Monday, December 9, 2013

Chasing The Ting, the Ray Patrick Interview

Ray Gene Patrick wears lots of denim, and t-shirts adorned with wolves and dream-catchers, and other Native American motifs, and black clothes, and he used to wear a hand-made beret a lady friend knit for him, he wore that a lot, he called it his Poet Hat. Ray used to wear turquoise rings. I don’t think he wears them anymore. He always carries a satchel or a briefcase, something he found second-hand, and it's full of poems, bottles of wine or beer, disposable cups, photographs, and things, gifts for someone. He has his friends in mind, and gives many of us tokens of admiration he finds while rummaging through second-hand shops and his own belongings. He had a vast collection of stuff: magic rocks, books, oils he used for massage and other things, posters, post cards, vintage clothes, funny hats, plants, lighters--odds and ends like that fill his life and briefcase, and he makes gifts out of it all. Every time I see him he has a small token to give, something he thought I might like or thinks I could use.
There’s more to him than that, of course, and I’ll get into it all eventually. I’m struggling to remember all the details of this man I love and our long, very happy friendship. I want to get this right because I didn’t do an interview with Ray like I’ve done with the previous poets. I sat down with Ray and we talked, for two hours or more, and I recorded most of that talk with a little hand-held tape recorder. Now I have to listen and listen, take notes, listen more, and just get it all down. 
Here you’ll find references to other poets in town, some I’ve interviewed or mentioned before. You’ll learn about a few important locations, like Sam ‘n Andy’s, Brewed Awakenings, and Noble Thought, which were all coffee shops where poetry was featured here in Toledo. 'Any Wednesday' was a monthly get together at Ray’s home where touring musicians, primarily jazz and folk artists, could hang out, jam with local musicians, unwind and relax. It’s still going on today, the first Wednesday of the month. It’s a little lower key these days, but still fun. 
You should also know this: Ray is a real outlaw poet. In this life he has been a yoga instructor, a soldier, a pimp, a drug dealer, a taxi cab driver, a father; he was friends with blacks and gays when such a thing didn’t win one any awards. He can read palms and auras. He makes beautiful ceramic pots. He paints and draws, and writes poems. In deep meditation he discovered what his past lives were like. He married several times. What follows is an interview that is by turns tender, vulgar, warm, blasphemous, sacred, sexual, and sometimes bombastic and willfully antagonistic. If you have dearly held religous beliefs, be prepared. If you’re sensitive about sex, be prepared. There’s a lot of talk about both here. Ray was an enthusiastic meditator and skirt chaser. All roads of conversation lead back to God, or, as Ray affectionately and crudely puts it, pussy. Ray pursued meditation until he saw the “White Light”, and he pursued women, and sex-love with the same vigor. In fact, it might be fair to say that God and sex are the same thing to Ray. Find out for yourself.

Our interview takes place in a local coffee shop where Ray and I have previously spent many hours together. We begin and Ray notices what a piece of crap my hand-held tape recorder is.

RAY: I’ve got one of those I never use, would you like to have it?

MIKE: Sure.

Remind me when we go out, you can have the damn thing ‘cause I never use it.

I’m going to have to start taking this in the car with me, ‘cause I write poems in my head on my drive home every night. So anyway, the TING?

Okay. The TING (Ray is referring to a short collection of his original poems called TING) is of course spiritual poetry, and I deliberately, but then I, I went back and re-read it and it I thought “You still got some sexual things in it”. That was ‘cause I still, that was my trip, my road trip.

So don’t you think, I mean, that stuff has to be there if the poem’s going to be authentic. If it’s going to be real you can’t deny, you can’t lie. If you lie to the poem then you lie to yourself, to the people reading it, you know?

Mmm, right. Well, the challenge to me is, and I’ve done this, quite often and I know I can do it, is to step outside myself and write about the political people, or God, not in reference to me but still its in reference to me because that’s how I perceive them. And, uh...

I read an article this morning that calls what you’re talking about, well, your poems are narrative, they’re...

