Two Poems by Bob Holman

BOMB 11 Winter 1985
011 Winter 1985
Kenny Scharf 001

Kenny Scharf, Juicy Jungle, 1984, oil on canvas, 7’3” × 8’5”. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Kenny Scharf.


you can’t be a jerk & write great poetry
no you can’t be an asshole & plumb the depths of the spirit
you can be clever, you can be accurate as to form
but it’s simply yr jumbo ego on the line, that’s right

yr vision will ever be clouded uh huh
& yr ideas will always need sharpening
like a kid at the pencil sharpener
whose point keeps breaking over & over
as the kid grinds away & the pencil
just keeps getting shorter & shorter…

so wake up, you turkey romantics
& stop treating everyone like shit
yeah, you can’t be a jerk & write great poems, lissen to me now
you can’t treat other people like shit & not pay for it in yr art, it’s true

I mean, what do you think, the world’s at yr service,
existing solely in yr brain,
waiting adoringly for you to etch a line or two in some porcelain
while meanwhile yr friends & lovers run away at yr hideous approach?

wise up, senor y senora saps!
before I start spilling the delicious venom

I relish the thought of yr beatific (ha) eyes
searching the corners of yr mess, searching
for a thought, any thought, something
to fill the hole of yr imagination

Help! I’m being held prisoner by everything I say!
Breath itself enough to die from!
I was born an only alphabet!

It was all a pipe dream where you smoke the pipe itself & not the
tobacco, or, as some smart Belgian once said, having smoked his
pipe, & painted a picture of it from memory, this is not a pipe.
Only he wrote it in French so no one would ever know.

there’s something to he said for it
but you don’t know what it is
there’s something that’s the point of it
but you’ve got it all wrong
yr standing on the verge of it
but yv forgot which direction yr going
you don’t even trip over yr own feet anymore
yr so busy bouncing on yr head
the director shouts, “Rolling!”
& you tumble right in front of the camera

understand, yr impulse was right
it was just too fast

you can’t be a jerk & write great poetry




I’ve got a split personality
A dual reality
I’m comin & I’m goin’ while I’m standin still
My shoes ain’t got no feet
I lost my joints out on the street
I’m underwhelmed by everything
It’s such a thrill
If you will

O, a change of perspective
I get so reflective
All I can remember is the past
Who said that?
& who said that?
Was it the same one
As the one who wrote it (uh oh)
Am I the same one As the one who spoke it (you know)

I spoke it I spoke it spoke it
(& I do like that repetition)
I spoke it I spoke it I spoke it
I ’spec I spoke it! I ’spec I spoke it!
But I wrote it but I spoke it
But I wrote it but I spoke it
But I’m goin nuts w/ these but but but buts
comMUNication reCREation CREation
—spontaneity breaks out of a bamboo cage—
Flies into a loony rage
Live, right here on stage
The “SS Poetry” a friend has dubbed this ship
Carrying corn off to Egypt
(& here we go)        (o-o-o)

If you gotta work—it ain’t workin
If you gotta work—it ain’t workin
If you gotta work—it ain’t workin
Talkin about love, you jerk
If you gotta work—it ain’t workin
Talkin about love, you jerk
If you gotta work—it ain’t workin… .

& thus ends the letter
& I hope you’re better
Half is better than none & the one at the end says goodby my friend
I gotta go to the show where the fun begins
I gotta hit the new high before the law gets wind
Gotta hijack a convertible & blow this town
& its underground
Gotta make a break & amend the bend
Recapitulate & capsize the end

A change of perspective
The vision’s receptive
Balanced on one finger on a bowling ball
You come to the conclusion as you start to fall
I’m falling! I’m helpless! It’s destiny
Corny as the great god Pan in horny ecstacy
But I’m still falling! I’m falling!
I’m falling falling falling!
What now
What then
What’s up
If not now when
What’s next
On the way
On the way?
On delay?
We’re on delay?
It’s gettin cold
We’re on hold?

Gotta stop
Take a break
Take a breather
Break a breath
Or an either
Or an or, or, or
Or a change of perspective
I get so reflective
All I can remember is the past
Making memories a breeze
Just boil the water, steep the tea
Remember you, remember me
Remember every little breeze
Remember everything, it’s free
But don’t forget the tea!
Remember to remember what you remembered to forget
(Who said that? Wait a second. Not again. Not the end.
Not the end again!)

In the night, all right
All right, all right already
All night, all night
All night, all right get ready
Or not
Here I thought
That the thought
Took my spot
Thought I’d just disappear
Maybe to reappear
Say way over here
Past the clear near
Into the rear where
We share our vittles & our canteens
Filled with something green
Tastes good (knew it would)
Do it again (to the brim)
Eat it up (go ahead)
Overdo it!

It’s a beautiful sight
On a beautiful night
& a beautiful sentiment
Beautifully trite
Is banging its head on my head to your head
O, a little head-hang before the thought goes to bed
To dream the romance of the belt & the pants
The luxury show
Where you get to go
Where they go to be
So expensively, so exclusively
Where you want to be
It’s Lobotoland! w/ a hundred grand & an all-robot band
(Hey man, I just can’t get into that for a second!)
It’s Lobotoland! w/ a hundred grand & an all-robot…
(Hey, I almost did that a second…)
Second what?
(Second) wind
(Second) guess
(Second) hand
(Second) chance
(Second) rate
(Second) nature
(Second) fiddle
(Second) sight
Hey, wait a second…
I got a second-hand second hand
A second-hand second hand

I was going to say when I was so rudely interrupted…
(But on second thought)
I was going to say when I was so rudely interrupted
That I’m either indigested or my appendix has erupted
O my throat is a volcano
And my heart can’t make the pace
But some deadly grippe has grabbed me in the wrong place
But in the first place
I couldn’t get the words out
Cause they’re all covered ’Cept just a crack (how wise)
’Cept just a crack (how wise)
In the morning it’s an empty cup
Fill it up (fill ’er up!)
With a second cup

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 11, Winter 1985

Ralph Humphrey, John Jesurun, art by David Salle, Eric Fischl, writing by Luc Sante, Kimiko Hahn, Tim Dlugos, and more.

Read the issue
011 Winter 1985