Off The Floor
(for Jack Hirshman)
At first, he was just an old poet I found,
Barely awake in the stacks of the research library.
A beaten Beat,
Covered in wooly sweaters and sleep stains.
He’d been somebody,
A University professor with a wife in the Town and Gown
At first, he didn’t move,
But I learned to step over his habit,
And if I worked carefully,
I learned there were surprises in the books
I was assigned to shelve,
Crow quill scratches,
Pressed ferns white as English lace,
Calendar pages still roaring from the 20s.
When I read he’d chosen to quit the multiversity,
I sought out his poetry.
I found a limited edition.
In brightly colored words
Lining white pages,
One red print, one green ink,
He praised the immortality of Blake,
The androgyny of wet flesh,
He said, “You see,
I cannot tell a lie.”
He chiseled with the alphabet of collage,
Layered the riffs,
Extra Miles on the Coltrane
Now, in glossy editions,
Resurrected from the research library floor
Jesus with arms spread,
One hand with cigarette burning
The other a fist.