They’re stories, right.

One of the things you do in a lot of them, not all of them, of course, not every single one is a perfect piece of art...

No, absolutely not...

...but you’re able to maintain a kind of intimate distance, you know, where the poet and the voice in the poem are the same thing, but one isn’t speaking for the other.You’re close enough to put the facts in place, but far enough away for an emotional base for a reader to settle into.

Well, some of my favortie poems that I’ve written, that I think are good, are my Haiku.

Yeah, your Haiku are lovley.

Yeah, those are the few poems I’ve been at least satisfied with. Because, ah, because like this one (Ray recites from memory)

There goes that old frog,
every time I forget about him
he sings to his love know, broken hearts, mating time.

Broken hearts, that’s the other thing about your poems you talk about...


...being a sexual…creature, writing sex poems, and being vulgar sometimes, and you can be that, too...

But see, like the women, when I read that 'poem for those who know me', about having oral sex with the deaf mute with the rubber arm, they all went “Eeew!”, but I thought it was beautiful ‘cause I did do it, and she loved it...

poem for those who know me
(pussi #5)

the deaf virginal mute
with rubber left arm
...yes I did!
& stroked the rubber arm sensuously
as she groaned in deaf mute moan.

RAY:...that was her first orgasm.

I guess if you do that too much it becomes a joke. Like, there’s something about Bukowski for me, where you have to read a whole book of poems to find a couple that make you...

Stand up and listen?

...but for the most part, it’s like you reached a point where you wanted to entertain people with dirty poems and it sort of made a fake persona.

Yeah, yeah, I...

They just filled in the blanks...

...well they liked it because I made them laugh. And that’s what I like, I like making people laugh. Now, if I really, if you would say to me “Ray, what is it you would really like to be in your life?”, and I was thinking about it when I was younger and I just didn’t do it, a ventriloquist, with a dummy. He would have done the poetry!

(laughing) Yeah, yeah!

Yeah, that’s what I wanted to do more than anything else. ‘Cause I used to do it with a sock when I was a kid.

A ventriloquist, huh?

Mmmhmm, that’s what I really wanted to be in life. So poetry is like a form of ventriloquism! (Ray’s laughing. He laughs throughout this interview, mostly at himself.)

Poetry is a form of ventriloquism, but your past is speaking through you right now. You’re on a little stool and your past has its hand the back of your head and it’s forming the words you’re saying.

Yeah, because I was in antiques I was going to become a, um, I had two lesbian auctioneers up in Michigan they said they would take me under their wings and school me in being an auctioneer. I said, well if I’m going to do that I want to be a ventriloquist, so I could put “Colonel Booboo” up here and say (he garbles some fake auctioneer fast-talk).

I can see it, Ray, I don’t know why you didn’t do that.I feel like, I’ve known you for fourteen years, I think. Close to it.

Well, it’s been that long since Sam ‘n Andy’s.

And it’s probably the first time I’ve heard you say you want to be a ventriloquist. And we’ve talked for years and years, hours and hours, right? So I feel like that’s something, that surprising moment with you, that’s what your poems are like, too. Here’s this poem in this anthology, about being in the inner city on one side, and watching the wealthy pass by on the other, and you think it’s going to be about stratification, or something...

Social modes, and the cement...

...or about what the poor folks are doing tonight, but then Paul Desmond’s on the radio and you don’t know if Paul Desmond’s dead or alive and that’s what trips you up. It becomes, it’s not a social commentary at all, not really...

And the fish really weren’t biting either (chuckles)

New Residence Inn

reflections around midnight
shimmer silver moonspikes
across this bay
on the far side stands
the new residence inn
american flagpole breezing
over concrete bedrooms
of sleeping social molds
and i on this side
fishing pole hopefully baited
groping for the last three beers
of two six packs
as my confiscated radio
(a grudging gift of a $17.00
attempted cab beat),
on its two-way four speaker system
tampa’s all night jazz station.
a lonely trumpet riffs
a smooth golden bass sax responds
i hymn along
& wait for my fish to bite
that special dream fish.
the song softens out...ends
a universal radio voice announces:
“chet baker on trumpet, paul desmond
on sax playing
‘journey to alturaus’
the last recording desmond ever made.”
what?...desmond?...last recording?
desmond dead...?
or had he just stopped playing?
…the fish weren’t biting either!

