Beat & Beyond: A Gathering Cento


I want to hear the poem! Read the fucking poem! 


I don’t need it, I don’t want it, and you cheated me out of it 

Dooka dooka soda cracker. Does your momma chew tobacco? 

Yuppies! Wittgensteins! Arise! 

Put your art up on the sidewalks in Tompkins Square Park, use the subway. Let the City be
    your gallery, your book, your stage
Just Say No to Family Values 


A man gently lifting the body of a dead child from the sea 

Are you breathing, are you lucky enough to be breathing? 

I have always been at the same time woman enough to be moved to tears and man
   enough to drive my car in any direction 

rapid the ooze in the clotted nothing 

O donut shop with rows of tasty zeroes
(You can leave this out)

Lookin good and movin fast 

You say you are leaving yourself behind. I stand beside you, waving  

If your momma chews tobacco. Dooka dooka soda cracker. 

Ordinary as chinchilla fur, ordinary as grasshoppers 

Get your cut throat off my knife 

In minutes the image gets a million likes, Instagram attention from those 

      who watch in warmth from rainproof homes. 

Rise up and abandon the Creeping Meatball 

Once this was all black plasma and imagination  

A jumble of ladders to reach us over the walls 

The stars are a memory system 

God makes an impenetrable screen of pure sky, pulsating, undulating, casual 

Sunrise in outer space/ love for every face 

Tell them the Blind Guy sent you

We gave a party for the gods and the gods all came 


Lines from Steve Cannon, Len Chandler, Diane Di Prima, John Giorno, David Henderson, Hettie Jones, Joanne Kyger, Michael McClure, Margaret Randall, Ed Sanders.

Cento curated by Bob Holman


The Lines

  1. Steve Cannon, “The Only Paid Heckler in NY”
  2. Michael McClure,  “Ghost Tantras”
  3. John Giorno, Title of poem in Cancer in my Left Ball
  4. Len Chandler & Bob Kaufman, “Green Green Rocky Road”
  5. Joanne Kyger, title of poem in As Is
  6. Steve Cannon, “A Gathering of the Tribes Manifesto”
  7. John Giorno, Poem title & painting
  8. Diane di Prima, “Revolutionary Letters”
  9. Margaret Randall, “Not In Your Neighborhood"
  10. Hettie Jones,  “Weather”
  11. Hettie Jones, “Hard Drive”
  12. Ed Sanders, “Soft-Man 2”
  13. David Henderson,  “4th July”
  14. Joanne Kyger, 
  15. Hettie Jones, “Hotter than July, 1982”
  16. Margaret Randall, “You Say You Are”
  17. Len Chandler & Bob Kaufman, “Green Green Rocky Road”
  18. Michael McClure, “Double Lion Dharma"
  19. Diane DiPrima, “Nightmare 6”
  20. Margaret Randall, “Not In Your Neighborhood"
  21. Ed Sanders, Yippie flag, not allowed into evidence at trial of the Chicago Seven
  22. Michael McClure, Commissioned sidewalk poem, Embarcadero, San Francisco
  23. Ed Sanders, “The Time of Perf-Po”
  24. Diane di Prima, “Notes on the art of memory”
  25. David Henderson, “Eternity”
  26. Joanne Kyger, "Terrace Road slumps into the Canyon "
  27. David Henderson,  “Love in Outer Space”
  28. Steve Cannon, “Valediction”
  29. John Giorno, Painting



The Unspoken Word 

Hello? Hello? There is no talking. This is a dumb piece of paper with blotto stains and grease lips all over it. Put up or put out. Can the can’t.

We eat words. Poetry is spoken, it is the euro of  language. Once upon a tiny little once. But often, more than likely.

What happens is this: the truth is in the telling, the tasting. Add the salt. Corrupt the pipeline. Art and Industry swagger down the aisle, hand in claw.

I have been asked to speak to you but my tongue has another opinion. Sex generously disappears. The right is wrong.

Whenever her fingers slid into the machine, Africa would wince with pain. Simple, blind. Terror and treachery make fine breakfast.

