Thursday, June 18, 2020


Frank X Fagan, the nature poet, had taken a lot of good-natured ribbing from his fellow poets after that one day when he tried to take a “nature walk”, and had returned to the bar only five minutes later with his friend Howard Paul Studebaker, the western poet, whom he had accidentally urinated on in an alleyway.

“Hey, ya know what?” Frank now said to his fellow poets at their usual table at Bob’s Bowery Bar. “I’m gonna take a walk today, and for real this time.”

“What?” said Scaramanga, the leftist poet. “Go out there in that bright sunlight?”

“Yeah,” said Frank X. “Bright sunlight and all, I’m going for a walk.”

“Great, go then,” said Howard.

“No need to take that tone,” said Frank X.

“I’m sorry,” said Howard. “I’m hungover.”

“We’re all hungover,” said Lucius Pierrepont St. Clair III, the Negro poet. “As usual.” Then he added: “Perhaps a bit more than usual.”

The assembled poets all said nothing to this, but nodded and sighed, because this was the day after Araminta’s famous tea party, and every man jack of them was indeed even more hungover than usual, which was saying a lot for this sorry lot.

“But, dear Frank X,” said Seamas McSeamas, the Irish poet, breaking this unusual spell of silence that had just transpired, “if you take a walk in your present state you may easily stumble in front of a speeding  motorcar and get runned over.”

“Thanks for pointing that out, Seamas,” said Frank X. “But I shall try to be careful.”

Hector Philips Stone, the doomed romantic poet, was not even listening anymore, and he didn’t even notice when a half hour later Frank X finally got up, and, after visiting the men’s room, went out into the warm and shimmering June sunlight.

Almost immediately Frank X regretted his decision. It was bright, hot, and everything was ugly. He turned the corner at Bleecker, passed Morgenstern’s cobbler shop and paused for a moment next door at the entrance of the tenement building where he lived in a small room on the fifth floor. It would be nice just to go up and take a three-hour nap, but Frank X knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep, he would only lie on his narrow army cot, staring at the stained ceiling, hating existence, longing to return to Bob’s and to his friends and to a nice cold bock. No, he would forge on.

At the next corner some teenagers wearing T-shirts and jeans stood in his way. The boys all looked malnourished and weak.

“Where you going, man?” said the one kid.

“I’m taking a walk,” said Frank X.

“A walk he’s taking,” said another kid.

“Give us a quarter, daddy-o,” said another kid.

“The hell with you guys,” said Frank X. “I got no quarters to spare for thugs like you.”

“You don’t give us a quarter, we give you no quarter,” said the first kid.

“That’s actually kind of poetic,” said Frank X. “But I’m still not giving you a quarter.”

“You give us no choice but to roll you, buddy,” said this first kid.

“You would roll me?” said Frank X. “A shabby poor poet who barely has a pot to piss in?”

“You’re a poet?”

“Yes, I am, and I am not ashamed to admit it.”

“Tell us a poem.”

“If I tell you a poem will you let me pass?”

“If it’s a good one, yes. If it sucks, we roll you.”

“Very well,” said Frank X. “Let’s see. All right, here we go. I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as my pee. I love to watch it splash into a toilet or into a barroom urinal. This makes me happy, like bock beer washing down a Tuinal.”

“Is that it?” said the first kid.

“Yes,” said Frank X. “If you want a second verse, then you have to give me a quarter.”

For a moment no one said anything, and then the first kid said, “Okay, Mr. Poet Man. You can pass. This time. But if you go by this corner again you got to give us a quarter.”

“How about if I just tell you another poem?”

The kid paused before speaking.

“Maybe,” he said. “If it’s a good poem, maybe we let you pass. Maybe. Otherwise we roll you for everything you got in your pockets.”

“That ain’t much,” said Frank X.

“We’ll be the judge of that,” said the kid. “Now scram.”

Frank X crossed the street. Jesus Christ, he wanted to be back in the bar, but he figured he’d better go at least as far as the next corner, then he could take a right, then another right at the end of that block, back down Bond Street to the Bowery, another right, and then down the block was Bob’s Bowery Bar, his own private Ithaca.

If he walked slow he could at least say he had taken a fifteen-minute walk. Maybe next time he could stretch it out to a half hour, or, say, twenty-five minutes, or twenty…

{Kindly go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq.}

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