John was a friend of mine – yet I had only said hello back him when I heard him read this live one time at York University. I’d been searching for the room in which the reading was to be held, and came around a corner to come face-to-face with him, and Joe Rosenblatt.
Nothing more than abstract ornament,
explanations and discussions
keeping us to ourselves; we were
too petty for anything else. God
and Spirit, man and God again: no
insight into the common denominators.
Stupidity categorized the crews
taking over. In Canada, one was
reduced to waiting; at best,
you sent yourself notes (not poems)
hoping they would stay closed, or
fall open revealing all upon arrival.
You are lost either way. Death
enters your life: a troubadour
strolling through the provincial town.
Each gesture of government singing
the unwanted guest to bed, who is
finishing the last bite of food.
One brought no plans for conversation,
issuing invitations in the dark
he slips from his clothes. The livery
stark amusement, leaving only the arc
of a streetlamp which constellates:
the hard vistas of distant expectation.
I wrote this and sent the first copy to John Newlove, a fine Canadian poet, who phoned me with what amounted to a surprise and wonder at the poem that I fully could not appreciate til much later. Joe Rosenblattlater opted to publish it in Jewish Dialog, which he was editing then. (Later I would edit two of Rosenblatt’s books – Tommy Fry and The Ant Colony, and Loosely-Tied Hands.)