MIKE:...and that’s what everything, all your poems, all your stories, all, your whole life, is like this, might look like being distracted to someone else, but it’s really like moving on to the next thing before you make the expected move, do the expected thing. It’s what the poems are like.

Well I, I’m pretty sure I was ADD when I was little. Probably still am, but ah, I can handle it now, ‘cause I look at it and well, let’s use it, and I let it use me. And I have this theory, of course, that my brain pathways got fucked-up when I drowned, because none of my sisters have that problem. That could’ve had an effect.

And Now

and now it’s this miserable barrier
because I’ve lived outside of my inside
trying to run
from this influence of darkness
this misery
where did the Gods or Goddesses go?
I bet they left at 5 yrs old
when I drowned myself
Sioto River fell in
dead they said

but I arose from a coma
in 3 days resurrection
back from the dead
they said

never the same
but a new awareness of dark
that nightness
all life searching
high on beer, yoga
pussy & drugs
where is that blissful light?
unstable searches
arch my back bent

now my time has come
to accept
some sort of God
just to play the odds &
get my soul’s bet on the line.

RAY: But, ah, you know, what really pains me now is, though, my belief in my form of God, the spiritual, the White Light, and the, um, all the spirit guides I had and this business, I thought, well that’s the same god-damned thing as the Catholic religion, I’m forming all this structure, believing in something I don’t believe in. And that threw me for a loop because I enjoyed talking to my wolf and bear, and Alfred, (Ray’s ‘spirit guides’) but it was just, it’s no different from that preacher that said God had taken him to Heaven three times. And I thought, the hard thing was I questioned myself, did I slow my heart down so low that I got a big shot of adrenaline and that’s the reason I felt so good and saw this White Light? I wanted to ask Satch (a guru Ray befriended) that but I never got to ask him. But yet the structure of going there, going through the White Light, the structure itself and it took me months to get there, your heart beat is like before the White Light starts coming, ONE...TWO...THREE...(Ray counts out slowly, snapping on the beat), yeah, and you just, you can’t even tell if the Universe is out here or if your whole body is the Universe. And I enjoyed that sensation, ‘cause it made me realize how brief life really is...

I imagine it would do that.

...yeah, and, ah, what was it, that Royal Yoga, if you ever get a chance to find that book, it was written a couple thousand years ago. Very, very simple, 38 pps. I gave away my copy and I couldn't find anymore. When I went to D.C. I went to the Library of Congress and I got a copy there and I copied it on the copy machine. (Laughter) Because like I say, every line in the book is worth meditative reflection for weeks. Like I told you before, the very first line: “Attachment is the cause of all suffering.” And that’s true. I took weeks thinking about that.

I feel like I want to keep bringing you back to the poetry...but I feel like...

That is my poetry. My life is a poem.

I was going to say, that is your poetry. Your poems are about...


...holding on too tight and letting go, over and over and over again, your own, you doing it, other people doing it, politicians, religious leaders doing it. That meditation is ongoing for you, I think..

Oh yeah, I still do...

...attachment is...

...the cause of all suffering.

I would also say that your life at this age is reflective of that, too. How many things have you given to me that you don’t want anymore? That you need to unclutter your space. You’re always giving it away, giving it away.

That’s when I have, I have a big poetry reading I’m going to, and I’m going to bring a whole bunch of the books with me and put ‘em out and let people take whatever they want. What was it I was reading, was it in the, uh, The Laughing Jesus, can’t remember but anyway...come on, Patrick...the Virgin Birth, and on the cross, dead and rising again in three days, happened in four other religions before Christianity, the same thing. Now, here’s what I like...

All in the same neighborhood.

