John Amen

from My Gallery Days


for Louisa

A purple hearse idled beside a green ladder:
          Bill Casaman’s Tompkins Pk funeral.
He nailed his brain on webcam, lo-fi suicide.

We recall his Gotham lectures while staggering 
through the dog park, cheeks smeared w/ fake blood, 
          blossoms wafting from the cherry trees.

You were right of course:
          resistance is a midwife w/ a bad attitude. 
Vanity however remained our forceps,
          how we could milk the situation.
Bloggers emerged: Casaman, disappearing ink 
on the devil’s palm. I counter-posted: Ambivalence 
          is our common denominator. For 3 days,

his memento mori flapping on the gallery door.


for RJ

Five o’clock—prime time for boots & the Wild West,
                    yr opening line though I can’t say
I heard what came next, that 3-legged Cerberus
          yapping on 33rd     the racket of the Alphabet.

          Then the interminable open mic,
          3 crossdressers heaving a fridge
out the 2nd-story window (to a stillborn villanelle).

Yr co-feature bombarded w/ minutia, a robot reciting 
diary entries from a typical day in the word factory.
& you sighed I wish I’d taken that job @ the bank.
Wtf would you do w/ vacation time in the Hamptons?

          Take this as a compliment, you’re 0 if not adept
@ advancing yrself, I mean that to eulogize yr pitch-
perfect karma, so why da hangdog face? Why da huff?


for Sydney Blanket

—who drawled I’m the maestro of this carnival,
posing with pastel bouquet & acct books @ dawn.

An hour in yr office, I was asthmatic for a week.

          Diva, damsel, or Scaramouche in drag, 
you were seamless w/ a script—wooing the outsiders,
                    entrancing a gatekeeper,
lecturing the snoutplowers of this crumpled city,

          every week those video blasts,
the elegy for Evie, who found silence but never returned.

          You posed in garters for a masthead,
wrapped yrself nude in the Biltmore rug, the blank
checks rolled all the way to a taxman w/ a red guillotine.

          I applaud you, particularly yr crescendos,
skipping indie world straight to a wall @ the MOMA.


for I think it was Heather

                    April & I studied a green rapture,
free from the gallery for a month w/ pay,
freelancing on the 11th St bronze, commemoration
                    of Doggett’s last poetic stand:
          already unwired, dissected @ Bethel Main,
          he opened his 8th Ave reading by dropping
his boxer shorts. The 3 Cs: cops, court, commitment.

Jaeger said that Doggett staged the fiasco, it was 
his scripted swansong. I never told you a dream I had,
you & Doggett & I were sprawled on the Newburgh pier,
                    sharing a calzone, arguing about
Jay Sanford’s “unmasked” @ the Brooklyn EuroFest,
when Doggett stood up, dashed a crust to the ripples
          & proclaimed me the inaugural solipsist!


for Z

The Am-dream’s a 1-stroke I texted sliced in the dark.
We’re refugees riding a hobbyhorse bareback, art a 
bronco bucking its own beat: manifestoes are incidental.

Cambret’s self-portrait in wire you replied would be
perfect in a landfill, choking yr arm with a bungee cord.
You gouged his narrative, the blasts of random subtext,
how type O bubbled from the white mannequin’s lips 

every 29 seconds (onto a white carpet): Fuck his CV,
replete with emoticons. Jo Reid differed in The Railbird: 
I’d give my Masterburgs for the rust on Cambret’s floor.

You staggered on 14th while palpating yr blog: Cambret 
& his shooting circle. The York? Best when it was empty.

It’s not surprising, during his coronation @ Gallery LG, 
ya turn da bootlicker—Cam’s Polonius, Brutus, his Iago.


A forsythia was my burning bush in Williamsburg,
          I then so cavalier barreled into DC.

          (I forgot my notes & sketches)

I knew I’d signed up for a crash w/out the high:
          Louisa, never a bell without a bomb.
In short, I joined her asp&gorgon show. We floated 
down the Hudson for a nodding day in her doublewide
4 miles from Troy. (w/ skin-board & cheap acrylics)

          I was a surrogate @ best but speared a grant.
          Louisa sd stay as the jester in residence,
          I could have the pod & leftover swatches!

(We all have gifts, foresight & diplomacy not hers)

Still, 2 months to brainstorm, & I gained 7 lbs.
Those days everyone was snarling for the limelight.

John Amen is the author of five collections of poetry; most recently, strange theater (New York Quarterly Books), a finalist for the 2016 Brockman-Campbell Award. His poetry, fiction, reviews, and essays have appeared in journals nationally and internationally, and his poetry has been translated into Spanish, French, Hungarian, Korean, and Hebrew. He founded and continues to edit The Pedestal Magazine.
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