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Joel Lewis

Eight Poems From ‘Anhedonia’

Shift in the Winds


Monday, sat inside Newark Street’s ex-bank
Starbuck, drank  espresso machiato
paid for it with my Walt Whitman
Starbuck Debit Card    “Here is not
                                                            Merely a nation
                                             but a teeming
                                                       Nation of nations.”

Poor Walt, long out of copyright, serving
the interests of orchestrated leisure time.

                                        It’s the day before autumn, cool.
Women lugging behemoth purses. A gaglet
of girls head off to the soccer pitch. The last
old men of Hoboken ruminate
at the Wilton House tavern
Or with old time genial mood.
those chiseled Adriatic faces
& one cane propped against
the worn mahogany bar.

     No more vaudeville houses     No more dock work
      No more Lackawanna train crews upstairs at the Hotel Victor.

To the affluent go the spoils.


Tuesday evening. Danny, Joey
Deb and I discussed the possibility
of writing some really good
political poetry.   “Blows
                                     against the empire!”
said Danny. “How about a poetry
equivalent to a room-clearing
fart against the Power,” I suggest.
                                        We then left
for separate stations. Late at night,
a call from Joey: “ I am beset by flies!!
e-mail from Deb: “The heavy, secret
lie of the heart is by far
the most interesting subject”


This tiny world, self-reflected
into a gentle take on entropy.

The remnants of the late hurricane
dusts Washington Street’s pizzerias and realtors.

The rogue electricians return
from their rounds           The line

grows at the lottery machine peopled by
folks eager for some paradise

from this empire in repose. Human
me, shaking off Old World time

to repair the blunt force
of circumstance. Daydreams

Dictate my holidays.


His dentist looked at his bleeding gums and scolded:
“Mitch, you got a bad case of NYAMS
                                                   New York Adult Malnutrition
the Big Mac is not a food group!

                                          Why do some words live & some words
croak? “Shoe-icide Bomber,” R.I.P.              I splash
invisible brown ink on imaginary rice paper
in brief reverie for some short term diddy-wah-diddy

Now a shout-out to across-the-Passaic’s Pulaski Skyway
wrecked by Orson Welles, praised by Woody Guthrie
& still sentinel above the Meadowland’s
                                                                       industrial sublime.


Where can I launder my money tonight?

                No luster on this
                Waterfront   “Whatever happened
                 to Kriss-Kross? “   I have no answer, no
                 Clue    just an ironic smirk, betrayer
                       of my inner lie.

.... And you might try to get a good look-see
at yourself:

Booked into  night     there     you     are
& you are not there

& under that, the obvious mantle
of paranoid rush
dishes out hardfacts:
Who are You??

You are not: Alicia Keys
or the New Jersey Knowbody I am.

From where we recline
a viaduct becomes an elaborate
symbol of continuity.

A dog is on the porch
in someone’s white
domestic life.

But not for you..

That sort of half-life
is plot driven.

a son of silence

Hidden injuries of class??

He believed he could create a tornado
by flushing a toilet. He ate paper money, drank
soapy dish water, left golf clubs at synagogues
& collected JFK gas station tumblers. In his work for the CIA

he attempted to make alley cats organic eavesdropping drones
by implanting a listening device with the tail as antennae.

Problem: The cat would walk off the job when hungry.

Solution: A hunger “override” was implanted.

        When the improved acoustic cat was let out of the van
         “a Yellow Cab ran over the operative.”

Verdict: “In a real foreign situation,
                  the spy cat would not be practical.”


Here I am here — sitting on the floor, grinding my
teeth, alphabetizing my CDs
by the name of the sound engineer. So,
                                                            this goes out to you, Rudy van Gelder,
acoustic maestro. I see two policemen  sauntering down Targee Street
ready to challenge me to a round of Parcheesi.
The Talmud warns: “Keep away multitudes from your house.
Do not bring everyone to your house!        Nerves flayed
by reality TV stampede.    My fork catches fire. I still
plan to read the headlines.  His hair:
the shade of a radioactive eggplant.


The absolute bureaucracy of size
& obsolescence has me
whipped. The telegraph is antique.
Pneumatic tubes still whip beneath Parisian curbs on
pure inertia.

                           Princess phones?
                           Wire Paladin??

                                                             Separated by one second
I no longer see the “I” in “us”. Salute that flag or prepare to be branded
TRAITOR.  Dysthymia relieved by the writing of poetry?
                    Good and/ or bad news?    Memory-driven
baked apple smell out a diner door. Keith Richards sneers:
“Led Zeppelin was a project not a band!
Who knew?


Lee Konitz as Ideal, perennial underachiever, though
as “pure” an improviser as we got.
“Oh No! Another virtuoso!” — his sly putdown & shout out to all those
leather-lung Maynard Ferguson-types, or how much
virtuosity is too  much virtuosity??

                   “Fortunately for me,” he declares in Motion’s liner notes,
                    “I never really made it professionally, so I’ve had the chance
                     to relax & get a little insight into my life.”

All is pure             Command of space        Just walking, expecting
nothing in the light snow.


Generals go to the front room.
A stew of the old forces

back up in the National Saddle
as my kimosabes and comrades

survive on unemployment checks
while I grow a spare head...

Still won’t help balance
midnight and the actual rain.

Dump some false drama
on tonight’s donut shop:

Art Pepper over the speaker    he long out of
Nine-cat lives   this pacified landscape

full of acts repeated in ignorance.
Call it: “the job”    I am not Tonto

But make it up in other ways.
Mute street lamps

swallow up
my echoed medium.

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