Archive | John Clinton RSS feed for this section


21 Jul

by John Clinton

IX. Union Square


In a soporific induced trance
I listen to fifteen people chant
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare


In the early 1990’s, when my family lived in Brooklyn, my father on his way to work, would ride in illegal Jamaican vans that recklessly sped and transported commuters down Flatbush Avenue. I guess he felt it was quicker and cheaper than waiting for a bus like the rest of the schlepps trudging their way into the city, it certainly was more dangerous, not that he minded much, he was known as “Jack the Knife” since the 1970’s, as he was in a Park Slope gang called SAB (Sixth Avenue Boys).

On one of our myriad bicycle treks around the Mill Basin area I remember him suddenly throwing his bike down and racing across the street to help someone who was about to get mugged. Dare I say I saw his knife gleam across the Avenue on some jungle bunny’s throat? Our two room apartment was robbed once, which resulted in our first family pet, a doberman shepherd, that I named Rusty. We also had two turtles, since like every child growing up in the late 1980’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the next best thing to Ghostbusters.

He worked in downtown Manhattan for Bell Atlantic, now Verizon, and if you look up while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, you can still see the imprint of the Bell logo on the building’s headquarters. One time I went to work with him and he took me down one of the severely sizzling and cramped manholes he was in. I didn’t see any turtles or alligators, only the massively extensive wirings that go into the daily communications of New York City.

On a couple of occasions, we did in fact take the bus down Flatbush Avenue before catching the train into the city. Only this wasn’t for work but for pleasure and we wouldn’t be going to the weekend’s desolate downtown streets but to the congregation of Greenwich Village and Union Square. While on the bus he would point out beforehand, like a modern day Travis Bickle, all the hipsters, weirdos and junkies on the sidewalk. He was my shepherd into the darkness, preparing me for the freak show we might be in store for. The train ride was no better as homeless men would beg and sing for your quarters and a more eclectic mix of characters would get on with each stop.

Our mission was to buy books and we took care of two birds with one stone. He would go to the Strand and I would go to Forbidden Planet, back when it was on the corner right across the street from Strand. I remember it being a toss up as to which we would go to first because God knows we were like two kids in a candy shop and we would take our sweet time in sorting through the miles and miles of comic books and for my father the rare and dusty novels on Native Americans and Custer’s Last Stand, that were usually kept at the downstairs level away from everyone.

Once our literature fix was alleviated we would get a dirty water dog and a pretzel, and make our way a few blocks downtown to Tower Records, so my father could buy an overpriced cassette tape of Bob Dylan or Patti Smith or some other CBGB’s castoff poet that I had no interest in listening to the next car ride. “Jimi Hendrix was a nigger! Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger! Outside of society is where I wanna be!” Her lyrics made no sense to me and Dylan’s voice annoyed my mother and I. Today I’d like to thank my father for exposing me to the diverse cultures of Manhattan, to the music and words of Bob Dylan and for wanting to live the rest of my life in South Dakota having vision quests and writing poetry in a tipi.

X. Gramercy

As I wait for the cool, cool rain
that will never shower this way
I sit outside my old school SVA
& remember the good ol’ days
cigarettes smoked, drugs shot
money lost, foreign films watched
youth found, the future stopped
isn’t that what college is all about?

All My Friends

15 Jul

by John Clinton

some of us went to rehab
some of us left the country
some of us didn’t speak to one another
some of us broke up after years together
some of us went back to rehab
when we used to do rails not bumps
when we used to wake up in the gutter on junk
when we used to burn, burn, burn like roman candles
when we used to fuck to the sun rising
when my cock was soft & my mind was throbbing!
now it’s just another Thursday evening
& my age shows in the sunset


8 Jul

by John Clinton

A couple of blocks near the waterfront dock
where falling emissions from earth sound off
into the graveyard ears of the zombie hipster
as dogs howl of paranoia on the East River
while the moon dangles like an earring of gold
beside the void pearl of your midnight soul
under train platforms transporting Brooklyn
further into the rumbling & indecisive future
past the sultry & narrow coves of cool jazz
where Lester Young blows the French establishment
fire escape parties blaze down to the pavement
for stoned is the way of the walk this lost weekend


1 Jul

by John Clinton

VIII. West Village

Rusty meat hooks still hang low
like it was 1982, I imagine
the fresh blood & semen flow
in underground S & M clubs
where overpriced restaurants
& stale boutique shops now show

A frenzy of pigeons coo & swoop over
the corner of Little West 12th Street, stranded
rain clouds sit high above empty cobblestones
like a French Resistance film, without a cigarette
or raincoat I patiently wait for my rendezvous
of a shower of words to be delivered from the sky