...yeah, and here’s what I like, a monk, or priest, actually, in about 700 a.d. wrote that the devil created these four other religions so you wouldn’t believe in Jesus. I mean, these guys...

I met a guy on the train when I went out West, to Lake Tahoe, he believed that God planted the fossils so we wouldn’t...

Well, yeah... trick us.

They have to have an excuse for that, I mean an explanation.

RAY: When I asked you to take over [The Sam ‘n Andy’s open mic night] you said “You think I can do it?” and I said “I know you can.”

I can’t seem to make anything work these days. (Laughter)

Well, one, I knew you were an exceptional poet, and a good teacher, and I also knew that a lot of girls were following you, so that was a win-win situation! (Laughter from Ray)

Maybe I can’t pull off a poetry reading anymore because I don’t have girls following me around these days.

That might be it!

Maybe that’s what it is. I don’t know. I really would love to find a place to start another open mic.

Yeah, yeah, I would like’s like that one poem I like, “...never doubt love for one second, even if it only lasts for one.”

That’s right, that’s right. Because, hold on, even after Sam ‘n Andy’s shut down, Brewed Awakenings hosted an open mic for a long time.

Brewed Awakenings?

When John [Swaile] hosted Brewed...

Oh, yeah, that lasted for a long time...

And then Caroline [Gauger] and Nicki [Norman] had something going at the Collingwood...

Oh, that lasted for years

...but they let it get out of hand...(laughter from both of us)

...they didn’t, they were entertaining, standing on their heads, you know? That had its own form. And they had some good poets come through there. And I used to enjoy enjoy the structure in a way that it was like a bunch of mad people coming together, which we were.

It was crazy. It must have been like 'Any Wednesday' in a way.

'Any Wednesday' was quite different...

Okay, how so? my basement, I had a couch down there and everybody could go down and smoke joints. Except there was a couple things that pissed me off I found out later. 

Editor’s note: At several points throughout this interview Ray and I digressed into conversation not at all related to the questions I was asking him. At this point in our conversation we started talking about our children, and though it was a lovely chat and I can’t wait to share it with my son someday, it went wild for a spell and touched on some deeply personal things that I’m not at liberty to recount in the body of this interview, which is why we’ll go from discussing 'Any Wednesday' with no conclusion to this next topic of discussion.

MIKE: Everything’s a hustle, isn’t it?

Everything is a hustle, even, even goodness. In my favorite poem, a Haiku(Ray recites from memory)

Sad Mozart music
drifts among full moon nightshade.
Two alley dogs howl.

RAY: I can just see it, I can see that picture right in my head. “Full moon nightshade”, nightshade is, of course, poison. A full moon, look at all the stories about a full moon. And two alley dogs, no home, sadness, that one poem does a whole lot of shit to my head.

And that’s one you wrote?

Oh, yeah. Um , and of course it has the time of the season, which is the challenge.

That’s right, that’s the hard challenge of Haiku, is to get those seasonal cues in there.

To me, that’s not hard. ‘Cause, you know, what are you doing, really? Like, like(Ray recites from memory)

Newborn copperhead,
I turn over this sun rock
and there we both are.

...there’s the seasonal image in there, the newborn copperhead; it’s Spring. And the frog thing, mating season. Yeah, I love...

Mating season... fact I have quite a few of those, I have one written by Japanese children, a book of Haiku.

Oh, I bet that’s lovely.

You can have that if you want. Just remind me. You could let your son have it and read it when he’s older. It was written by children. Very interesting. Of course there’s different forms of Haiku, but I still like the traditional, the three lines, 5, 7, 5 syllable breakdown. Then I have another of the top Japanese Haiku masters...

I have one of those, too. I got really into Haiku because of Swaile. John loved writing Haiku, he excelled.

He was, um, that one structure that he liked, I’ll think of it in a minute. It was a challenging form. I looked it up to write it but I don’t think I have the patience for it.

John liked formal poems, he liked writing formal poetry. He was good with forms the way you’re good at story telling.

