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...and they lived happily ever after. Smith & Lady: poets, artists, photographers & adventurers.
Our relationship was forged to the soundtrack of Yoko Ono's magic,
frenetic, love-laden song, "Walking On Thin Ice." ( play song )
 
   
 
 

Archive for the ‘Bio’ Category

black star flaming

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

wetwalkwetwalk

Black Star Flaming

Fame’s a fine song on the radio
or ego disease the famous feed

Fame’s a word in the dictionary
or perhaps simply misspelt frame

Fame may be a lot of things
but what it ain’t is part of me

Inert I lie as log at night
dream chasing dream within

Awake I walk this may and might
stalking win through sin again

No Elvis fortune, no Bowie fame
just me worshipping want like Cain

– Smith, 9.3.2016

Songs referred to in poem are:
Elvis’ Flaming Star,
originally recorded as Black Star (1960)
David Bowie’s Black Star (2016)
Elvis’ Fame and Fortune (1960)
Bowie’s Fame (1975)

Found this 10 year old unpublished article about our leaving Cleveland by Mark Kuhar.

Leavin’ Cleveland: An Exit Interview with Steven B. Smith

By Mark S. Kuhar
July 2006
(hopefully to be published in Art-e-fakt)

How do you begin to calculate the contribution that Steven B. Smith has made to artistic culture of Cleveland over the years? Equal parts artist, poet, publisher, eccentric, gadfly, lightning rod, underground cultural icon, Smith is all of that and more.

Smith, now 60 years old, has served his country on the high seas (and was kicked out of the Naval Academy for smoking dope), worked as an insurance salesman, a computer programmer, a steelworker and a church janitor, among other things. He has been married and divorced, suffered through the tragic suicide of his brother, been a jailbird and a cancer survivor.

And through it all, he has managed to both keep his humanity intact, and his creativity well engaged. With thousands of paintings, collages and poems to his credit, he has been a prolific contributor to the fabric of Cleveland’s artistic culture.

The death of his mother last year, and his recent marriage to poet Lady Walker, brought him to a place where “two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” He decided to take the one that leads out of Cleveland. After more than 20 years, he and Lady sold most of their belongings, moved out of Smith’s Tremont loft condo and are heading overseas for adventure, and to escape what he calls, “an oppressive political climate.”

I conducted the following “exit interview” with him as he was finalizing preparations to leave.

MSK: You’re leaving Cleveland after more than 20 years of service to the arts community. What is your artistic legacy? Where does your work fit in?

SBS: A three-pronged legacy, rather like the devil’s pitch fork.

1 – I’ve made some folk laugh, a few more smile. My life hints of ways to live outside of accepted sheep in safety pen. Just cuz it is, don’t mean it has to be. You CAN go your own way, be honest, and still make it. You pay for the consequences of what you do, so you may as well do your own thinking, make your own decisions. Though I find that by doing this, you usually end up fighting accepted authority every inch of the day.

2 – I started ArtCrimes here in Cleveland in 1986 and it ended here 20 years and 21 issues later (last month).

3 – There’ve been 40-some articles/reviews/blurbs about my art/poetry/ArtCrimes/criminal-past since my first one-person show at Spaces in 1984. I’ve had two art shows censored – once in Willoughby and once by Tri-C Parma. So I’ve given them something to bemoan or bemuse my 29 years here… I’ve left little art tracks.

Where does my work fit in? I’d say the top shelf in the best museum in the world … or the wall of a friend’s house … or in an outhouse out back. Even put some in the trash recently. I’m Outsider Art with wit, style with grace. Belong to no school, thought, pattern, clique, scene, philosophy. Can’t evaluate any of it until 50 years after I die, and I ain’t dying, so we’ll never know for sure. I’m willing to let my words and art be judged by time, tho.

MSK: How did the city of Cleveland and its inhabitants inspire and inform your art work, either positively or negatively?

SBS: The people–Cleveland has great artists, great poets, great small press publishers–and small-minded small-souled politicians, press and chief executive officers. The art scene is tame and conservative. The press ignores the underground. I’ve only been mentioned so often because of my bad-boy-ness.