Sat on a stoop in the shade
contemplating a tree & its place
in front of a vibrant red brick home
slender windows with white frames
streaks of sun light between branches
a verdant still life painting of tranquility


24 Jun

by John Clinton

VII. Greenwich Village

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.” – George Washington (Washington Square Arch)

Poets in leaves of grass, writing
couples in beds of grass, kissing
circle of friends on the grass, laughing
as young men in skinny blue jeans
contemplate the wide blue sky

Each section of the park sings their song
with Spanish guitars & drums
with saxophone & bass
with bongos & beat boxes
as bystanders snap their fingers in delight

A blonde haired baby
on her father’s broad shoulders
hears jazz maybe for the first time

After two people including myself, applaud
the saxophonist jumps into something resembling
“Giant Steps”, where myriad notes are hit
& begin to take shape in the cool of the evening
like Paul Chambers, the bassist is free to stretch
his fingers out & beyond the limits of time
where a minute crowd now gathers to hear
the madness invading our ears in ecstatic enjoyment

A white haired man
convulsively rocks his body
to the symphony swirling around him

Beyond that a sax is blowing
beyond that guitars are strumming
beyond that drums are pounding
beyond that heaven is listening
to all the rhythms & beats that are

Welcome within the cosmos
myself among the stars & amateurs
for all time & no time to shine
above the thousands dead & buried
beneath Washington Square Park

West 4th Street Courts (The Cage)

In black & blue uniforms
between the cage of concrete
darkly tanned & well toned arms
glisten under a late afternoon sun

Safely on the other side of
the chain-link fence, sweating
hands grip in rabid anticipation
for a basket or blood to be shed

Flatbush Polaroid

17 Jun

by John Clinton

I was born the day I died
my father gave me his name
like his father before him
& his father before that

All fathers love their sons
they just don’t know how
to show it, photographs do
always proving to be true

I remember taking a shower
with my father, the tiles green
my eyes blue, began to burn
with Johnson’s baby shampoo

He would take me to the badlands
for vision quests, we once heard
a rattlesnake on the trail
& were not afraid

I once saw my mothers breasts
her areola were dark brown
everything is innocent & pure
when you are very young

She would hum & read to me
in perfect Brooklynese
Strega Nona, as I fell asleep
in Ghostbuster bed sheets

I believe in parental love, now
for my childhood is forever
just polaroids from the 80′s
where Flatbush is holy & home


10 Jun

by John Clinton

VI. East Village

Bop bop bop
like a studded pogo stick
all along Charlie Parker Place
who blew jazz, who blew junk
who blew minds, all misplaced
be boppers humming summertime

There was life? was it not
just howling Holy! Holy! Holy!
in Tompkins Square Park
where old leather dogs come
to sing & play punk songs
to the new wave of hipsters

Away from everyone on a park bench
I sit & chain smoke cigarettes, curiously
watching leaves make leaps of faith
in slow motion, down from sturdy trees
as they become part of another chain
of life, where I wonder was it their choice?

Two men stoically sit in the cool
of shade, where chess is played
a plain young woman is topless
with sunglasses, seamlessly strolling
among Sunday’s Howl parade
& not an eye seems to be swayed

A canvas wall stretches around
more than half of the beat park
where artists create their masterpiece
I stood & reverently watched one
repaint his in sky blue, delicately
stroking his tangerine baby anew

Eighty six years ago
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was born
or reborn, he definitely came
more than once, inside of
a warm & bleeding womb
bearing naked gifts of the truth

There is one sketch of his mouth
wide open, like a swallowing void
where poems speak of lost time
another is an outline of black glasses
no eyes, just empty space below
an unfurling beard of rainbows

After the sun showers did glisten
there were rainbows across the sky
was that you in your present form?
later that night the moon did shine
was that you howling & illuminated?
where the truth doth resides!


3 Jun

by John Clinton

IV. SoHo

An early summer sun striking white & black
cast-iron facades reminds me of Paris in July
models upon tourists upon tourists upon models
step in & out of the trendiest shops on Spring
Street, housing hidden art galleries that find
me uninspired, rather than painting my mind

An all black barbershop quartet, one
with a stand up bass, sing the Temptations
“My Girl”, to a mostly ambivalent audience
“I’ve even got the month of May with my girl.”
continuing to walk alone with my throbbing pen
the moist paper waits to be consummated in

SoHo once was underground cool, once over
thirty years ago when SAMO was not dead yet
when Jean-Michel dragged himself through
the cobblestone streets at dawn looking for
a perfect balance to be shot between his untitled
(skull) where the paint has long since dried

