Modern poetry collection by the contemporary Cleveland poet Steven B. Smith
reading room #11
8 titles, August 22, 2004 1 title August 26, 2004 another 8.29.2004 1 more 9.9.2004
[1992 letter - published in SplitCity, 1993]
1 nonmember, 1992
dear aggregate flux
last june with my usual impeccable timing
i quit my extremely well paying job of 7 years
and left for europe with almost no money
at the peak of the touri$t sea$on
(i hit amsterdam on the 4th of july).
too soon moneyless but rich in adventure
i returned to find work, found factors working against me
my moustache and head were shaved while my beard was
shaggy, amish and long. . .
jobs are traditionally slim during summer months. . .
i wore black running shoes and a torn worn sports coat
to my first few job interviews. . .
jobs are traditionally slim during recessions. . .
i was arrogantly interviewing my prospective employers
instead of groveling like a good scum. . .
jobs are traditionally slim during election years. . .
british petroleum had just released 1,500 employees,
many with my particular skills. . .
i told 2 agencies hawking my flesh they were lying & rude
& i didn't appreciate it (neither apparently did they). . .
british petroleum (my previous 7 yr employer) fucked up
most of what i had turned over to them & blamed me. . .
i was without a paycheck for four months.
no drugs. no money. no job. no woman.
no new films for my 900 title film collection.
survived awhile thanks to selling 3 pieces of art
for $500 - and finding another $500 in nickels, pennies,
dimes and quarters on my floor.
sold 300 paperbacks for $50. pawned 3 artbooks to an
art dealer art friend for $100 for art supplies.
mom bought food, cable-tv and electricity
with her social security check.
ate a lot of chicken beans and placenta helper.
bill collectors memorized my number, woke us
at 8 in the morning, again at night, & all the in between.
society bank threatened foreclosure.
visa canceled my credit card.
i began worrying at night when i should have been
i borrowed $350 to forestall foreclosure proceedings,
grew some hair, trimmed some beard,
charged 2 dress jackets, 3 pairs of slacks
1 pair of wingtipped shoes
on my sears card,
became polite and urbane during interviews,
and had a job within 3 weeks . . . . at $26/hr.
now in my 3rd week of work i get my 1st 2-week paycheck
and can begin buying off my creditors
(right now owe $3800 current and overdues).
in 6 weeks i'll be even and start saving.
poverty has been good to me - i'd forgotten how not having money
wears one in this society, even unrepentant x-hippies.
had too much money for too long.
bad for my mutanthood.
appeared in SplitCity 1993
SplitCity published/edited by Jim Lang, Ben Gulyas, Mike Thomas
Each fragment of night
Weights both night and city
Like lab rats
Old documents valve down
Compete in slouching day
Shameless to burn
Great excuses of the god
Of the concept
Of the country was
Separation of reason
Not no thing
No valve of document not bottom
Not empty way
It is time
For winter to break
Through fall motley wake
The grass withdraws
To let winter pass
The earth holds her breath
Awaits spring rebirth
Nonetheless, there's one
Yet strives to leave winter undone
One rose alone in brave brittle pose
It tries to heed not the hostile sky
Or why it can only die
Fighting both fates
Paper stax round walls
4th of you-lie nazi states of amerika
Old wwa printouts
Wendy Shaffer foto brain by aliens
Fix reading rooms
Pop-up box tops
3 what's news
New call pix
Art as r pain as 1 print
All religious to a 'spiritual' room
All political to ... funny .. rhyming ??
Army and Navy goods
Art galleries, dealers and consultants
Art instruction and schools
Art restoration and conservation
Artists' materials and supplies
Arts organizations and information
Asbestos removal and abatement service
Lost my social security card 30-40 years ago. Never bothered to replace it.
What for? It's just a piece of paper, not even a real card. What good is it?
Who knows? Who cares?
The DMV do.
My small purple pickup's 28 day temporary tag has 3 days to run. I didn't get the
truck's title until yesterday because the salesman forgot to send in the paperwork.
Today I take the title, the E-Check Clean Exhaust certificate, my driver's license, and
proof of insurance to the License Bureau to get my tags. Walk into the empty Bureau
and am served immediately. Lady says I brought everything I needed - until she looks
at my driver's license.
When I had it renewed last time, I took the option of not showing my social security
number on it - to thwart identity theft.
She says no SSN, no license plates.
I say no problem. Fish out my pay stub. Show her my SSN.
Shakes her head. Pay stubs don't count. Shows me the HUGE sign on the wall which in BIG
letters spells out what documents are 'officially viable' - things like hunting licenses,
letters from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, all manner of official shit I've never shown much
but contempt for, unless it made good collage material.
My only choice seems to be applying for a new social security card, which means I'd need
a copy of my birth certificate, which is a whole other problem. Somehow I don't see this
coming together before Sunday when I become vehicular outlaw.
Then near bottom I see salvation: U.S. Service Discharge Papers.
How, you ask, could I, who can't find yesterday's news, find 36 year old discharge papers?
I'd gathered my November 30, 1960 County of Spokane Juvenile Court summons (for stealing
13 cars), my April 3, 1968 Honorable Navy Discharge papers (honorable because they didn't
want the bad publicity court marshalling me for smoking marijuana would bring) , and my May
1975 Decree of Divorce all in one place - because I was going to collage them into my website,
until I realized that wouldn't be very smart.
Come home. Walk over to my collage stash. Pick up discharge papers.
Take them back tomorrow, along with my Ohio unemployment benefits letter which also displays
my SSN, and get my plates with 2 days to spare.
For once my artistic side saved my scatterbrained ass.