Peter Bakowski & Ken Bolton



Sixpack 1: REVEALS

After the eye operation

Images—Lou Reed doing the dishes. 
Prison inmates, making origami swans.

The blues aren't extinct—
Insomnia. Girlfriend troubles. 
Revulsion towards a work colleague’s
lunch – their rabbit and banana sandwiches.
I see the President on television. 
An antidote is required—
a brimful glass of cognac.

It’s best to sit in the backyard
in a white and blue-striped deckchair.
You feel, this afternoon, Mediterranean— 
that your name is Alfonso— 
a retired waiter,
the proud owner
of a postcard from Sophia Loren
whom you served
with discretion and flair.

But you’re you,
must live with it

and should make an appointment
with the podiatrist,
start cooking dinner.
Gnocchi pesto. 


I come home I'm
barely in the door
when there I am—at 
the dishes—doing them,
not the usual me. "If
you could see me now"
in suit and apron—       
in the 'mind's eye' … of the people,
who voted for me. I should
tweet them: "Guess what I'm
wearing?"  But maybe I shouldn't.
So sad, because I'd like to—
but good I didn't. More
presidential. I may have backed over
Lou Reed while I was parking, I think.
Parking his motorbike. A grown man!
A loser. A very talented guy—
but a loser. So sad, very sad. I
understand talent. I truly do—
but that guy—the shades and all,
at night time—what was he
thinking?  I could never
get into that. Now, 'Jump',
or 'Footloose', that was more like it. A little,
puny guy, Lou. And besides, there's
that rhyme. "Jump". "What rhymes with that?"  Clincher.
                                          What was it,
rickets?  Sad, very sad. Unfortunate.
Or 'My Sharona'—another fine tune.
Very fine.

Portrait of Donald Trump talking to himself,
Camp David, Maryland, 17 December 2017

The CD remote. Misplaced. It’s not under any of the cushions.
Things aren’t going well. Donald Jr’s debut album stiffed.
Already you can pick it up secondhand, in amongst copies
of Whipped Cream and Other Delights.

I suggested an image change – retro leather pants a la Jim Morrison, 
that he and the band rework 'Riders on the Storm', make it more 
reggae-meets-dancehall and lean on the synthesizers. I even bought him
a four CD set of Australian Rock Classics. There’s hope. Donald 
Jr plays 'Most People I Know Think That I’m Crazy' 24/7. 

It’s hard being a father figure. You play a certain album, perhaps on a
family outing, figure one of your children will dig it but no—
Billy Joel doesn’t wash with any of them.

Ah, found the CD remote. Time for some Sinatra, The Capitol Years
—my favourite track, 'High Hopes'—and to check how many cans of
Diet Coke are left in the fridge.


"Just picked up a guy who says someone backed over him
as he was parking his motor bike. Over. No, said he looked like
Jerry Lee Lewis only much bigger. Over. What, he's pretty small these days?
I thought he was dead. Well I think he was remembering the early Jerry Lee—
          piano player, wasn't he?
Apparently this guy was huge. Over. Leave him? Sure."  Then he turned to me 
          and said, "Okay, go."  Which way? I ask.
"We're spoiled for choice. There's a hold-up in the Bronx, Brooklyn's
broken out in fights."  Idlewild? I say. Nothin' doin' there? What are we, Car 54?
          Perez is like, 'I don't know what you're talking about.'

I tell you, we don't share too many jokes in the car. 
Honey, my wife said to me, It's a long while since anyone went
to Idlewild. A couple of weeks and you'll be rubbing along alright—
you'll look forward to it.  'I hope so, I told her,
tho I don't believe it,' I said to Pete, my old partner.
I could tell he had the phone pressed between his shoulder and his ear.
'She's right, you know,' he told me. Be good if she is,
is what I think. Early days.

Jerry Lee Lewis talks to Nick Tosches, at the Palomino Club, Los Angeles, 1979

The $100 note that was on the dressing room table
late this morning,
I spent $26 of it on pills – uppers,
the rest on a bottle of good whiskey.

