thing to read to a roomful of readers, it’s another to read for writers. Everyone is comparing themselves, all waiting to be impressed. Poets are a tricky bunch, a different breed. Once upon a time I was a poet. Turns out all I was doing was mimicking Morrison and Dylan Thomas. I even drank in the White Horse on a few occasions.

I drove to Bellmore filled with the usual self-doubt and anxiety. It never goes away, and it is never pretty for those who are subjected to it. As the room filled with nameless strangers, my excitement grew to a few pitch, and after a short introduction, I took the podium. Perching my now necessary reading glasses on the edge of my nose, I peered over them for a second, looking at the faces. The old loves, and the new one. The two blood cousins and the cousin by marriage. The two old friends of my father, now passed on to me. And the 20 or so unknown faces of the poets whose space I was invading. This is it. This is the moment I live for. The actual reading is irrelevant. This is almost as good as sex and better than drugs. If I could bottle this moment, I’d be filthy rich and no one would ever think about getting high on anything else.

I read “The Moment” and I think it goes over well. Then the poets read and I am awed and inspired. Some are good, some are great. All are passionate true-believers. My new poet friend John Brennan speaks in the lyrical brogue of my forefathers. He speaks of men and women he loved and admired, and of a time he longed for, long since past. At the end, I read again. This time there is no anxiety, no fear, no self-doubt. I’m in my element. I’m at ease as I read Split Rock Road to a roomful of new friends.

I leave drained and happy; grateful for the moment.

Today I wake up sore, but inspired. I’m going to be a poet again. I head into the city for my usual jaunt about the island. There is a new buzz and electricity in the air. Actually, it’s always there, I just lost my connection for a moment. After my appointment, I head downtown on the 6 train. There is a junkie couple sitting across from me. I love junkie couples. They renew my faith in love. Despite the panicked look of two people that know they will be sick in a few hours, they are totally committed. She talks aimlessly in a whiny voice, while he wipes his nose in-between nods. She thinks they should get off at Bleeker, or maybe Brooklyn Bridge. He doesn’t respond. I get off at Bleeker and head West. The air is thick with humidity. After a few blocks, it starts to rain. It doesn’t faze me. I am literally walking through the streets of Soho in the rain. I’m thinking of Zevon when I happen upon another junkie couple. These two are nasty. He’s got black hollow eyes, (like a doll’s eyes.) Her eyes are soft and runny, like under-cooked eggs. They aren’t happy. They are already on the verge of sickness. I’m tempted to follow them, but they walk too fast and I lose interest.

At West Broadway, I encounter a middle-aged transexual. He must be close to 60. She’s smoking a cheap cigar. She’s got the soft chin and the paunch of a man. He’s got the sagging breasts of an older woman. His bra is too tight. I can see that it cuts into the back-fat under his cardigan sweater. I wonder if she’s happy. I wonder if he regrets his decision. There are no do-overs in the real world.

As I head south, I spy a tall, statuesque blonde. She’s six feet plus, stunningly beautiful with a lion’s mane of hair. I follow her into the triangle below canal. She’s wearing orange skin-tight jeans. Her legs are like spindles. There is no muscle tone whatsoever. She has no hips. She has no ass to speak of, and her back pockets bulge with a cell phone and a lipstick case. I suddenly realize that I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten all day. She hasn’t eaten since March.

I suddenly realize that I have ventured too far south. The “R” train no longer goes to Brooklyn, a by-product of Sandy. I head back east looking for the 4 train. As I spy the subway, I run into my old friend Bruce. We haven’t seen each other in a while. It feels good to see a familiar face. We catch up for a few minutes and he asks me what I’m doing in the city. I want to tell him, “I’m working”, but I’m not sure if he’ll get my drift. We part ways with smiles on our faces. I am happy and content as I head into the mouth of the subway. Grateful to be alive, knowing that I’ll be writing again as soon as I get home. The poets and the city of my birth have inspired me. Maybe no one will read the blog today, maybe no one will care.

Like Ricky Nelson said, “You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”

I couldn’t be more pleased.





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