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max henry: 5 contemporary poets next


JOHN YAU
Variations on a Popular Tune



You can't always hate what you flaunt
You can't always hate what you want

You can't always grate what you stomp
You can't always date what you chomp

You can't always break what you crunch
You can't always fake what you lunch

You can't always vault what you spit
You can't always fault what you bit.

You can't always sack what you dug
You can't always back what you plug

`You can't always mate what you want
You can't always hate what you flaunt


Valentine

We sleep in each other's arms
There are no wings
The wind is covered
with torn tickets and old paint

We sleep in each other's arms
beneath a sky full of instruments
shining behind the composer's eyes
his hands clutching an empty radio

We sleep in each other's arms
forget about books, flickering
honks, and osso bucco
Each morning, we swim

through the watercolors


Permanent and Temporary
(from Big City Primer)


The oldest and most historically significant relic
of the Dutch occupation of Manhattan Island,
the flame-charredembers of Captain Adriaen
Block's ship Tiger , lie embedded twenty feet
under the surface at the intersection of Dey and
Greenwich streets. Oratam died sometime in
1688. James Fenimore Cooper's last Manhattan
home was on the site of the St. Mark's Bath's.
Zora Neale Hurston worked as a secretary to
Fannie Hurst. A statue of Edwin Booth as Hamlet
stands in Gramercy Park. Juan Ramon Jiminez
heard the congregation clapping and singing as
he walked past the church. Maxwell Bodenheim
and his girlfriend were beaten to death in a
rooming house near Bowery. Diego and Frida
argued in their hotel room. Yayoi Kusama had
her first solo show at the Brata Gallery, a Tenth
Street artists cooperative. 14 West Tenth Street-
former home of Mark Twain and Joel Steinberg.
6 Pearl Street, birthplace of Herman Melville,
who is buried in Woodlawn Cemetary. Dorothy
Parker and Tallulah Bankhead traded barbs
at 59 West Forty-fourth Street. At one time or
another, John Dos Passos, Rockwell Kent, Ernest
Lawson, Walter Pach, and Edward Hopper
lived in the same building overlooking
Washington Square Park. Countee Cullen studied
at NYU and wrote his undergraduate thesis on

Edna St. Vincent Millay. The area between
Twenty-fourth and Fortieth Streets and Fifth and
Seventh Avenues was once known as Satan's
Circus. The comedian Ah Hoon and the tragic
actor Hom Ling sailed from Canton to San
Francisco and New York, where they performed
in what is now the New York Rescue Society.
Jacob Adler wrote and acted in Jewish King Lear.
His children Luther and Stella helped found the
Group Theatre, and later Stella became a drama
teacher and had Marlon Brando as a student. A
friend mentioned that Thelonius Monk lived on
Celestial Drive, a dead-end street off Eleventh
Avenue. Alan Seeger, the "Mad Monk of
Greenwich Village." Rotten Row, Poverty Lane,
and Mount Misery. the name Jamaica was
derived from the Algonquin word for "beaver,"
and differs from the name of the Island of Jamaica,
which comes from the Carib word meaning
"land of wood and water." As he entered New York
Harbor, Edgar Degas thought of the carriages
pulling up to the Paris Opera on a rainy evening.
Wen I-to, author of Dead Water, enrolled in the
Art Students League but attended no classes.
Hutchins Hapgood introduced Emma Goldman
to Mabel Dodge and Lincoln Steffens. Jane
Bowles, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Carson McCullers
lived and wrote in a brownstone at 7 Middagh
Street. After receiving a phone call from George
Westinghouse, Nikola Tesla packed his bags,
went out, and hailed a cab for Grand Central,
where he boarded a train for Niagra Falls.
In 1928, Tesla was awarded his first and only
patent for a flivver airplane, or "flying sove." Piet
Mondrian walked into Roseland, his new shoes
glistening beneathj the gaudy chandeliers. Maksim
Gorky and Charles Dickens walked down Wall
Street. "Bloody Angle" is another name for
the sharp bend in Doyers Street, Chinatown. Big
Mike, who decapitated Ling Tchen, was found
in his bed, his room filled with gas, which had
seeped in through a garden hose that stretched
from an open gas jet to his keyhole. The son of a
doctor, Humphrey Bogart grew up on Riverside
Drive. Nathanael West worked as a night clerk at
Kenmore Hall, 145 East Twenty-third Street,
site of Stephen Crane's old rooms. Once a man
was telling a story, it was a very good story too,
and it made him very happy, but he told it so fast
that nobody understood it (1947) is a line engraving
by Louise Bourgeois, which appeared in The
Tiger's Eye, edited by Ruth and John Stephan,
who moved their editorial offices from Westport,
Connecticut, to 374 Bleecker Street.

John Yau is the author of The United States of Jasper Johns published by Zoland Press. His most recent volume of poetry is Forbidden Entries published by Black Sparrow Press

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