The Bump (I–VIII) by Max Blagg

BOMB 52 Summer 1995
Issue 52 052  Summer 1995

Walking out of the pharmacy
I felt the bones in my daughter’s hand,
fragile as a bird’s
as that small owl dead on the road
by Chip’s Garage
I took him home for a decent burial
and after asking permission
from the Lord of the Birds
to keep his beautiful feet
with their fishhook talons and delicate feathering
hoping he would not need them in his next incarnation
I lopped them off with a sharp axe
and laid him down
in that corner of the backyard
where the evening light falls
like grace on the goldenrod
Blake’s footprint on the stretching field
a possibility of deliverance
hovering in the creamy oxygen of the air
her hand is in my hand and
the delicacy of her skeletal structure
is marvelous and terrifying
she has put murder in me
this tiny thing, this Ming vase
and I want to be butch
I wanna be a steeltipped, asskicking, bodybagging daddy-o
a papapap-papa, a dada longlegs
a true surrealista
a hardbodied padre who will clear a path for her
through the encroaching ruins
put the deep boot into any jackals’ ribs
who comes sniffing round our campfire
without a permit
protect her with beauty truth and maximum firepower
against all the animals
abroad in America
the impending contact
and impact of this tabloid world
the vulgar metal slamming of cars and guns
vibrating even at the edge
of this last gold day of September,
as the rude boys rock the fences
in the playground on Thompson Street
the angle of the light already changed
as it streams through the gaps in the tenements
and the sun slides down toward December

I could always get a gun but
when I had the nine millimeter
X. gave me for safekeeping
I never knew where to keep it
I didn’t even know how to cock it properly
always wondering if I’d left one in the chamber
when I took out the clip
half expecting it to go off without warning
like an alarm clock
popped the hammer once by accident
when I was showing it off to someone
it clicked on empty
but it could have taken out a big chunk
of your beautiful mahogany bookcase
I laughed it off but felt really stupid
because it was obvious I didn’t have a handle
on the the basic mechanics of an automatic
finally gave it to a mutual friend who claimed
the owner owed him money
he said he would get me a revolver
to replace it but so far he hasn’t

Benedetta Barzini never slept with Gerard Malanga
and she’s still furious
he faked the whole romance
all those love poems totally bogus
he always did set off my bullshit detector
but he looked positively glamorous
getting into a cab at St Mark’s Place
on my third day here
in this bulging tent of a city
somebody I recognized
even if it was from a Warhol movie
and the first party I went to there was Brigid Polk
wearing the same greasy turtleneck
she wore in Chelsea Girls
it was just like the movie
a movie about the movie
it all merged like day and night merged
walking down Second Avenue past the holy house of St Mark’s
church of my heart church of the word
cockeyed spire pointing to fierce American skies
crammed with poets and poems
that filled my head and blended into
the sweet smell of gasoline
the iron roar of Second Avenue traffic
whirling pellmell downtown
metallic symphony of cars and cabs and trucks
injecting pedestrians with that click-click
speed city rhythm
that urban throb
truckloads of food and furniture
shunting and bouncing over the potholes
Chinese /Burmese/ Indian restaurants
passing in a blur
of hieroglyphic neon
Cheap Jack’s and Ratner’s and Schacht’s smoked fish
and the bodies cooling in the funeral parlor
at Third Street
close by Tony’s cafe deluxe
where we began each day
guzzling scrambled eggs off the Formica
with the hardcore mulatto ghost ship sailors
the chocolate skinned ambulance dancers
I had the fever for their brown eyed handsomeness
they only loved girls and I wanted to change that
I wanted to crack them like walnuts
bevel their edges
reshape their priorities
but they laughed in my face when I tried to get sexy
they were nice so nice
tall dark anacondas sipping homemade daquiris
words flying like sparks
as they cracked the dexy whip
left me tongue tied and french fried
dried out drier than Betty Ford
“I let the air outa your sangwich baby”
I tried to emulate their diamond style
with the hot white wire of methedrine
hoping my goofball stare might somehow shatter hearts
when I tottered into bars
on those 8th Street platform heels
doubling my sense of elevation
looking for much more than a simple kiss
my arm holding a fist
and demanding a leg a jambon
the whole ham dripping grease and cracklins
lunch was always turning into dinner
my medulla full of darts and thorns and dirty deeds
not dreamed but done in daylight and moonlight
in doorways and hallways poolrooms and rent parties
broken locks and standup cocks popping like mushrooms
blurred snapshots of a goon world
extreme conditions documented in the flare of a flashbulb
Polaroids fanned like cards in a giddy fist
my faux Borsalino still balanced on my head
at the most potent moments
the shutter clicked
but the hammer never came all the way down
and ‘I love this stinkin’ town’
New York the everturning wheel
that grinds exceeding fine
October November
lightning and sunsets
season of well documented mists
the solid map of streets and the steel web
of the bridge behind them
I call these federal days
the ones that bathe in this specific light
autumn in its plenitude
the juicy flesh of swollen apples
brought to an edible gleam
by simply rubbing them on my sleeve
they begin to shine
like the almost imperceptible swelling
in the cricketer’s soft cream flannel pant
when an old leather ball is rubbed against it,
seam to inseam on a green field far away

