After a night of rough trade
In the bug house
I dream of rolling in the back of a long black limousine
Back to town from the country
The Hudson River on my right
With November notions of ice sliding by.
My driver, a guy from Long Island named Michael
Is a regular guy, a guy I can talk to
Who drove ten years for Saturday Night Live
Has The Supremes on the player.
Night falls and we glide
Past a city of wet pavement
Seasoned jaundice yellow by the streetlamps
Reflecting New York, London in the shadows, Amsterdam
Below the horizon
A palimpsest slouching toward Los Angeles
Whose steel and concrete and trash can fires
And smell of fish
Solidly defy the digital transfer of paper money.
Its a Carey car, a black Lincoln
With tinted glass, solid doors and electric windows
That glide in silence
Hired by the hour
Taking me to dinner
At an overpriced neighborhood place
Where you might see Eddie Murphy or Tom Cruise
(Knowing the bourgeois
Spends less on his food
than the workman
I take all my meals in expensive restaurants
In solidarity, leaving
Always an extravagant tip).
Stop with me here a while and soon
Youll know everyone on this street
The doormen, the cops, the waitress on a break, the driver
Smoking against the fender or asleep in the car, the woman
On a bicycle with her hands in her back pockets, the guys
Too proud for the shelter who think of the economy
As something natural, like waves or the wind, blowing
Hot and cold, guys
whose jobs have gone south, and their women
Who know theyre not coming back. I arc through them
Like a dolphin or a lifeguard who must
Coldly keep his distance until
The drowning are ready to give themselves up
To salvation or the sea.
When I wake up I remember days
When my grandfather, a longshoreman
Who could squeeze a nickel till the Indian howled
Took me to banks like cathedrals
Or train stations
Back when train stations were train stations.
Rolling downtown in his new Olds eighty-eight
At the death of his third wife
Whose first husband
Made his money in a string of dry cleaners
Into a new Cadillac
Every two years need it or not.
The judgment of slick slabs of alabaster marble
Crossed with rivers of red carpets
The natural geometry of shameless and understood
Surveillance and the hardon
Of the implied ability to punish
Along with the rippled hush
Of stacks of folding money, deposits
Dating back to the end of Black Reconstruction
When millions were liberated from the land
And delivered to the bosses. My grandfather
Always voted Republican in a Democratic district
And longed for New York
Lighting his cigars with hundred dollar bills, buying me
A fifty dollar hooker named Viper
On my fourteenth birthday
Real movie stuff.
Having come to it late, he saw
The abstract of capital rise to the concrete of money, his verb
And his days on the docks
Sending twenty-five centuries of philosophy packing.
He never caught on, my grandfather, that real money
New York money
Never had to raise its voice
Above a whisper.
He never posed the world
Any real danger, was always daring you
To step on his blue suede shoes.
In the Jesus dreams he looks like John Malkovich
Skinny and pale, sneering and whining
In a bar or on a pier, feeding seagulls, me and Christ
Two white guys sitting around talking.
He says he hasnt slept in years.
The same thing, staring past me like a guy
Who did two tours in Nam, running the same lines
He would insist he wasnt white,
Like those white people who tell you at parties
That theyre a quarter Cherokee
Or that their great-grandmother on their mothers side
Someone this swarthy in a Lexus, he tells me
Would always get pulled over in Beverly Hills, every time
I tell him not any more, but hes pacing now
Running his hands through his hair, talking
Talking like hell die if he stops.
Who do you know has a dinner party when he knows
The cops are coming in the morning.
Twelve guys who will disappear when the heat shows
Just talking, talking about themselves
Paul was a boring fanatic and still owes me
Twenty bucks, Judas,
Hes the only one
Id still talk to. And not just
Because he was so beautiful he didnt care
Who your daddy was.
When they killed me
Only my mother and a hooker showed up.
Two fathers can make you an orphan
Working for the homeless. Nobody talks about it,
But my mother spent her golden years drunk. A guy
From the country lives in town
Could do worse than keep his mouth shut.
When I remind him about that twenty bucks
He just says To Caesar what is Caesars
To God what is Gods
Big talk with all the residuals,
The real estate bought on margin
And the deferred money
Ill give him Caesar, do I look like
God to you?
Michael tells me how difficult
Steve Martin could be. His wife was nice though.
I tell him how I knew a guy in the tank
Got kicked out of the navy for lying
About his epilepsy. He told them,
Some captain and a guy in a suit
That he didnt have epilepsy.
But they said he was in a world of hurt
If he didnt sign away his pension.
He hopped the next transport back to Carolina
And it hit a wind shear and had to crash land
At a top secret Air Force base somewhere
In West Virginia where soldiers waited
With machine guns at the end of the slide
And rows of B-52s hummed in the distance.
Steve Martin once played a white guy who thought
He was black and would get in the car and say drive
When Michael would say where, hed say just drive
As though he would die if he stopped moving.
What they thought was epilepsy turned out
To be a brain tumor that wasnt found
Until hed pushed a Wheeling Avis all
The way to San Diego to see about a girl
He knew from Atlantic City, who swirled
With breath and her hair all pretty, kissed him
Hard and said she was engaged to a Navy captain
Take me to the beach. I knew him
In the house, after they put the plate in his head
Long after the time when pushed like Judas
Up against the wall by the Roman heat
I wouldve palmed Caesars nickel and told them
Dont piss, dont shit, dont fuck
Until I call you. Do nothing
Until you hear from me. Back then
I worked like I didnt need the job
Danced like nobody was looking
I could play any song with only three chords
I wore black high top Converse All-Stars
Across the parade ground unlaced before Joey Ramone
Was out of diapers and then did the push-ups
On my fingertips. Before the cock crowed
Three times I knew every day was a good day
You can only dodge sleep for so long.
The slow, steady slide in increments that dont register
Across the span from green to bloodless pale
Has left me breathless
As though Id jumped
Down the emergency slide
Into the fire-killing foam
Covering the wet tarmac of a West Virginia airbase
To find myself in the back of this car
Where Michael has switched to NPR
Where Ken Wiwa says, Its hard to carry on
With the activities of your life
When your fathers been hanged.
My own father was an engineer
A man of aqueducts and sluices
Who wanted me to be a writer, having no idea
What assholes writers can be.
As I know my life
The way I know every guy on every street corner
I have no need to speak.
Stepping lost from the limo
Late in the evening the lingering smell of weddings
Stirs the petals of lost religion
And seeps into all the corners of the world.
The sly little despairs of descent can fool you
Gathering grains without shadows
Stacked like another novel
About somebodys divorce
With quiet vengeance in a corner
Until faith doubles back
On how I could have lived
With my seeds outside my skin
The pavement soft beneath my heels
Bearing me up like a small boy
On his fathers shoulders
Wondering what I wouldnt give
To know again the feel of my own skin
Or taste any word that hasnt already been chewed.
Missing you in hell
Wait for me, wait
For me please.
And Ill see you in my dreams.