Fiveby Tom Savage and Bill Kushner
Scheherazde’s Last Song
It’s Tuesday and your eyes are blue.
But I’m just a stranger in Paradise.
It’s Paradise on 28th and Seventh Avenue. Come join us.
The crowd of new arrivals beat their wings hard.
I know karate but I ain’t no kid.
I had a roommate once who did kung fu naked in my kitchen.
I wonder what he did on the ceiling.
Only my cat would have known for I wasn’t watching.
I was busy hatching my scheme to conquer the world.
Needless to say, but I am saying it,
The world got the better of me and I capitulated.
And I decided to write a great poem about it
And this is it, he said, laughing merrily.
No complaints from the peanut gallery will be honored.
I think I was a monkey in a former life.
My rare trips to the zoo seem to bear this out.
The keepers tried to keep me and I monkeyed about.
But, the exit signs plainly in view, I turned toward the botanical garden
Trying to blend in with the orchids and the hydrangeas.
But the elm trees wouldn’t let me get away.
They caught me with their sexy limbs and said:
“Stay, little sparrow, stay.”
But I must be on my way, which I make up as I go along
Dancing my merry dance, and singing by merry song.
I put drink in Hamlet’s mouth. It’s not the Holy Grail.
I put a brownie in Tommy’s belly as he smiled and said: “Okay!”
His belly knows he’s not supposed to eat sugar but he enjoyed it anyway.
Billy eats a lot of things he shouldn’t so they say.
Someday both of us are going to sprout bunions from this or worse.
And someday they’ll invent a pill that can write a great poem.
This day is far away, however, so our occupation is secure for now.
Because sometimes I feel like a goatherd serenading a cow
Doesn’t mean I’m going to write pastoral madrigals today.
Because my name ain’t Morgan Fairchild or Morgan le Fay.
And the name Anna Nicole Smith is already taken and retaken.
Oh Anna, Anna, I think of you at every red dawn.
As the opera company who mounted you sinks, you’re its last song.
Not goodbye but au revoir my pretty young faun.
I’d say adieu to un dieu but he long ago left this divan
To arise up angel wings and all to Heaven.
Back here in Paradise again, the bread, leavened or unleavened, tastes good.
But I’m really dreaming of cake, dripping with delicious chocolate blood.
The Black Madonna knows where to find me and what I crave.
I look for you on every steeple and in every nave
Not to mention the moonlit caves where I first found you
Where golden lava inched its golden wave.
We dance where it spills out, the hot liquid tingeing our toes.
And so this strange love story must come to an awkard close.
Asses and Passes
I’ve been checking out everyone’s asses lately.
Does that include Sancho Panza? If I remember correctly, he rode one.
Maybe I’ll change my name to Sancho Kushner.
That’ll confuse Social Security though you might open a sandwich chain.
What would be in a Sancho sandwich, some exotic meat?
Possibly some crushed unicorn’s horn imported from ancient China.
By crushed, do you mean mashed?
But not the TV show Mash, that came much later.
I always wonder what Alan Alda was like in bed.
Well, he starred in a show called Love Letters recently. You could have asked him.
Alan, if you’re reading this, get naked and write with me.
But pay the postage by licking hard and with a kiss.
Well that sounds delightfully dirty to my ears.
Now that sterilized email has replaced hot letters, what do we poor and rich poets do?
Silver Linings Prayerbook
Whenever you’re ready, Mr. Savage.
I’ve been ready a long time. But is the world ready for me?
My legs spread and I’m ready.
We’ve been here before. Are there any new variations on our theme?
Well, excuse me for tweaking my tits off.
We’ll excuse you for having them if we can find them.
Well, excuse me but my tits have tender roots.
That sounds like “my vines have tender grapes” or is it gripes?
Oh, Lillian Hellman, where are you now?
By the skin of our teeth or not, we won’t find you.
I thought that was Tallulah Bankhead. Am I getting my dykes all mixed up?
You’d have to ask the waters that flow between them in order to find out.
Oh really are these Talking Waters or Muddy Waters?
Maybe Chocolate Waters or not. Who can say?
Some nights I lay awake thinking of what went into my greedy, little mouth.
The Untimely Death of Poetry As We Know It
The life of a poet can be quite precarious.
The death of poets is varied but usually painful.
Most poets die as poor as church mice. So there you go.
This poet here started poor and seems to have remained so. I would have it some other way
now but I don’t know how.
You may be poor but you’ve kept your honor as a good poet should.
If I knew what honor meant these days, I might know how to write another poem about it.
“This above all to thine own self be true” said one poet to another
And the other poet said: “What if I don’t really exist?”
Do most Buddhists have big bottoms, this old poet wonders.
Not yet being a dirty, old poet, I wouldn’t know the general rule. Mine has enlarged over
Who would ever think your big ass could make it in a poem?
With the end still not in sight for this poem, I don’t really know that it has.
And have we said everything there is to say about poets and poetry?
I wouldn’t pretend to have done anything so grand in one little fourteen line poem.
Two Boys Own Story
What’s the point of thinking about sex all the time when you can’t get it up anymore?
The point is making contact with a foreign being.
I met a young man at 8:30 AM yesterday and got slightly hard but he was drinking at that
hour so I decided not to get involved.
A wise decision. Are you getting older and wiser or just plain wiser?
Since I mostly stopped meditating after my teachers died, my life has become strangely
calmer and perhaps wiser. I don’t know why.
Better not to question it. The answer lies beyond the sea.
I have no passport anymore and wouldn’t want to get stuck, like so many do, in the middle
of the Mediterranean, anyway.
Better practice up on your backstroke just in case.
I haven’t swum or swam in decades. If forced to, I suppose I could but it wouldn’t be a
At my age I’ve stopped worrying about being a pretty sight. I just want to be a sight.
I suppose you could achieve that objective without trying as long as there are eyes to see
Very few. I’ll be 84 May 31st and I feel every minute of it.
I wish I could remember my past that well but not dwell on it all the time, of course.
The only thing I remember is I used to be a pretty boy and now I’m neither pretty nor a
Tom Savage is the author of eleven books of poetry including, most recently, Sonnets Mostly, 135 collaborations with Bill Kushner; Afghanistan: From Herat to Balkh and Back Again from Fly By Night Press, and Brainlifts from Strawgate Books. He has taught twice at the Poetry Project and given readings there and elsewhere for the past forty years.Bill Kushner
BILL KUSHNER (1931-2015) was a poet, playwright, actor, and director at the The New York Theater Ensemble and Theater Genesis. His books of poetry include Head, Love Uncut, He Dreams of Waters, That April, In the Hairy Arms of Whitman, In Sunsetland with You, and Walking After Midnight. Some poems, recordings, and fabulous interviews with Bill can be found at poet Don Yorty's blog: http://donyorty.com/blog/tag/bill-kushner/. A memorial reading for Bill will be held at the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church, where he was an important presence for decades, on Monday, November 16 (see poetryproject.org for more details).