The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2020

All Issues
JUL-AUG 2020 Issue

Now It Can Be Told

for Tom Clark

In 1974, a year after they’d beaten my Mets in seven
I irked my mother rooting for the Finley A’s
Against the Dodgers in the Classic. She corrected me two ways
We were a Senior Circuit family (as I now tell my boys)
And I should grasp the Brooklyn lineage. I tried
But didn’t buy it. The Dodgers seemed white and square.
The green-gold mustachioed men were the hipper option.
This remained my guilty romance. Decades later
I’d BART with Owen Hill and bleacher-shout at Ruben Sierra.
Champagne and Baloney the bible of my Designated Heresy.

In 1985, living on 105th and Broadway, working as the night man
At The Gryphon, attempting a novel called Apes In the Plan,
Writing till dawn tuned to WFMU floating across the river.
I’d call in and request R. Stevie Moore’s “Part of the Problem”.
One night they put me on live, to read a poem. I chose “Eleven
Ways of Looking at a Shitbird”. To oblige the DJ’s FCC concern
I censored you, Tom. It was a “toilet bird” that night. Sorry.
Decades later, I’d efface you and Stevens with my Trollbird.

In 1994 I sold Gun, With Occasional Music to the movies
Though still a clerk at Moe’s, I bought a painting.
You got wind and insisted I add you to my “collection”.
I wanted nothing more than to make you happy.
Anyway, your flat affectionate cameos of the A’s
Would grace my room at the Chandler Apartments, sure!
I spent hours on my knees on your carpet pawing
Through the stacks of floppy canvases you unveiled.
In the end I settled not on baseball, but a pair
Of mysterioso images you named as Los Angeles
First before, then after, the neutron bomb. The Reprint Mint
Mounted them for me in one black frame. Decades later
They voyaged with me from Brooklyn to the edge of L.A.
Today they resemble some prescient Covid-19 rebus.

I hate to say it, Tom, but you and Herbert Huncke
Were two of three biblioklepts I nabbed red-handed
(Unless I count myself. I should and do).
That was just before I left Moe’s for Brooklyn
And the clerking game, unless I reincarnate as
One of those old bookmen I revere as much
As sly sardonic poets who haunt shops.
Huncke and Clark! For the stat-heads, that’s to say
I retired with a .667 average. Or – who knows?
The third thief might have been a poet too.


Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem is the author of eleven novels, including The Feral Detective, The Fortress of Solitude, and Motherless Brooklyn, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. He currently teaches creative writing at Pomona College in California.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2020

All Issues