That’s the truth,
the truth this evening.

Can’t say I take a shine to the truth.
I like to tinker.
Sometimes I jam
an eagle feather between two keys of the piano
to alter the sound, make it more American.

I think a lot about freedom and sin,
how they go together,
how there’s a price to pay.

My body: I hate and love its needs.

I’m going to Hell—
my corpse will roll down
that lava road.

That’s the truth
and it keeps me 
reaching for good whiskey,
more dark corners
where I may have stashed
my handgun.


'Nothing could be more American!' 
says the man who has squatted down beside me.
The other women have moved away. 
I beat the grey work pants of my husband
against the rock, rinse a blouse of my daughter's.
He is holding an eagle feather. 'But senor,' I say,
'this is Mexico.'  'South American then,' he offers.
'Central American,' I tell him. 'You don't know
who I am, do you?' he says and smiles. 'Who do I look like?
A piano player,' he gives me a clue. He has bulging eyes
and looks like a frog, or a VW. 'Clarence 'Frogman' Henry?' I try.
'Billy Joel,' he says, as if introducing himself. He looks silly,
but in a famous way. I ask him to write it down
so I can tell my husband. I continue to wash the clothes.
He has a very neat hand: I read 'Billy Joel'. My husband will kill him.

SIXPACK 2: NEW YORKERS Both laugh "Hey, can't park here—NO PARKING." "Cops can park anywhere. We look busier in No Parking—like we're On The Job." "Okay," says Frank. Perez pulls on the handbrake. "Want a fig?" Frank asks, "I got three or four." "I'll see what I got for lunch— pastrami I bet. But okay—give us a fig. What else your wife give you?" "I pack it myself." "What's the point in having a wife, if… doesn't she take offence?" "My wife works." "As what?" "She's a psychiatrist." "Ah yes, I forget. Estelle's flat out with the kids—three under six, one's just a bub." "Called after me." "No, we named him before I transferred," says Perez, "Much as I admire you. There's that motorcycle guy—sang 'Walk On The Wild Side', you said?" Both watch. "Named him after Estelle's dad." "Not after your own dad?" "I'm not going to name a kid Jesus." "Jesus!? No—Christ." "Ha ha," says Filipe. They both laugh. Portrait of Billy Name, Greenwich Village, 29 December 1963 Billy woke, naked, face down on a wooden floor. Baltic pine, he guessed. There were smears of jelly across the crest of his right shoulder. He tasted. Fig. Homemade, he figured. There was no-one in the apartment to give him the recipe. In the corner, propped up against a horse whip, Billy found his leather satchel, checked the contents—twelve neatly-folded squares of silver tin foil, still there. Billy retrieved his alligator shoes and mauve socks from a claw-footed bathtub which smelt of film developing fluid—Photography. Billy had a growing interest in black and white portraiture—a person’s essence, to frame an aspirant actor, dancer or model in their element—a studio, bar or apartment where they sought anchorage or flight from themselves. Billy looked at his wristwatch. 8.23 a.m. He was supposed to meet Andy for a photo shoot on Lexington at 8 a.m. It was bone cold out on the street. Billy flagged a cab. On the way uptown, he thought about a pair of blue shoelaces in an alleyway puddle, a pyramid of trash cans as a possible backdrop. Filipe Perez and Frank Brookmeyer "We're parked in No Parking again. You're some sort of serial offender." "Looks busy," says Perez, switching off the motor. He ducks his head, looks up at the sky above the buildings. "Wonder if we're ever going to see the driver parked on top of the 'Wild Side' guy?" "Big and blonde, he said," Frank remarks. "I picture some sort of Yeti —in a suit. (Light gray, for some reason.)" "He actually said 'monster'. I remember," Perez drums on the steering wheel. "A Yeti—what's that?" "Abominable Snow Man," says Frank. "Like in a novelty song." "Live in the Himalayas. India," Frank again. "Long way from home, Frank. Wearing a suit, you say?" "In my imagination." "You're probably right about the suit. You're probably