another Good Friday opens its golden throat
a harpoonload of honey colored light
arching over Brooklyn
in 23 years I hardly ever went to Brooklyn
and if I did have to go there
I was always happy to get back across the bridge
to streets with numbers
to the clear delineation of uptown and downtown
to the women who remind me of Mona Bump
her drive her drivel her swivel hips
illuminating a side street in a coal mining town
somewhere in Yorkshire
or the streets of Rome
or seen from a crosstown bus as she navigates
the Spanish stores along 14th
the bilingual curves of her ass
assassinate the senses
an overload of rich nutritious booty
on the way somewhere
somewhere exciting and I’m not invited
I say hey Mona …
hey hey hey Mona …
even the drunks on the sidewalk stir
at this articulation of the sacred
cocks rise feebly from their drowning pool
nerve soldiers fight their way through the miasmic gloom
forcing aside the alcoblocks, securing the arterial highway
and the blood drives through
into the spongy vestibule of the glans,
swelling the ropy pipe into
the vague approximation of a fighting stance

but Mona has already moved on
she is ubiquitous
like the nitrous my dentist feeds me
as he does my bridgework
he’s Nicaraguan and he understands poets
he knows they need a heavy dose of gas
and a special payment schedule
he cranks the hose
and I am immediately connected
to a sequence of extravagant, grandiose,
hilarious notions which go careening off down
vast corridors in 27 different directions
at hundreds of miles an hour
the nerves in my jaw vibrate faintly
like catgut strummed inside a wet towel
distant as a door slammed in a house on the next block
a welter of glyphs and cyphers
brilliant unutterable remarks
ricochet around the cranium
a solid tumbling declension of lock and interlock
masket and glench
moving smooth as a projectile fired from a cannon
booming and zooming
through a milky stratosphere
a sword passing through silk
feathery cloud formations
breathing in soft exhalations
ecstatic milliseconds preceding a sudden
rubbery exit into the overhead light
the spittoon swirling
bloody water
into a Naugahyde void
my last words “More gas Mona, more gas!”

When spring comes
the flowers leap out of earth
with the power of dancers straining for the sun
summoned from their subterranean habitat
by the vibrations of the light
bursting from their kernels their cosy kennels
up through cold earth
up into the air
the blue air connected to my blue heaven
it is the punch of the sun that drives them on
and they take their places one by one
in the sweet gush of spring
I push my fingers into the dark soil and turn it in my hands
pull down a branch to my face
and place an oval bud of lilac
briefly on my tongue
like the panda in central park
pink tongue testing the succulence of the new growth
sensing its pent up energy
a green hum within
the tightly folded tissue of the plant …
When spring comes I am clean as a whistle
pissing pure Pellegrino
where are the chardonnays of yesterday
those golden goblets brimming with the honeydew
of France and California
long blonde California
thy pubic hair shaved down to glittering bristle
legs slightly askew
and the fault line glinting between them
we dive into the dark
as the buildings slide
into the sea

Be wary of the Ides of March, thin spears of ice still in the wind
31 years ago today my sister died
and instead of going to her funeral
I played soccer for the school team
an away game at Lincoln we lost 4-2
I couldn’t tell the lads my sister had died
we were all so cruel then
it might have been the subject of distasteful jokes
we were such vicious boys
we read aloud the news reports of pensioners
who had ‘collapsed and died’
mining disasters and plane crashes
were a source of wild hilarity
so I choked it up and never mentioned it
walked down to the quarry and tossed in a penny
every year after
on that date, March 15
first death in the family, Judith, 26,
cancer of the breast
and ever since I was a leg man,
I still loved breasts but I didn’t want to think about them
in too much detail or study them too closely
the delicate web of tissue and blood beneath the skin
and how it might go wrong if they got bruised
or banged around like Judy’s did,
attacked by a patient in the mental hospital where she worked as a
and somehow the contusions turned into disease
and I tried to tune out her cries of pain
by immersing myself in homework and radio Luxembourg
she was a lovely girl
she wanted to get married but her boyfriend was dragging his feet
even though she played ‘Band of Gold’ by Freda Payne
over and over every time he came to visit
she was a lovely girl
but now I remember her iridescent raincoat
more clearly than her face.
To what do I owe this insanitary napkin?
these rusted blades whirling through air?
I speak
with the forked tongue
of a longchinned paleface
sauntering thru the lollapalooza
reeking of flowers and garlic
churlish music hums in my head
as the sun blinks out
and in again, banked behind
slate grey clouds
and gone again gone deep
as a spooked shark
as deep as my daughter’s
pale blue eyes
‘linger on/ your pale blue eyes’
while I begin again
kneel down and start it up
“the academy of the future is opening its doors”
onto fresh vistas
my green heart
bold as a spring wired cardinal
strutting for foodchips
among the scuffed leaves
a hammered steel knight
of the three legs
rampant on a field of mercury rising
lips loose and wrist stiff as a busboy’s arm
fully laden with dish and dishes
take me to your captain
let me lay it all on him
the gushy pulsing flow of it
the bloody red rag of it
the metal licking
gear grinding mess of it
open the throat
and spit out the emptiness
ahab in the sky with lightning
a man without a meataxe
in a roomfull of oxen

Licking The Fun Up by Max Blagg
Lee Quiñones by Luc Sante
20190110 1 L6 A5847 Pano2 Tg

Painter Lee Quiñones grew up on the Lower East Side and began his career tagging subway cars. His latest paintings are cut from his studio walls.

A Formal Intimacy: Peter Hujar: Speed of Life by Ingrid Dinter
Peter Hujar1

A retrospective exhibition of a unique photographer’s work.

Parallel Lines: Dany Johnson Interviewed by Richard Boch
Dany Johnson

Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983 at the Museum of Modern Art and The Mudd Club book.

Originally published in

BOMB 52, Summer 1995

Featuring interviews with Helen Mirren, Chuck Close, Russell Banks, Todd Haynes, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Charles Ray, Patricia Spears Jones, Kim Dingle, Luis Barragan, and Sacred Naked Nature Girls.

Read the issue
Issue 52 052  Summer 1995