You know what he said to me one time, he says, “Ray, when he meets a young girl, he looks at her hand and says something, and reaches back here on her shoulder and presses down on it, and after that she sticks to him like glue”. (Laughing) The trick to that it, you don’t talk about yourself, you talk about them.

So, your dad was a barber?

Ah, well, they owned a farm.

The whole family did?

The Patricks, my great-great grandfather was a doctor, and he owned thousands of acres in Kentucky and he sold it, but he kept the mineral rights. And if I hadn’t been so lazy in my life, about forty, fifty years they’ve been pumping oil off there, and none of our family’s getting any of it. My daughter says, “Well you gotta get that I want to be rich!” I tell her, “You go fight it.”

Fred [my employer] asked me about you the other day when you were visiting. He said, he wanted to know if you were a poet, too, and if you were any good. So I said yeah, you wrote, and yeah, you’re pretty good, one of the best guys in town. I said yeah, Ray’s one of those guys who can do anything he wants and doesn’t want to do anything at all. (Ray laughs) It’s kind of true.

I get bored quick.

You fall into stuff, fall out of stuff, leave stuff behind you.

Yeah, I always wondered...once I figured something out it’d become boring. I figured it out up here (points to his head). The only one that hasn’t become boring with me is that God shit. I saw a bumper sticker, it said, ah, let’s see...”God doesn’t believe in YOU, atheists”. (Laughter) But you know, when I look at these people, they’re all walking around in these elaborate clothes, and jewelry, and gold, gold, gold, waving it in the air. Now I told you that story about where they scared the, my Baptist relatives scared the shit out of me, literally.

Maybe you did.

Well, you would have remembered it.

I don’t know if I do. I remember a story about you cursing God out, going up on the mountain and cursing God out.

Yeah, that was it. ‘Course, my dad was getting his mail and shut his thumb in the box, and said “God damn it!” I didn’t know what it meant. I thought it was neat. That’s what I said in front of my relatives and they snatched my ass up and shook me and said, “Ray Gene you’re going to Hell and burn at the stake for eternity!” Didn’t know what eternity was, but I knew what burning was! Shook me again, shook the shit out of me literally. I shit my pants. “And if you even think it then you’ll burn at the stake forever!” Now, I knew what an eternity was. So I was walking around the next couple weeks having a nervous breakdown, “Don’t think it, don’t think it!” That’s when I got pissed at God and everybody.

I remember this story, I remember how they told you you’d burn in Hell forever...

What a threat for a five year old.

That’s a terrible thing to do to somebody.

Well, they’re still doing it! The thing is, each religion has its own imprint that they believe the other’s is wrong. Now, that’s where they make their huge mistake. I know that Satch, when I went to see him there in Yogaville, and I love that building about four-stories high in the shape of a lotus blossom. And the whole first floor was the lobby, and the second floor just went up. In the center they had this big, oh about 8 feet in diameter, looked like clear plastic tube, went all the way to the roof, to the center of the lotus, and going up through it were little gold lights, and then the lights went down the lotus and landed on little podiums that had different religions on them, all the world’s religions. He was making a statement, see? God created all the religions.

We talk about that a lot. I don’t think God discriminates; God isn’t a bigot, right? Aren’t those things we came up with on our own?

God doesn’t discriminate. No, He doesn’t. If there is a God, and I personally don’t believe in any form Man’s said, like, "God created Man in his own image, and Man returned the favor and did the same." (Laughter)

MIKE So, I want to ask you some questions I’ve been thinking about.

Go ahead.

So, your family’s full of story tellers, and snake charmers, and all that crazy stuff.

Yeah, a lot of alcoholics and ministers...

So, I mean...

...I’m related to Jesse James...’s inevitable that one of you guys is going to write poems. I mean, isn’t it?

I think I’m the only one.

How old were you when you wrote one, or read one, or someone gave one to you? Was it [poetry] a
part of your life?

Well the first two I vividly remember was I think I was in the seventh grade. (Recites from memory)

Took off my dress
my panties I let fall,
I stood there like Venus,
the fairest of all.