wrong about the Yeti." "True." Perez looks across the sidewalk to the bookshop window opposite. "Do police read detective books, you reckon? I never do." "Helen does. I pick em up from time to time." "Interesting? I read nothing." "They sometimes are." "Seems big business," he looks again at the window. "What is it with them?" "Um, 'Hermeneutics of suspicion'?" says Frank. "The what? The who?" Filipe expresses incredulity, "Like the Smithsons of Cade's County, the Dukes of Hazzard?" "Ha ha," says Frank. "Yeah, I made a joke for you. Right?" "Right," says Frank. Right, he thinks, Helen was on the money. He'll tell her tonight, ring his ex-partner. Portrait of Rachel Humphreys, East 52nd Street, 1 August 1976 'Unchained Melody' 'Day by Day' 'Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child' Rachel listened to Little Jimmy Scott inhabit each song. Nothing could follow. Outside the room Manhattan began a day of gossip and gunshot wounds. Bar stool warmers, bus drivers and pawnshop hopefuls, slotting into their roles and bellyaches. Lou. Four days absent from their bed. Rachel lay, looking up at the ceiling fan with its spinning, cutting blades. It had three speeds. Rachel had more. Lately her favoured one was— comatose. The finale. It might be a telephone call away. Rachel dialled the Harlem number. As she awaited delivery, the coded knock on the door, she painted her fingernails, chose a fresh record, Bowie’s Pin Ups. 'Rosalyn' 'Here Comes the Night' 'I Wish You Would' Rachel stared at the album cover, Twiggy leaning on David’s naked shoulder, facing the camera together. Autumn in New York I push in to each room, make the bed change the towels, wipe surfaces down, then the best part—the view, where you can look out, take a breath, and then down, and if you have time watch the tiny figures—bound, all of them, for different parts of the city—the yellow cabs threading the canyons between the buildings. So narrow. Every third or fourth room I might do this. Or I forget, do a big run of them with no pause, kiss the last bathroom goodbye, wash, change, go out down the front steps, the main entrance, in a decent dress—I hate dressing poor in this part of town. This way the streets, Central Park, are mine too. I'm a citizen, an an inhabitant, an equal—not—or not expressly—a worker, an entity labelled 'drudge'. At street level the leaves are wonderful: brown, orange, yellow, red some: overall a lemon-yellow ambience exhilarating to move thru. I feel young. I phone and say "Alan, 'I thought about you'. Just now." A pause, "Where are you then?" and when I say Central Park he laughs, "The hat, right?" I say, "Yes, you should come to the Zibetto bar— wear it!" It was when we first met: pale caramel with a high crown and a white silk band. I loved his eyes, his nice smile. Viva talks to friend and filmmaker Agnes, Palm Springs, California, 1 July 2010 Making a film was more pleasure than work. You could swerve from the script, encouraged by Andy. Acting and living. Hard for me to separate. Out on the street, in bars, clothing stores, galleries, there are people noting, eavesdropping, staring, perhaps because they can’t believe in their own lives. You’ve got to make adventure as daily as cornflakes— pick up a paint brush, a camera, a tape recorder. Be naked or wrapped in foil. After Andy was shot, doors closed. The world shrank, cowed in stale rooms, hunched over ashtrays. The Chelsea Hotel—wits, wannabes and wastrels, many more talkative than talented. A circus, a volley of experiments, fatal for some. I woke from the nightmare of me and my two daughters lost in its hallways forever. California has returned me to painting. Landscapes. The desert. Glazed houses clinging to its hem. The dowager palm trees. My studio. Draw, paint, write. Doodles and phrases – some take hold and I’m high on a ferris wheel, the circus ringmaster below, his hair and deliberate gait the same as Andy’s. I hear a lion prowling its locked cage, roaring for meat.

previous page     contents     next page


Post a Comment

<< Home