As I was saying, prose. Prostitute Politicos Present: Prose. Towards the end of the line, taste a fine chunk o' prose. It was all prose, baked and wilted. Except for the rose.

Freedom is pregnant with democracy’s bastard, all lies, the poor cannot get to sleep. Steady goes the junk food.

Brace yourself -- crucifixion sportif. Merciless climate, how the homeless tend to congregate, it’s for more than warmth.

The slow reptilian devolution. Music is bought and silence is the price. Meanwhile, there is no meanwhile. This is not the end. This is.


Will respond more fully when moon rises and I can read the book
To sleep

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Why I Never Turn Around

After Po Chu-I’s “Song of the P’I-P’a”

You were inside the boat.
I was on the shore.
We raised glasses – no music?
Hey! Drink, sing – that’s music!
Dancing music, drinking song!
And then the blurring river
Soaked the moon, that silence.
Separation. What a way to go—
The unspoken word

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for Steve Zeitlin

This morning first thing cat
Jumps on bed howling - it is
Refrigerator/stove and clock/
Radio a-boiling over! OMG I set
Alarm up and went to REAL
Bed, the one where the Dead
Hang out and in at. Cat
Looks at me with those slits
And I transmogrify to siren/
Salt. No more poetry. Only
The sink/refrigerator, with
Me waiting, me twitching tail

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Another Yawning Morn in the Port of Good News

Impressive, to say the least
One more poem, to say the most
“Good morning. People are boats.
Safe harbor of New York, cling
To the mizzen, the missus and her muezzin
Miss the mezuzah of miscellany...” — It’s
A mystery, how sounds become words
And it’s a miracle that you still listen
To these scratches somewhere as between
As a head into ears. I am a cat,
Patiently settled at the door to freedom.
I can handle all the freedom, the city
Dishes out anonymity and at day’s end
The morning will put on her coat and at
The day’s end as she swings the door open
I remain sitting. And why not? I am now
With you, and it’s no homily, it’s home.
Even the City that Never Sleeps sometimes
Goes to sleep. Good night. Good night.

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Almost Caught Fish in Dream

Did, actually. 
On string, just string, no pole.
Could see the hook
Slide round blood oxygen gill
A rainbow trout of considerable appearance
Tugged and reeled and pulled and slid
Then I was called off to do something
And I went there
And it was a while later that I remembered
The fish
Was gone

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Later for Now

Bird whistles worms dance
I am your little survivor, Baby.
The delicate penumbra of you
And your family’s belief system
Rocks me like the sea, deep
And deadly. Who needs narcotics
When I can make up with you
Or wake up and see you and wake you
Beside me. Wake up wake up
The emergency bellows of heaven
Are crying for a quick Apocalypse
Over your dead body. I will wake you
Because the Jews 30 A.D. wrapped the dying
And when he said the magic poem, up rose
Ol Lazarus like the so-called brain-dead
For a last slab of ecstasy.

Plunking on the banjo with you
On my knee. Digging up the jar
We planted in Tennessee.

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Go Tango

Go tango
We go-go
Go tango
Yo tengo

Dance with the blind librarian
Dusty aleph solarium
Commit to pivot’s continuum
A blade to walk on ad infinitum

Step cross line and time
Synchronize wise and sublime
Drop in foot step over slide
Line slow hold go leg inside

Tango oh no amigo, you know
Light in sky’s skin in you go
Slightest grooves that you glide on
Creation myth that she cried on
Black red wine blood try to forget
La Musica furia is all you get 

Tango criollo mix and blend
Tango to the scorch of skin
Begin begin begin begin
Again again again again 

What you told me long ago
I go you go we go tango

Following leads together two
Tango on the street of new
Tango combo juventud     
Tango air of solitude

Slowly hold me bring me throw me
Simplicity’s complexities
Implicitly reality
Tango gracefully Tangracegofully

Line dividing body and soul
Eyes connect, eyes enfold
River of reason, crisis cross
Moving lines knife criss to loss

Dance this song, sing this dance
Signify evolving chance
I’ll return to you and you to me
Alone together – one plus one is three