MSK: How did you develop and evolve your unique artistic style? Whose work served as a role model?

SBS: Started doing my art before I knew it was art. As a plebe in the U. S. Naval Academy in 1965, I began cutting out word phrases and taping them together into sardonic anti-religious god word collages with deep streaks of dark dark humor. On my 3rd collage I added an image of an old skeleton key – then found a real key same size & shape and glued it on top. It really tickled the poet me putting this real key over symbol key. The heck with Magritte – this both IS and ISN’T a pipe. Iced my existential cake with real frosting. Since then, forget it. Anything goes. Dead things, broken things, old things, beautiful things, sad things, cheap tawdry no one for a friend but me things (seems to be a lot of those), even no things. Go to sleep around me at right time, you might wake up part wall sculpture.

After I started doing this on my own, I eventually started reading and found first Robert Rauschenburg, Kurt Schwitters, Man Ray, my hero Marcel Duchamp – and finally soul mate Edward Kienholtz. Less mentors, more reassurers my path a valid one they broke.

And broke pretty much is what art has left me – money-wise, that is, cuz life-wise mind-wise heart-wise friend-wise and just for plain old adventure, art and poetry have been very very good to me.

MSK: How did your family situation growing up and into adulthood contribute to your art?

SBS: Fine art and poetry were not part of my family life – movies, music, television and reading were. Early reading and lots of it pretty much shaped my life, kept me going. Gave me the desire to be a good-guy hero. My father was a stone mason, and my mother sewed quilts, clothes, and had a ceramics shop, so creativity was always around. One day in the mid-1950s, my father was telling mom how weird a customer’s copper sculpture was on a fireplace he’d just built, and then he turned, looked down at me, and said “you’d like it” (not complimentarily).

MSK: You’ve lived more than your share of tragedy, with death, jail, cancer and more in your background, yet you have channeled that into untold creativity. To what do you attribute your survival and accomplishment?

SBS: I just believe things are going to turn out good – and if not, well, that’s the price, that’s the way things go. I’m a cynic from experience but an eternal optimist by nature. Laughter makes pain manageable.

As for my creative output – it’s not something I do so much as something that happens. My minds like to play. Reality likes to play. Sometimes interesting intersections happen and leave a poem, piece or story behind I claim as mine.

MSK: Looking back at over 20 years of ArtCrimes, how do you view that body of literature?

SBS: ArtCrimes has published over 500 folk, mostly Clevelanders and Ohioans, has helped create a small world presence for Cleveland via contributors from a slew of nations – there are 4 British, 1 Netherlander, 1 Japanese in this last issue that I know about. ArtCrimes never rejected anyone – no matter how lacking in talent or horrendous in belief – and was the first to publish a bunch of folk – such as Michael Salinger. As a body of work, it is greatly uneven, often raw. Usually anti-authority. Underground. But there’s a slew of top shelf art, thot and poetry in each issue. Just because we accepted the worst didn’t mean the best didn’t deliver. ArtCrimes was Daniel Thompson’s biggest publisher from 1986 thru 2004 using 100 of his poems. Bottom line – a lot of folk would never be published without ArtCrimes – and a lot of published folk would never have gotten their grittier, nastier pieces published otherwise.

MSK: You’ve seen your share of poets and artists come and go over the years. Who do you miss the most?

SBS: Nationally I miss John Lennon. Only time I ever cried for a celebrity death. Lennon could be my avatar creatively, drug-wise, politically. Locally Daniel Thompson’s passing has left a major hole which I see no one filling. Think you need a bit of the ever hopeful hippie to do what Daniel did – he could convince all sorts of cross-cultural cross-generational cross-political cross-social cross-racial cross-religious folk to get-together-by-golly-and-do-something. Art-wise, I don’t believe we’ve lost any Clevelanders that matter.

MSK: You’ve spoken — eloquently and passionately, I might add — about political repression in the United States. Talk about the role of the current political climate in your art and your life.

