Matt HillStreet Corner
A hypothetical encounter between poets Philip Lamantia and Bob Kaufman on a San Francisco street corner. Since both lived in the same North Beach neighborhood, loitered in the same cafes, and more than likely knew each other, this depicted encounter may actually have far-fetchedly occurred.
K. is shifting from one foot to the other. He directs his utterances toward the cars stopped at the street light, calling out the phrases spontaneously. These poetic utterances flow from his mouth in bebop cadence; his eyes incandescent as he gesticulates his surfacing raw visions with both hands. K. this morning has methedrine in his veins, & a jazz god lodged deep within his psyche.
L. stops at the street corner where K. is engaged in his trance, pulling hard on a newly lit cigarette. He has just come from mass at the Catholic church, the one on the north side of the square with the two gothic spires. He has not slept for two days, the manic episodes continuing to torment his night hours. L. nods over at K. (they are familiar with each other from the readings and café interludes). He stands watching K. syncopate the jazz motions into the word flow, directing fluid utterances toward panicked-looking occupants in idling cars as they wait for the light to go green.
K. is vocally intense this morning, indicating that his head is a bony guitar, strung by tongues and plucked by nails and fingers. All his ships that never sailed, he says, he will bring them back, yes, in a huge and transitory way, so that they may yet sail on, freely. K. looks over at L. and says that he has circumnavigated the globe nine times; & yet now, his only living ambition is to be forgotten. This gift of spontaneous bebop is for all the others to transcribe; all he wants is for this fine sweet San Francisco day to be free of this all incessant violent city noise.
Now the light changes, the cars move forward. L. inhales the smoke deeply, remarking to K. that it was his own road that reopened in '67 by way of an unambiguous reinvention. It was then that he realized that the crime of poetry was the highest achievement of outlaw language, the one that surrealistic praxis aims to restore, even to the point of canceling out these pompous monstrosities like Ezra Pound and his ilk.
K. continues to shift his feet while L. speaks, gesticulating at the passing cars. He interrupts, and wants L. to know that he is the one who is fiercely indifferent to the fame of poets; it is only the poetry itself that matters. Poetry's sound-sheared breasts make his eyes laugh, always round about the midnight hour. Love itself is the only thing that can be philosophically divided by anatomical seductions. & yes, Jazz has this uncanny umbilical memory buried deeply within our musical tears.
The light changes back to red. A new queue of wide-eyed tourists gawk at the two poets from behind the car windows, out-of-state plates on the bumpers. L. is staring intently at the bright morning sky over the Bay; he does a hard inhale on the non-filtered Camel. He wants K. to know that certainly, poetry is the incense of the dream, a garden of imperious images, and the blood of creative ignition. The poet wears the mantle of metaphoric light, wandering through the madrone forests, traversing the bridge between sleep and waking, dreaming of a labyrinth winding down through terraces, always desiring the free movement of words and their signatures, within a process magnetized by the resources of the arbitrary, yet intrepidly walking on towards the negative summit of oneiric exhaltation.
K.'s head is impatiently nodding Yes Yes He looks into L.'s melancholy eyes and says, Like you Philip, I too have these autodidactic inclinations. As a sailor, I have sailed on all the seas, where I learned the poems of Lorca by heart during the solitary nights crowded with acute loneliness. As my reward for reciting poetry in these public places, the police have arrested me 39 times I have been electro-shocked and beaten unconscious. After a long decade, I have ended my vow of silence so that my spontaneous verses might once again underscore these oral dynamics against this ruined age. All I have left is the desire to celebrate word music & so, I stand out here on this street corner and speak the poems.
A horn blares, the light now back to green. The panicked faces move on in their conveyances through the intersection.
L. lights a fresh cigarette from the one burning his fingers. His stare returns to the moving sky as he relates to K. that, yes, it would be true he has never really gotten the hang of living, even by moving through the daily horrors of an attempted life bulwarked by bona fide resolve. He still dreams of a living emancipation that will yet newly kindle some kind of preserving fire. L. indicates that he wants to embody a ruthless intoxication by embracing those inclusive realities which lie beyond all categories as he watches the marvelously dark sun exhale its fiery water, hoping to magnetize the arbitrary resources of the Illimitable Void, the one that Breton exalted as the lever of poetic vitalities we need to use toward all further transmissions of automatic praxis, that is, toward surreal becomings.
Lowering his eyes, L. sees that K. has turned again towards the cars, and has been oblivious to his words. K. has resumed speaking to the space of the intersection, the improv verses ringing out against the philistines. He is insisting that the comic book middle class has an abandoned hangover, even as the brief storms that fuel his own sorrows will continue to be disemboweled by a distant world, and certainly yes, he is now forever wishing for his soul to be revisited by the introspective echoes of his once familiar encounters So that then, for all of this strange existence to be, yes, all will finally be forgotten