Go tango
We go-go
Go tango
Yo tengo

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Charley Listens

Put earbud in west ear
Put other earbud in east ear
Charley listens

Clapsticks, didj, now your voice
Recorded yesterday, Mt Borredale, 
In Amardak, you’re the Last Speaker
Hear? Your voice doesn’t sound so good
You sang good, but the recording was no good
Could you sing now, Charley, please?
Charley nods. Charley listens

Clapsticks, didj, now your voice,  please - Now
Charley listens
Now Charley listens
OK Charley, we need you to sing Now
Charley nods and listens
Now Charley listens
Cue Charley – listens

Get Jamesy
Jamesy tells Charley
Charley listens

Get headphone splitter
Jamesy puts on headphones
Charley and Jamesy listen
Clapsticks, didj. Charley’s voice
Jamesy sings a little
Jamesy looks at Charley
Charley looks at Jamesy
OK? Charley listens

OK, Jamesy now speak Iwaidja with Charley
OK, Charley listens, Charley nods
OK Jamesy looks at Charley
OK clapsticks in fingers
OK Charley listens, didj
OK now. Now Charley sings
Ma barang!

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Grandly and Centrally

Grandly! and Centrally! 
Locally universally! 
Typically cryptically

You come here to go there
Literally everywhere
Hip trippin! Flip floating! 
No me-and-ering

Grandly! and Centrally! 
Methodically centrifugally
Take you where ya wanna be
Multidirectional simultaneity

Zipping Higgs bosun, reality's gluon
The station sits formidably. Maddeningly. Meddlesomely.
The ratchety manifest. The voluminous steamer chest.
The rivets and pivots and divots of rush.

A trip to the seashore—Picnic-In-A-Box!
Pickles, gefilte fish, a schmear and some lox
Fried chicken, varenykys, collards and grits
Hot dogs and frogs legs make quite the dish

Tamales, pasteles, 
spaghetti and gravy
Call in the Navy! 
More hot sauce and quick

And the goat's still unroasted  
And  the bagel's untoasted
And the toddler is gurgling glee
At the constellation ceiling
The gods still are stealing
Glances at humans as they
Bump dodge careen

You cross time with space, cross space with time
Just so you can rhyme "sublime" with "sublime"
And the blizzardin' tickets keep fallin' from outer outer space
And  Sun Ra is smiling through the Conductor's face
And this glorious moment can't keep up with the human race 

Cause yr waltzing in Grand Central with the Love of yr Life
A single accordion is playing yr life
The moment is stuck and recycles again
Just because it stops doesn't mean that it ends

So keep lining up, Chumps
Facebook the rumps
Lined up before you
In sweltering clumps

Maybe this is your stop
Maybe this is where it ends
Someone passes you getting on
For them it begins

For you're going Somewhere
Somehow. Sometime.
And the place you will land
You don't know with whom you will dine 

But some Strega, Picayunes, 
And a ghost on the dunes
Your family's tunes
They toast randomly

For it's Grandly So Grandly
And everso Centrally
Let's call it a Century!  
Grand Central Station!

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On the Street Named Pedro Pietri

On the most amazing day you were born and you were died
We was waiting for you everywhere and you surprised us
By showing up everywhere else
Where once were bottles now only bottlecaps hang in mid-joint
Waiting for the air to turn into red wine and cheeseburgers
And the bottlecaps without bottles will be redeemed
At the Church of Our Lady of Tomatoes for five bucks apiece
Now that you have your own street named after you
Maybe they will get you a car
But you know you need the OK
Of the Latin Insomniacs Motorcycle Gang Without Motorcycles
To set up toll booths at both ends of the block
So that once you pay to get in
You can also pay to get out
Unless the toll booth keeper is at the other end
Of the one way street that never ends
And you get to stay forever
In the bodega that doesn’t sell anything
Because it is made out of loose joints and condoms
And the only way you can get in is to smoke your way in
And screw your way out
And when you drive your black helicopter over the street that has your name
And see the great balls of fire that are being lit up in your name
And the outrageous acrobatic screwing that is going on in your name
You may very well want to change your name
But you can still pick up that notebook that you left in the telephone booth that time
And make your escape into the day where it is always night
And laugh at the poets who try to make sense
Of the fact that a street has your name on it
But you will never walk on it
Because you are too busy writing a new subway
That runs directly under the street that has your name
Where you are on an Uptown train going Downtown
And you name it “Speedo”