SBS: Kurt Vonnegut said “The only difference between Bush and Hitler is Hitler was elected.” Bush stole the elections twice, then killed several hundred thousand Iraqi women and children in our name. Spies on Americans, trashes the Constitution, refuses to obey our laws. He’s a perfect president for Corp-O-Rat Amerika. Seems when they taught us not to steal, cheat, kill, or lie, it didn’t apply to rich white Republicans or rich white Democrats or rich white CEOs. This country never really stood for all the fairness we were taught it did in High School Ethics class, but she’s never before ever been this much of a bullying greedy do-anything-for-oil murdering psycho-slut. I’m voting by being and leaving.

MSK: Tell me again how you met Lady, I love that story. How has she enriched your life and art?

SBS: After Mother Dwarf died, I wrote 9 short pieces on her death. Some of the best writing I’ve ever done, and since we all have a mother, it affected people. You gave me a chance to read it down at your Borders Deep Cleveland reading. Lady asked for a ride down, and never left. I tried to discourage her due to our 27 year age difference – but finally saw we had to be. I wrote this poem to her our second week:

Dada Graybeard – A lady poet followed me home / And asked if I could keep her / I replied / It must be denied / For I had no room in my freezer / She engineered her stay / Of relocation with play / Charm and elocution / Praised this and that / Allowed a wee pat / Counted on evolution / I may be cheap / And easy too / But for female I’m hard-wired / And too / It’s sort of cool / This once being the one that’s desired / Though I question her taste / Her need of rat’s waste / A too hasty fade / Will shatter shades / I cannot replace / Best to see / What she reweaves / What treasure in her trundle / Though it fracture my plan / I am but man / And man is meant to bundle

I’d known her a couple years from our poetry circles. Our first week, she left a dish of bright red moist pomegranate seeds on wet yellow orange mango slices in my refrigerator – looked like a love-potion spell so I threw it out. Didn’t do me any good – I fell anyway.

She moved in 3 weeks later. In our 5th week we were heading to K-Mart to get some shelves to integrate her into my environment when I said “You know after ArtCrimes comes out, I have no plans… we can do anything we want.” She said “How about moving to Europe?” I replied “Why Not.” So in 3 minutes we decided to emigrate – without knowing exactly where we were going. We’ve been together 11 months, married 4 months, and we’re leaving for Europe in 3 days.

She’s taken my life up several levels. We have one of those fairy tale movie loves that everyone knows doesn’t really exist in the real world – yet does. We collaborate on writing, art, everything. My creative output has probably doubled. We’re very much alike – I figure she’s probably my long lost missing clone come back to take my place.

MSK: Do you have any advice for today’s emerging crop of Cleveland-based artists and poets?

SBS: Do your own thing. Don’t join committees. Or groups. (I was a group of one, and I found that to be one too many… now tho I’m a group of two with Lady, and I find that to be just right – go figure). There’s no need to emulate. Or follow formulas. Do what interests you because no one’s going to pay you for it anyway so you may as well enjoy doing it.

MSK: Smith, for all we know, you may never come back to Cleveland. You may live out the rest of your life in a poet’s garret overseas. If you never return, how do you want to be remembered here in Cleveland?

SBS: As a life object lesson. I have done bad stupid selfish things along the way, but I always wanted to be a good person. I never let any particular failure define me. I always assumed I would get better than I was, and I did. Not perfect. Not even really really good. But definitely better. Beyond that, they can tell any lies about me they want. Just spell my name right.

Mark S. Kuhar is a Cleveland-based writer, artist, poet and publisher. He is the proprietor of Deep Cleveland, llc, DeepCleveland.com. You can follow Steven B. Smith and Lady’s European adventures on their blog: www.WalkingThinIce.com. Their art and poetry may be seen at www.AgentOfChaos.com and www.TheCityPoetry.com.

nowalknowalk

 

2 pages of comix by Blue7 aka John Mann

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

blue7comic1Blue7 comic page 1, 2010

Two comics from Blue7 aka John Mann, a storyboard artist who’s worked on 28 Hollywood films including Iron Man 2, Ben Hur, American Sniper, Cowboys & Aliens, Superman Returns, Men In Black 2, Godzilla, Star Trek First Contact, et al. He was going to illustrate my memoir (Stations of the Lost & Found, a True Tale of Armed Robbery, Stolen Cars, Outsider Art, Mutant Poetry, Underground Publishing, Robbing the Cradle, and Leaving the Country by Smith & Lady) back in 2010 but got sidetracked and dropped the project. We met him and his wife in Krakow, Poland, saw them again in Morocco, and a third time at the 2009 Rainbow Gathering in New Mexico.

