Monday, February 27, 2017

John Amen, From “My Gallery Days”

Geo Fever, Pt. 4 of the Invisible Triptych, image by John Amen

From “My Gallery Days”


for RJ

Five o’clock—prime time for boots & the Wild West,
                    yr opening line though I can’t say
I heard what came next, Helen’s 3-legged Cerberus
          yapping on 33rd     the racket of the Alphabet.

          Then the interminable open mic,
          3 crossdressers heaving a fridge
out the 2nd-story window (to a stillborn villanelle).

Yr co-feature bombarded w/ minutia, a robot reciting 
diary entries from a typical day in the word factory.
You blurted I wish I’d taken that desk job @ the bank.
Wtf would you do w/ vacation time in the Hamptons?

          Take this as a compliment, you’re 0 if not adept
@ advancing yrself, I mean that to eulogize yr pitch-
perfect karma, so why da hangdog face? Why da huff?


Leslie, I saw yr ghost in the Frederick, those blue
shoes & a Red Bull, yr popularity a summer squall,
debt don’t respond to no standard dance moves.

          So sorry for polishing off the tortillas,
& I did indeed snag the Benjamins from the mousetrap,
          gossiping w/ Laurie over shots.

I added to my resume the 7 credits in Spiegel Park.
Diversion remains the only god I know. Leslie,
could you hear the taxmen & bulldozers in the distance?

          In yr finest hour w/ a brush & Bourbon,
          oblivious to audits & thunder from Albany,
          you choked on the grant & gagged the interview.

A trip to East 9th shifted the mood for an hour,
but damn the coke vapor, a devil kicking in my lungs.


To the pigs who sang in Hillary’s walls.
Stuart trapped between studs, tuneless in the heat,
Carl panting in a doorframe, sick & shaking DTs,
          grunting Provencal love songs
          with a Long Island accent.

Ma sanctum sanctorum was desecrated by Photoshop.
Soul collage & music boxes, the vengeful goddess
popped from Hill’s mouth, her Gorgon series in yeller.

I removed the tank cover in her half-bath,
          hooked a shriveled man who’d no doubt
drifted for seasons, sworn off his pocket watch
          & eyes as dead as a cold call.

Hill I sd in white you gotta set the boy free,
Hill staring in gray, the miles tween Hill & me.


Mildred eulogized her stepfather in TX
while I finished her portrait with a palette knife
          during Z’s Taurean salon.

I’d never see that kinda doomed again or forget
Mildred wearing long sleeves in muggy Houston.

After the gavel, Mildred’s solstice on ECT,
I spent July clean, banged out “The Verdict,”
          a photomontage of Mildred in drag.
I won the ITY grant, the stepfather’s daughter
          twitching on a gurney in Somewhere, TX.

3 months later, I was 4 days out of treatment
& already stoned, railing how Mildred slipped away.
          Amidst the racket & regret,
                    I skulked past being famous.


I’m terror&legerdemain once you peel the persona
I mumbled @ West & Barclay. Ambition’s a jealous god,
                    mad titan treading the NJ Styx,
          splashing surges crosstown toward Baruch Place.

This changes things sd Louisa, squinting her right eye,
then left, unscrewing the Van Dyke. I cleared my throat,
          came to mid-spike, mid-portrait, & there
was Mississippi Deena, foundering in valium&vodka.

                    Corduroy Dennis dropped off 15 irons
& 23 hubcaps, bartered & bantered for shrooms&sugar,
                    waving an X-Acto for shrooms&sugar.
Soon it’d be dark, sooner than was bearable, my father’s
generation mute, mine fumbling @ the turnstile of narcissism.

O my digital Yahweh, how to capture a grayscale twilight.


for I think it was Heather

                    April & I studied a green rapture,
free from the gallery for a month w/ pay,
freelancing on the 11th St bronze, commemoration
                    of Doggett’s last poetic stand:
          already unwired, dissected @ Bethel Main,
          he opened his 8th Ave reading by dropping
his boxer shorts. The 3 Cs: cops, court, commitment.

Jaeger said that Doggett staged the fiasco, it was
his scripted swansong. I never told you a dream I had,
you & Doggett & I were sprawled on the Newburgh pier,
                    sharing a calzone, arguing about
Jay Sanford’s “unmasked” @ the Brooklyn EuroFest,
when Doggett stood up, dashed a crust to the ripples,
          & proclaimed me the inaugural solipsist!


AM I soared on Adderall, crashing @ dusk,
          Claude on 51st w/ his rainbow pipe,
                    dude humming along to Coltrane
standards on tape, dude dead in a snowdrift in May.

          I rode those sirens to Bellevue,
                    role-playing w/ a drip-IV
          while Dr. Bauman studied his DSM.

          August: the tax scandal @ the co-op,
          bad PR re L’s mock auto-da-fé, & no buyers
for my portraits of Heather G, who’d vanished

amidst the pyrotechnics, 4 days cold in a Nyack slum.
          Her obit swept the blogs,
                    her face still blows in my sleep,
          these spattered rooms I can never leave.


          Hijacked by Evie’s Dilaudid Rx,
          I did my best to illustrate Louisa’s limbo,

          took me 2 weeks to nail the watery umber
          of her Sicilian eyes, mixing & remixing
          to invoke that Ophelian aura, flummoxed
by her chosen backdrop (faux “Acanthus” circa 1880).

          Grant deadlines converged, I dreamt
I was a tearaway riding south in an empty caboose.
          (I wanted to wake beside a steaming river,
          pawn my antique palette, I still
wanna talk shop over rare steaks & a blank canvas)

Nothing like a protractor & tube of Windsor red,
Louisa in the doorway wilting & her feet throbbed,
the U of B critics had lambasted her floating studio.

—John Amen