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Joel Lewis

Three poems

In Paterson — 2

Locked drab and sudden,
Paterson as a thin flower force.

Winter pavements
take the shoeprints
of eighty languages.

Humming oil
jangling in these
gummy nerves. Malcolm,

hand me that ragged
Delewanna schedule.

I stand

Lou Costello (in Paterson — 4)

‘Hello out there to all
the people there
in Paterson’ is how Lou
ended his radio show.

And in the jumbo shrimp neighborhoods
of Paterson, where archaeologists
huddled together in squatter dorms,
women lifted their heads
from the Old Gold haze of canasta
& liverwurst parties to shout
‘That’s our Lou!’ — then back
to the business at hand.

In their minds, Lou is sleeping
on the leather lobby couch
of the Alexander Hamilton Hotel.
Family troubles. Moonlight is coating
the floor & the tuba-faced night clerk
gets his blubbery fingertips dirty
scanning the want ads
for a ‘nite owl’
Paterson Morning Call.

At the Shrine of Lou Costello, Paterson

There’s a lot I want to say,
in this voice, but nothing seems
to fit. Some shakiness
on the curbs & I’ll use this
downtime to seal up a sack of crullers
& board this Paterson-bound cruiser that

still traces the old route to college
& back then, as now: brainless
as a biscuit, the same old strange
daydreams of Gramsci playing drums
with Ornette Coleman. So, I’m not

a pilgrim, I just play one on TV
& I have some stupid human estrangement
in this city, but I hope I won’t run into him
& the buildings seem colored in
by magic markers, nothing to say really,
but saying it, at the Great Falls

I stand alone with my language, the chlorine
sting stands in advance of the real night.

Joel Lewis and the Gutter Helmet

Joel Lewis is the author of Entropia (Gaede’s Pond Press), Palookas of the Ozone (E.G. Press), House Rent Boogie (Yellow Press) and the recent North Jersey Gutter Helmet (Oasis Press). A selected poems, Nervous Fabric, is due next year from Talisman. He has edited an anthology of contemporary New Jersey poetry, a collection of Ted Berrigan’s talks and a forthcoming selected poems of the modernist-communist poet Walter Lowenfels. He is ‘New Jersey’s unofficial poetry goodwill ambassador to the outside world’.
       He and his wife, film theorist Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, live in Hoboken‘The birthplace of baseball and Frank Sinatra,’ as the signs there say.

Jacket 3 — April 1998  Contents page
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