I heard the blues busked over by telegrams of salt-eaten cars
Dead leaves slopped on the neighbor’s lawns, wires hummed
Beaten and tamed by rust in the walls. Music comes this way now.
The music is on the streets, but raped from the voices that used to play
From the heart—there’s no truth in that garden, and if anyone knows the
Truth they aren’t saying a goddamned word—someone said there’s an ounce
Of truth in every word, so what do we trade for this?
Haven’t been able to sleep much since being back.
Something about sleeping in an occupied room
Where the rippling of blankets eases more than any white noise.
Box fans don’t make the cut anymore, bending hardwood downstairs null.
There are days when I’d trade my peace of mind for a piece of ass
Do you know what I mean? How unity for a moment in the sleek, sweat, fever
Of it all surpasses months of sanity and you could conquer anything knowing
You championed your own flesh for the pleasures of another?
Listen, we need to get on top of these back-and-forths and figure out what
The hell this all means, what are we doing, what are we doing, what are we doing?
Where are you right now, and are you happy? Who speaks for you?
Is it Allen kicking pricks over East Village vitrine while his mother lies dying
In a hospital, mind studded with delusional pleas of Christ,
Or Jack burning incense at a cottage in Big Sur, blessing his guts the Canadian
Way while his daughter grows up a stranger who only wanted his name?
Or has Frank come to your window at night and offered a cigarette and a
$10 story he could only whisper over coffee?
When was the last time you saw blood and didn’t flinch? Where are you going?
I’m boring myself. Everything sounds the same—my nails’re growing long,
People I know are fading or getting married, days gone by, days gone by.
This is the best I can give you now,
From this place, before the solstice, you can almost pierce the fog exhaust
and smell the highland air. Boulder is as packed as ever
with its indulgences—malas for jewelry, amethyst, obsidian,
celestite to drop about the corners of the room, nag champa
to awaken the senses away from the muted stench of glib truth.
You can almost smell the subalpine air, elk graze a meadow somewhere,
filling out their winter coats with the last of the season’s prairie.
Vendors push carts of dollar books onto the sidewalks,
academy courtesans and chattering friends huddle together
on the patios, weaning themselves from thin-walled paper cups
before the sun sinks into the canyon, tempering them toward television
that pulses through the city’s windows, they drift awash in blue.
Two weeks and I am gone again. Your song reverberates in my hollow chest,
Where are you now, and are you happy? Where are you now,
where are you, and are you
The truth is that I don’t know anything, even before I left home,
every moment a sojourn.
There was the art-house, the road, the mountain,
the subtropics, cornscape, the capital,
niagara, and the twelve-hour-flight.
I sang cyrillic in the land between the seas, then
there was the little island, the big one,
a cyrillic spring, long island, niagara, and the heartland.
There was sorrow, and Hammond, the protest camp,
the long train, niagara, the tete des morts valley,
the land between the seas, the big island, cornscape,
music city, mountain again.
Now home, Thailand and the Himalayas wait,
(but I am dreaming Leningrad)
Sometimes people ask me: A, when are you going to stop?
It’s time to accumulate accolades
and wealth, and save
some time for us. You can’t run forever,
you’ll get caught somehow—but you ask
where are you now, and are you happy?
You, traveler of a different sort,
don’t waste your life on lonely sojourns!
Just pour another poem in the churn
and meet me in the stubble
where the corn stood
just two months ago.
Can’t wait to see you again.
Someone once said that someone once said that
The makings of a great artist branch from the suffering
And forsaken nature of one’s craft, copulating incessantly through
Swathes of blind lust scaling the pricks of their stuck fingers until it
Distills itself into the one true voice of this human condition.
And so we preamble these worn streets, dagger-eyed and silver-tongued
Begging for a spool of rust to trade in for a bit of poison or some such regret
Because all one can understand is by means of minor mutilation or self entropy.
Come hell or highwater, that’s a load of bullfuckery if I ever heard any in my years,
And for what it’s worth I believe my tribulations and graces mean just as much as
Those already written and tattooed upon the flesh of my brothers and sisters in the wastes.
We have these experiences blistered on the mind and softened by the wrists always arching,
Reaching outward for another warmth by machine or lover in places where otherwise our
Voices would be a drop of oil in a drum, the demarcations in these verses unfurling into
Something godless and pure, have you ever felt this clean, and where are you now?
Are you happy? you ask again and again, and I say unto thee, I’m a little cold but I am
Getting there, death feels distant for the first time in ages, there’s money in the bank,
I’ve eaten at crowded tables with familiar faces and laughed, and I’m always asking you
To feed me a little bit more with your comforts—the crows fly in a fever here, you’ll see.
These three exchanges are from a manuscript that my longtime friend Andrew and I wrote together in 2017. We hadn’t seen each other in some time and decided to engage in poetic correspondence until we could get together again. This experimental exchange began in a Messenger conversation when I returned to Naropa to finish my degree after a three year adventure/hiatus: we wanted to satirize our own correspondence in the Beat lineage, so we gave each other nicknames (both “A”) and wrote these “letters” for the better part of a year. They ultimately culminated in two beautiful visits and a lot of really bad jokes about Boulder’s poetic history. Incidentally, only one reference to an obscure string of jokes appears in this selection.
Andrea Becker is a poet, photographer and full-time snack-eater living in Boulder, CO.
Andrew Byrds lives in Portland, OR and is a writer, actor, and the interviews editor for Entropy.