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Sing This One Back to Me

As sung by Papa Susso to Bob Holman

Honeybee honeybee deep in the honeytree
Do not tell me to suck dry the tips of whip grass
Swan sway swan sway Ganges flows all day
Would you send me off then to the blasting seas?
Tale singer nightingale crooner carousing on the leaf drip
Who dares say, Excuse me, quiet please, eat dry leaf clippings
This robin rocking tail lit by the fullest moon
Try to redirect to fogbound swirl, see what happens to you
My feet on the lotus? No, my feet are the lotus! 
All God? Gosh, I was looking over at you – shh.
No need this talking, this poem so obvious, shh.

Sing this one back to me. 

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How Kora Was Born

As sung by Papa Susso to Bob Holman

This story begins long long long long long long long ago
So long ago that it was a place not a time
There was a man
He was so alone
The only person he could talk to was Africa
Luckily there was a tree nearby
Even more luckily behind that tree
That’s where his partner was hiding
All the sun and all the water were condensed
Into a single tiny block
Which the man planted in the sandy soil
He blew and he blew on that spot
Each time he blew he thought he heard something
What he was hearing was of course his partner singing
The man didn’t even know what singing was
Because he could only talk
He couldn’t sing yet
So he blew and he listened, blew listened blew listened
And the plant pushed out dark green
And began to twist and grow
A vine reaching for the breath
And stretching towards the song
(Because it was made from sun and rain, remember?)
So at the end of the vine that was the calabash
And the tree it was not a tree anymore
It was the neck and handles
That was when the man’s partner Saba Kidane
Came out into the open (but that’s another story)
And the breath and the singing and the vine?
Well, there are 21 strings, what do you think?
And now you say what about the bridge and the cowhide
And the rings that tie the strings to the neck
So you can tune the kora
Hey, what about the thumbtacks that hold
The cowhide taut over the calabash
And the resonator hole
Well you go right on talking about all that
I’m playing kora now
Next time I’ll tell you about the cow

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The Loving Father’s Song

Papa Susso’s Poem for His Young Children

Moussa, Kinda, Fatoumata, Sarjo, Abdullah
The first time a father tells his child
The child is nowhere to be seen

The second time
What is that strange buzzing I hear

The third time the child
Must go get something to eat

And then on the fourth time
The child starts to hear something

When I tell you it the fifth time
You say to me, Are you talking to me

And on the sixth time you reply,
What language is that you are speaking

By the time I have told you the seventh time
The words become a song and the poem becomes the kora

And you must learn it my little griots
And then you can repeat the story

And the story goes like this:

48 years I have been working, 
Spreading the word of the griot
Spreading the word around the world
And sending the money home to you

And Sankung is here
And Al Hassan is here
And Fatou is on her way
And Mariama is on her way
And Karamo is on his way

And I think I may be on my way
On my way back to the Gambia
To return to the griot life at the Koriya Musa Center
for Research in Oral Tradition at Sotuma-Sere

So my dear children
Who carry the word of the griot
From my father Alhaji Bunka Susso, jalikuntigi of the Gambia
Through me to you and back to the first Susso who made the first kora
I sing the song of the father who tells the children
It is time for them to begin
The new generation of which I sing
And which you will live and carry on
And buy each others’ tickets and pay for each others’ rent
And teach each other the ways of Africa, the US, and the world
And know this song is the loving father's Father Song

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Rembrandt Coupe

In 1900 the future
Opened up its arms
I invented the car
And Rembrandt

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Book Cover

Take off your clothes
I will make a book cover
And put a photo of me on the back
To make sure it sells

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Blown bit by bit to bits
Biting her vein one morning
While she slept the rooster
The terraces of Barcelona
Of course I know the red will
Seep will seep the sleep
But blue will blue to shape 

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