(Ray recites two other poems, dirty jingles like this one, which did not record clearly)

Where did you learn these?

I found it in my buddy’s parent’s dresser drawer, we had a party over there and we were going through them. We found two of them, these books with dirty rhymes and things. Another thing, there was a song. I forgot it now. But that rhythm, I started writing poems in the eighth grade. That’s when I got in trouble for one I wrote that they didn’t understand. ‘Cause I wrote “...and he spanked me till I had to, we?” That was a line in it. My teacher’s face got red, the whole class laughed and I got paddled.

Paddled for writing poems. (Laughter)

Mmmhmm. What pissed me off is my parents were never behind anything I did, they never, if I showed them something it didn’t mean anything. I just disengaged.

So they weren’t giving you poems, things to read?

No. I was a reader in grade school, in fact I got in trouble reading. Between the sixth and eighth grade I read every fairy tale book the library had downtown. And I read things like Gunga Din, and Brideshead Revisited, which I loved.

That must be a keystone thing for people who end up writing poems; I remember doing that too, finding fairy tales at the library. The big Time-Life books that had all the fairy tales of the world, and sometimes they’d show you the fairy tales that were similar, like all the Sleeping Beauty type stories from all over. I just loved those, and read them and read them.

I read one when I was in the Marshall Islands, when I was in the H-Bomb test. And one of the guys aboard there, an older guy, collected fairy tale stories, and we were there for like six, seven months, didn’t have anything to do, he loaned his books to me. He had one called She. I never really get too blown away with stories unless I’m personally involved, most of the time I just, mentally I see it, I appreciate it. But this one shook me up so bad my sense of reality mixed up. And it had to do with, like, here’s God, but over here is a parallel universe run by She.

And you were in the Navy? Illegally, right?

No, the day I turned seventeen I had my mom sign me up.

Okay, because I always had it in my head...

No, I couldn’t go to school ‘cause my dad went crazy, mentally unwell. I couldn’t figure out why he went crazy. Of course, he was an alcoholic, but, I think what happened is my dad had a little, a small barber shop and he loved it. Right across from his chair, on the wall, don’t know where the fuck he got it but it was a pair of Texas longhorns, like seven feet wide. But my mother, she never went to the eighth grade, but she put herself through beauty college, and she’d even spell words at night, in her sleep, she was so determined. But what she did is, here’s my dad’s barber shop, and she put a partition here and put her beauty shop right there so she could hear every word he said and comment on it. And all the sudden it changed his whole life, and I think he went crazy on that, I think that’s why he had his nervous breakdown. She controlled the whole thing. I come in one time, and my mom she was working on a woman’s hair and she says, “Ray Gene, what’d I find in your pocket?”, and I said, “What?” I’m trying to remember, see? And the ladies they all start laughing, then I remember I had a pack of rubbers in there and it was like, seventh grade, she caught me red-handed! Got my ass out of there quick! (Laughter)

Reading and sex, getting you in trouble. Sex and poetry, getting Ray in trouble.

Actually the first time I got laid, for a second I thought, is this all? What’s everybody raising so much 
hell about?

sixth grade sex

in the sixth grade
we tried to fuck
our communal dog once
but she growled
& bit Ralph
(I let Ralph go first
because I was a recent
fallen Church of God member
& still had hard
burn you at the stake fears)
but it was destiny
trying to pump Smoky
we were influenced
‘cause we had just watched
a beautiful girl screw
a German Shepherd
as we hid in secret excitement
thick Ohio River bulrushes
...Ralph wasn’t really beautiful
& maybe that’s why Smoky bit him.

It didn’t feel all that good, I didn’t think. Well, I had a little pee-pee, maybe that, I don’t know, if I’d had a gargantuan one, maybe that would have been...

Who knows? (Laughter)

So, what else did you want to know?

I don’t really want to know...okay, so I asked you when it was you read your first poem, and you said seventh grade, and it was like, dirty limericks.

My mom went and threw all my poetry away...

