E MAIL TO DAMNISO LOPEZ 209

“Dylan Thomas drunk himself
Into a coma so he would not know
What his poems were saying,”
Robert Duncan.

“When you write a sonnet,
You are not writing poetry,
But are playing tennis,
Playing tennis with the net up.
I hate Robert Frost,”
Lind Call.

“To be a genuine reader of poetry
One must get rid of unquestioned
Habits of mind and the assumptions
That the ordinary reader brings
To the act of reading, one must
Read the figurative as if literal,
The imaginative as if factual,
The metaphors as if direct statements
Of what is experienced, read
Symbolism as clear and distinct
Statements of actuality, do not
Interpret.,” Norris Benjamin.

I remember the Automat,
Mainly the automat on eighth street,
The automat in the fur district,
Dead minks carried on racks
That bump over the bricks
Of Eight Avenue, shirtless
Puerto Ricans fighting at midnight
Over a long black-haired girl
Who wore a long black dress
That covered her ankles
And their many ankle bracelets,
A Chinese laundry that returned
Loose shirts, stiff, their solid colors,
Pastels. Chinese laundry one block
From the automat.

It was a long time ago, before
Pornography replaced the fur business
On Eight street, a long time ago,
Before the “peep show.”

Yes, I remember the heyday
Of the Automat. There were
Then even communists and
Anarchists eating at the automat,
There was much talk of Peter Kropotkin,
It was an Age of Innocence.

The day I remember most
At the Automat
Was the day
After I put a nickel in a slot,
Turned a handle
And black coffee poured into a cup,
And I saw
A Stone Age man
Come into the Automat.
The Stone Age man
Looked so happy
When he inserted two nickels
And a slice
Of coconut cream pie
Came out on a saucer.
The Stone Age man
Was fascinated
That the insertion
Of two nickels
Would bring out food.
The Stone Age man
Spoke to me, said
“I had to kill animals
To get food.
I loved the animals,
But I had to kill
To get food.
Briars cut my ankles
As I hunted to get food.
Now, all I have to do
Is insert two nickels.
Now someone else climbs
The coconut tree,
Hacks off the coconut,
All I have to do
Is insert two nickels.
I like this New York City,
I like this civilization.”

At my table
At the Automatic
Was a New York born
And bred poet,
A subway mystic,
A sensitive man
Who had a mystic vision
When he heard
A subway squeak
Or saw bums
Sitting on benches
At the Subway exit
To the Cloisters.”
He wrote what he
Called “Deep Images.”
He confided to me
That he wished
He were a primitive.
He wished to live
As a primitive in
The Stone Age
When man
Was close to nature,
Close to Hawks,
Not subways,
Close to hand-dug wells,
Not faucets,
Close to the Mantis.
He cried, sobbing
“How I wish
I could have
Been a primitive.”

He continued to discourse,
“Even now
I get my news from trees,
If I can find a tree,
There are some trees
Coming out of iron
Over sand on sidewalks.
I get my news from trees,
Not newspapers.
All journalists are
Self-deceived fools,
These self-deceived fools
Keep writing lies,
And these fools are so
Self-deceived
That these fools believe
They are writing
Factual, objective accounts
When these fools
Are writing lies.
Newspapers are the enemies
Of truth.
I get my news from trees.”

“A writer writes to unlearn
What he has received as truth.
The writer writes to express himself
And in this expression finds knowledge;
The writer writes to express himself
And know. A writer does not know
And express what he knows. If he knows
And expresses what he knows, he
Would only be less-than-a-mediocrity
And thus extremely popular,”
Norris Benjamin.