V. Lower East Side

A violent purple was the color
of the sky, Heaven’s gaping hole
was waiting to smack down on
to the pavement, rats with yellow
teeth are gnawing on chicken bones
under Norfolk Street dumpsters

Where the big clock sits & did
not tick for timeless years, as I
waited every day in seething pain
paranoid of police cars prowling
the block like wolves in blue
sheep skin unaware of my shade

Dim lightbulb faintly illumining
Dominican mother in a third floor
window, obscenities are screamed
at children holding white balloons
near doorways where handshake
drug deals are coyly being made

I see my former heroin dealer
eating inside of Burger King
with one of his myriad minions
twisting my stomach in temptation
the black clouds begin to pass
& I freely walk on down the road

There is some kind of feeling
on these streets that is no feeling
at all, its vocabulary speaks clearly
of an afterlife filled with nothing
which is something bought & sold
& I guess that I just don’t know


28 May

by John Clinton

II. Chinatown

Inside of the Columbus Park pavilion
is a salt & pepper pony tailed man
teaching T’ai chi ch’uan to the young

Beneath the emerald & violet umbrellas
elderly women feverishly deal cards
as gray pigeons depart into the red sun

Joyous bands play exotic instruments
my blue eyes have never seen before
& my naive ears have never heard

Reciting in their native tongue
poetry & song I can only imagine
the beauty of, with no words

A homeless man dressed in dust
freights his entire fucking life
on his arched & aching back

Chefs in white & soiled aprons
converse & smoke cigarettes
in shadows beside stray cats

Underneath the Manhattan Bridge
are a myriad of fruit stands & lazy flies

The skin of oranges litter the pavement
as the stench of dead fish waft in the sky

An infinite parade of plastic Buddhas
become reincarnated through recycling

Deafening machinery vibrates above
foreign signs lighting up fire escapes

Into dragon flames of neon graffiti
a tsunami of tourist heads are bobbing

East & West across an arid Canal
where yellow blood proudly bleeds

III. Little Italy

right into Mulberry street
taking refuge from the heat
in Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral
the marble statues do not move
as my body temperature cools
sunlight gleams right through
the stained glass windows
reflecting on this stranded soul

Suddenly, in the sound of silence
& the stillness of shelter I begin to pray

Our Father who
art in heaven, hallowed
be thy name; thy kingdom come
thy will be done on earth
as it is in heaven
give us this day our daily bread
& forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass
against us & lead us
not into temptation
but deliver us
from evil

My eyes begin to swell with tears

Hail Mary, full of grace
the Lord is with thee
blessed art thou among women
& blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus
Holy Mary, Mother of God
pray for us sinners now
& at the hour of our death

Mixing with the sweat from my brow
tears burn down my cheeks in repentance

Glory be to the Father
& to the Son
& to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning
is now & ever shall be
world without end

I am sobbing uncontrollably now


20 May

by John Clinton

I. Downtown

I have measured out my twenties
in the construction of one world
trade center, freedom rises above
everything else in this, an early May

Here, there are titanic ships & ferries
in the bay, a huddled mass migration
of transient travelers, all arriving to
experience the electricity of this city

Where, the silvery sailboat floats
slowly, the blonde haired woman
in a milky white & flowing dress
frames a photograph of the coast

When, it is positively overwhelming
at only a quarter to four, watching
the blinding sun beat your brain
into a golden pulp of ecstasy

With, diminutive dronings distracting
my hearing, someplace way off
in the distance, a vague violin plays
the star spangled banner clearly

Here, the precious youth lay timeless
in sharp blades of grass, a couple caress
each other so softly, for fleeting
love has presently come to pass

Where, a marriage unfurls onto Broadway
the flowery aroma of every woman’s
perfume dances in my nostrils, breeding
with foul odors rising from manhole covers

When, the visions & revisions
become procrastinations & pretensions
the focus, on innocent children
all frolicking among the fountains

With, sunglasses peering out a cafe window
this metropolis vibrantly walks & shrilly talks
itself into one immaculately resonant rhyme
of perpetual motion & polished contemplation

If there is life anywhere, it is here & now
in the heart & land of the free, where
this is happening, all by the pulses
beating within the home of the brave

(Saint Peter’s Church) – An Old Memory

Holy day forgotten, father & I
sat in the balcony, so young
was I then, so old is father
now, he can’t remember why?

We were there praying, perhaps
for mother, where were you
without me, did you fall pray
to the spaces of my memory?

(Saint Paul’s Chapel) – An Old Tombstone

Across from ground zero does lay
Saint Paul’s Chapel & its cemetery
where most of the graves are
severely weather beaten & faded

“In memory of Mary
wife of James Miles
died Sept 11th 1796
in the 37th year of her age”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 103 other followers