Still Life with City

PRAISE FOR STILL LIFE WITH CITY

“…a dizzying collection teeming with stories, the urge to recount, and restless catalogs of incessant movement. What redemption, what still life he finds, he locates in the city of language.”

Donna Masini, author of 4:30 Movie

“…a glorious meditation on what it means to be an artist…like watercolor brushed generously across a gleaming sheet of paper.”

Francesca Bell, author of Bright Stain

My second collection, Still Life with City, is coming soon from Pski’s Porch Publishing. Here is the cover art, which I think is a perfect fit! The poems in this book cover a span of 20 years, and are set in New York City and Italy. There are poems about the Velvet Underground playing live in 1969, CBGBs in the heyday of the late 1970s, working at famous – and infamous! – New York bookshops, the aftermath of 9/11, getting lost in Rome, getting married and carving a pumpkin with my daughter. This book has been in the works for a long time, and it’s finally here, so stay tuned!

Below is a poem from the book, published in Poets Reading the News (the news was the passing of Strand Bookstore owner Fred Bass, who was my boss at one point). It’s not a flattering portrait; then again, he wasn’t a very good person to work for. But I hope some of the intoxication of those early days in NYC comes through in this portrait.

The King Is Dead

Employees stocked the fridge with beer, pocket
bottles of Smirnoff tucked
behind stacks for easy nipping. Lunch-

breaks were drinking contests, pounding
pints to dull ourselves before re-entry,
turbulent and dazed. After our shifts

we’d hit the bars along the Bowery
fueled on Chinese takeaway and pizza
by-the-slice. We were ‘bodies’

in their jargon, useful mannequins
for schlepping boxes full of books –
ten floors of them and counting.

The intricate small man sat at the desk
glasses clasping the bridge of his nose
bald pate shining like a headlamp.

“I need a body,” he would say. Someone
would pick up a phone, request
a body, one would be sent up

from the nether world. We were paid
minimum wage to build labyrinths
of boxes made of books made

of paper, miles of it, enough to pave
Broadway with a pelt of snow. Walls
went up between us, block after block after block,

a city within a city. Like Theseus,
I wandered through them endlessly in search
of my Minotaur. The king is dead.