So wait, you were, she threw away the poetry you wrote, or the poems you had to read?

The poetry I wrote...

And you were writing? In seventh and eighth grade?

I don’t even remember them now, what they were about.

But you were writing that early? And what motivated you?

Women have always motivated me. Fishing. Or going up in the hills...

But did you just start writing and knew you had a poem, or did you read something that made you want...

I just, I me it was poetry. I didn’t read about...structure or anything like that.

But did you read poems? In the library with the fairy tales were you reading...

Mostly fairy tales. I guess that’s why a lot of my poems are story poems. But when she did that I stayed away from poetry, and the weird thing was I stayed away from it for years, then we opened that Noble Thought coffee-house in the ‘60’s, we started on the stage reading the ‘60’s poets, you know, I got intrigued by a lot of them but I don’t even remember their names now. You’d know their names ‘cause they’re famous. “Last summer’s screen doors.” That’s a line I remember. ‘Cause I can’t remember. But I’d go there, I’d try to write, I’d try to get my writing back and the first poem I wrote I thought “This sucks!” and I threw it away.

You threw a lot of shit away, Ray.

Yep. Well, I realized I was plagiarizing a little bit, I thought, “That’s not me.” And then, believe it or not, over here in, there was a professor at the University of Toledo, I forgot his name now; Peter Van Schaik (another Toledo poet, who’s been writing and reading in Toledo for years and years)  took me to a poetry reading at his house; then they had another poetry reading over near the Anthony Wayne Trail. I brought three poems. I read them and that was my jump start. And I read a lot of the ‘60’s poets and I was laughing about On the Road because the similarities between what he wrote about and whatever, well, it was I what I did! Gettin’ stoned and driving all over the United States and Mexico, all of the time...well, I wouldn’t go to Mexico now. I remember that one time I was going through the mountains I saw there was a party going on. I knew a little about customs and I stopped, a guy comes walking up and I asked if he knew English. He did so I said, “What’s going on?” He says oh, there’s a wedding in the village. So I asked if I could go congratulate his grandmother. He said yes, so I walked up to the matriarch sitting in that big chair, gave her congratulations, and of course she invited us to the wedding and we had a good time! (Laughter) I just wish I had the wherewithal to finish the stories in my head, from my life.

So how do you think all this life you’ve had, all these adventures, wild times...

I think, I wish I would have picked something and completed it. The only thing I come close to completing, the only thing I completed, was meditation. I went through the White Light. I consider that a completed effort.

There’s like, four volumes of poetry you’ve written and collected. Are saying you haven’t written the poem yet?

What’s that?

You haven’t written the poem that makes you feel like you’ve completed poetry, that you’ve done something?

No. Ah, I’m extremely sensitive, and it’s hard for me to take praise. Just like when you told me that guy asked if I was a poet and you said one of the best in town. I thought well I’ve never heard that, and in fact I think, I was thinking I wrote too many sexual poems, but I did that just to amuse people.

I think that indidcates your skill, though. You didn’t just write sex poems, you didn’t just say dirty words in a sequence of line breaks, you still made a poem, you still made an artifact.

There were meanings underneath all that.

Exactly. You didn’t just get up there and report on a conquest or adventure. You still made a poem.

And then I was always, I hate to say this, but some of the poetry that is written by super educated people I find very boring. It’s the structure. It’s easy to read and I can see what they’re talking about. I would never enter any of my poems in their school things, the journals or what have you, even though I read, one time I was asked to read at the University of Florida. I read there, which was 150 miles from Tampa, where I was living and writing at the time.

That’s a hell of an invitation.

Yeah. Uh-huh. In Tampa I had a real good thing going. I knew a girl there, Holly Day. Her parents were hippies and she was in a skateboard gang. She got a scholarship in Tampa, which was an expensive school...

So what makes you of the poems I love the most, I think it’s called Chasing the Ting. What is it about the poems, where you haven’t...

There’s a couple that I like... haven’t reached the Ting yet. 

