Saturday, November 23, 2013

For Chris

C Natale Perditto died earlier this month.  We were friends back in the Philly poetry scene of the early Eighties, and I was sorry to hear he is gone.  He was one of the true believers in the idea of "street poetry," outside the academy, and aimed at lived realities. He wrote poems with a lot of attitude. Here's a poem I wrote, based on certain aspects of his character, both irascible and generous, some time around 1995, looking back.  R.I.P, Chris


Perdito stood—tall,
gangly, with coarse teeth—
squarely for le néante

He knew French poets personally
and so knew the task
was to negate art
at every turn, on every corner

"Negate art
in the Tunnel of Love,
negate art with a TV ad,
negate art with an Uzi
and a Swiss bank account"

The fact that he used art
to negate art was not lost
on his friends but
we didn't like to point it out
for then he’d become truculent

"What about that twenty bucks
you owe me? You weren't so smart
when you needed a place to crash.
OK, so why haven't you written a poem
in two months? Cute, but
when's the last time you got laid?"

Perdito scorned our critiques
and our praise. Loose-limbed,
with a bit of a Bogart scowl,
he oozed the charisma of the gutter
and knew which poets had contracted VD
and from whom.

He would disappear for a time,
then return with tales of visiting a poet’s
death-bed (the rest of us didn't even know
he was sick!), drooling over a cig
shared with the master, both
proclaiming le néante as the aesthetic
proud to have no future.

"Negate art with a ball peen hammer,
negate art with pubic hair on TV,
negate art with graffiti
on the Berlin Wall and the Louvre"

Perdito had all the luck.
Once his car was stolen
because he left it running while
he delivered some broadsides
at the "Just Earth" Food Co-op;
days later he found his car,
keys in the ignition,
parked in the alley
behind his favorite bar.
Perdito jumped in and drove off,
his carton of cigarettes
still untouched on the backseat.

"Negate art by vacationing in Nicaragua
negate art by shaking hands with the dead"

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