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    Room 67 • Poetry Hotel 

Six Poems / Ken Waldman




For some, the tension rose by the minute,

anxiety the product of nightmare

multiplied by helplessness and despair.

Nights buried even deeper down in it,

we all knew there was more to the vast pit

of fear where we breathed an inverse of air,

and knelt in prayer that came out anti-prayer.

Oh god, how we carped, and grew intimate

with walls during those early days of change.

Jobless, lonely, our dreary miffed body

self whined: why this, why now, why. We're strange

and new. That pure voice inside us rang oddly

whole as if the old we were no longer.

How to explain just how we've been altered?





Everything's been written

(just look at the books).


So easy to quit

when every wilderness


has been mapped,

every love story launched,


every household built

(though that hasn't stopped others).


I only mean to say

go on with the work.


Not yet has everything

been written by you.




Writer or typewriter? Just burn, burn, burn

so the bebop jazz and everything beat

blast like an old Ford from Larimer Street

to Frisco or New York City, then turn

that jalopy around like a sax. Burn,

burn, burn, more beer, weed, books, then meet

Neal, Allen, Gregory, the boys in heat

to take on the big Buddha world and learn

dharma of mountaintop, sky, desert, road.

Bill Burroughs, Gary Snyder, a whole load

of good men. Mexico City. Lowell, Mass.

The clubs, parties, and girls flew by so fast

it was a dream. Sleep? Stars sparkle brighter

without. Dusk to dawn at the typewriter.





Forty years old, I'm you times two,

and you think I'm pitiful, a prick,

unknown and unread for good reason

because what I write is “the worst.”

Listen, if you're serious about the art,

the usual advice is, first, find something

else to do because poetry is no way

to make a living. Second, read

everything you can, whether you like it

or not. Third, establish a schedule

and write even when you don't want to,

regardless of standards (which doesn't mean

you won't work to make each syllable

sing). Fourth, leave your elders alone,

unless invited, or you risk

being called asshole in print. Fifth,

if you haven't quit after ten, fifteen,

twenty years, then write even more,

and—this is important—watch what happens

to you, young man, in the process.





Sad-looking Mississippian begins

with the family tree, ends with a prayer,

in between reads, softly, a most bizarre

Gothic tale: a pair of identical twins

are separated at birth. One named Vin

at age twenty has a sex change, becomes Claire,

moves to New Orleans, falls in love with Bear,

who—you've guessed!—is their lost brother. Within

the first ten pages all this plus a murder/

suicide in some club. The French Quarter

has never seen such a stew. Further

twists include a ménage à trois with Carter,

Vin/Claire and Bear's crazy dwarf whore mom, who

recognizing her kids, goes mad anew . . .




Impossible to imagine a female,

no matter how angry or desperate,

would have crept across the Radisson lot

at 3 or 4 A.M. with a rock

to smash a passenger side window.

That's man's work, the satisfaction

of a quick shatter of glass,

an otherwise inconspicuous old sedan.

The gamble: inside the small bag

on the front seat, a tablet or camera;

inside the bigger backseat bag,

gadgets and instruments of greater value;

inside the glovebox—a wad of fifties,

or jewelbox of rubies and pearls.

Angry man, you rifled through glovebox

papers: receipts for oil changes,

tire purchases, sundry repairs; you swiped the change

from the beverage holder—dimes, nickels,

pennies totaling less than three bucks; you

tore open the backseat bag to find a mad nest

of bags zippered inside bags; you snatched

that little green satchel on the front seat. Perhaps

you've calculated what you can get

for the eight paperbacks that were within—

the collected works of Ken Waldman.

Angry man, now you're angrier.


About the Author

Ken Waldman has 11 books, 9 CDs, and since 1995 has made a living by combining Appalachian-style string-band music with original poetry and

Alaska-set storytelling. Much more at and 


Acknowledgements: "To an Apprentice Poet", "Kerouacian Sonnet", "To a Twenty-Year-Old Poet" and "First Novelist"

all will be appearing in The Writing Party, (Mezcalita Press, Wimberley TX, March 2020).

Note: Waldman's poem, “The Virus”, is from his forthcoming book, Trump Sonnets, Volume5: His Early Virus Monologues (Ridgeway Press, 2021).

The poem is also scheduled to appear in Poetry Flash (2020). Learn more at  

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