John Dale Bright
Carl Solomon’s Shirt
"Oh, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe...."
-Allen Ginsberg, Howl
Safe from what!? It’s from Ginsy I should be safe!
Look, I meet this guy, okay? The nuthouse—we’re both there.
I’m comin’ outa shock and here’s this new guy—he’s readin’ a book!
I tell ya—those places—you don’t find the greatest conversationalists.
So I say “Who are you?” Ginsy says “Myshkin.” I shoot back, “I’m Kirilov.”
We become friends. I tell him about Paris , Dada, the potato salad at CCNY
and he’s takin’ it down. I figure he’s got the writing disease—thinks he’s Dostoyevsky.
Next thing I know, Ginsy’s out in Frisco: the Six Gallery reading, City Lights,
court case...the whole schmere. He turned our talk into a damned poem
with my name in the title! So now he’s a famous poet off in India
with some Maharishi and I’m stuck in New York at Ace Paperbacks
with everybody reading about my shock treatments, the breakdown,
yadayadayada...and that ain’t the half. Then there’s the damned picture.
The guy is always taking snapshots. I come home after a day at Ace,
there’s Ginsy. Hot day, I’m in my shirtsleeves, carryin’ my jacket;
I toss it over a chair, shoes off, drop trou and crawl up on the bed.
I light a cigarette and Ginsy pulls out a camera. I look like hell:
frazzled, hair kinked up, tie still on, I’m all sweaty, sleeves rolled up
and wrinkled like a damned accordion...but nice shirt: premo cotton,
white on white, so soft, not like that cardboard stuff they sell today.
Uncle Wynn got a box of ’em from his cousin down in the garment district.
They don’t make shirts like that anymore, not that anybody can afford.
Anyway, the damned picture is all over the place—every time I open a book.
So who do I need to be safe from? Ginsy, that’s who. I should be back
banging catatonic pianos—I should be back on the granite steps of the madhouse
demanding instantaneous lobotomies before I see the guy again.
©2008 by John Dale Bright
John Dale Bright
lives in Mid-Missouri. He takes classes at the University of Mo-Columbia,
does some tutoring in Jefferson City, and generally hangs about
the peripheries of academe.