Chasing the Ting

only 5 & ½ yrs old
first birthday party
at her house
nine of us
short pants & skirts
white cotton panty peeks
as we sat in a circle
a Homers mike bottle
in the center
our mothers giggling
as they said “spin the bottle”
to the dimpled blond birthday girl
w/ flashing blue laughing eyes
“u have to kiss whoever it points to”
more mother giggles
i was puzzled sweat/kiss how?
mother cheek-type kiss was all i knew
her perfect little hand
came down on the bottle
& with a low laugh
spun this karmic string
i watched hypnotically at the spins
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 times around to slow stop
it was pointed at me!
i sat transfixed & stupid
what seemed slow motion
she came laughing eyes
on hands & knees
across the circle
stopped in front of me
nose to nose
i could smell her
warm sweet candy breath
i was still in stupid mode
breathing gulp hard
her cherry full lips came tro mine
landed gently wet & warm
on transfixed recieving lips
a hot feel good rushed through
my body my eyes
me heart my soul/
a heat started at the base of my spine
ran forward to privatre parts
warm/hot/feel good
first lip kiss tingle
didn’t know that I would chase
that warm temptress tingle
for the rest of my days
my lower lip trembled
as she pulled back
looking into my eyes
with laughter/joy & defiance
I’ve loved all of her since
looked for her in a thousand eyes
10, 000 kisses and a hundred lovers
always chasing
that first wet warm/hot tingle, the Ting poem I like. And that Cafe Mocha and Coffee House Muse, I wrote that right in here, in this coffee shop.

And the poem in this anthology (where the New Residence Inn was printed), all of your poems from the Tampa days remind me of the best of Bob Philips’s poems, or the best of Bukowski, where you’re some place identifiable and there’s a mysterious relationship...

There’s religion, there’s spirituality in them.

It’s present, it’s a way of arranging the words.

It’s my life. I said that already, man, my life is a poem. I’m still chasing the Ting. I’ll do that ‘til I die, I guess.

Stretching Haiku

pumpkin apples fell
woodsmoke & applebutter
memories of her

her chair stands empty
hoofprints crush the pumpkin frost
death rides a dark horse

when I’m afraid
I reach for Gods
when I’m lonely
I reach for love
when I’m content
I stop reaching

in each year’s approach
the twilight becomes
more important

I have travelled many roads
my body has aged in teh wind
but my mind still stands
overlooking that warm day
when I was five

I haven’t lost a new love
nor is my dream yet dead
still loneliness creeps
like snails through my head

love slinked in onesided
cloaked in a theif’s coat
then left again
wrapped in your illusion’s face

I never knew
the last time we made love
that it was

I have been paying costly rent
on this borrowed body

Cafe Mocha & Coffee House Muse

the incessant chattering
of a Sunday High Collar Priest
rings harsh on my mocha coffee ear
his church has let/mine starts this page
a head heads inside, search of self
looks for completion/images shift
guided thought muse
I call poetry, today a poet?
who am I these words make
on off-white bond twenty weight?
ink marks sad down
like melancholy walks it is lonely today/
I look up and behind coffee priest
eyes stalk a ripened beauty
I want to know her
she slips down to poem page
my line loses her form an exit door closes
love lost again perhaps/
I have been wearing
poets cloth a long entangled time
demanding muse mistress
veiled within this cryptic soul/
existence & measure
slide into eternity/
life so ephemeral
understanding so transitory
years have passed quicker
than these seized errant minutes
my poem consumes me
holds down hard
explains not this earth-breath-spirit
life behind now
longer than life in front
(tears well as tears will)
I feel need of new spring
to lean against ancient oak
cheek pressed prayer
on aromatic healing bark
to merge! to merge!
with birdsong, beesong
& new blossom spell
I shall wear tattered pale green polo
soft white cotton drawstring pants
with allegory holes
I shall curl my naked toes deep down
into the moist ground
in blissful caress below
rapture! oh, rapture!
I segment/ I pause/ I surrender
I become a poem/ this poem

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