He was going to get six more cartoonists to illustrate seven segments of the memoir and put it out as a comic book, but put it off when he started working on The Twilight Saga – Breaking Down parts 1&2, and then he and his wife moved back to Krakow, then to Spain, so the project’s dead. But I do have these two fine pages.

John Mann’s IMDB resume – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0542820/

History

Going into the forest she said
We need to find a way to find our way
back where we’ve been

Easy he replied
we’ll drop bread crumbs to follow

That won’t work she sighed
the birds will eat our trail

Then we’ll use poisoned crumbs
and follow the dead birds back

– Smith, 8.18.2016

blue7comic2Blue7 comic page 2 , 2010

 

I’m still waiting, but it appears I may be too cool for Cleveland

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

“Unlike many self-published books, this is a really good book.” Wred Fright, Amazon dot com.

reviewmemoir

Discovered this review yesterday which was posted last year on Amazon of my memoir – “Stations of the Lost & Found, a True Tale of Armed Robbery, Stolen Cars, Outsider Art, Mutant Poetry, Underground Publishing, Robbing the Cradle, and Leaving the Country” by Smith & Lady.

It is a good review, which means a lot, especially since I’ve sent out three dozen free copies of the book to reviewers and none have bothered. Several local reviewers told me they would write it up it when it came out in 2012 . . . I’m still waiting, but it appears I may be too cool for Cleveland.

4 out of 5 stars – Smith Has Led Quite a Life!
by Wred Fright on May 4, 2014

“I’m a little sad that no one’s posted a review of this book yet and it’s been out for two years, so I will post one. Basically, it’s the biography of Smith, who is an artist and poet based in Cleveland, Ohio USA. His wife, Lady, comes into the story later, but it isn’t her life story. She is credited as co-author because she helped Smith write the book. Like many self-published works, the book is a bit uneven and could have used more editing (for example, jettisoning the journal entries that effectively only retell events that Smith has already told the reader in the main narrative would have been a particularly good idea). Unlike many self-published works, this is a really good book. I laughed aloud many times and shook my head about the many crazy things Smith has done. Underneath all the insanity (including armed robbery) described, the book also has a lot of soul; for example, I found Smith’s relationship with his mother to be very touching. Nevertheless, it’s definitely a countercultural document. If you like underground Cleveland art such as Pere Ubu, Harvey Pekar, or d.a. levy, then you’ll likely dig this book. It has that kind of vibe. In fact, even if you don’t care anything about Cleveland underground art, but you like autobiographical and bohemian writers such as Charles Bukowski or Henry Miller, then you’ll likely dig this book. I bought it on a whim since I am slightly acquainted with Smith and Lady from living in the Cleveland area myself, but I’m glad that I did so. Frankly, a lot of the Cleveland literary scene isn’t very interesting, so it’s great to find a book from it that is actually interesting. Smith crammed sixty-some years of life into this book. Here’s hoping he lives much longer, if only for the readerly selfish reason that if he does, then we can might get a sequel!”

It’s available on Amazon and CreateSpace for $20 plus shipping. If folk order it from me, It’s $20 and I pay the shipping. Or, if you stop by and pick it up, it’s $15, plus you get to see a hundred pieces of art on the walls by two dead Smiths and two live Smiths . . . http://www.amazon.com/Stations-Lost-Found-Steven-Smith/dp/1477628290/ref=sr_1_3

This might be the best memoir to come out of Cleveland.

Status Report 149

Night rain washing street below
which should be covered in snow.

Wife early asleep in our unwinter bed
awaiting the toss of my turn.

Quiet neighbor raucously laughing
party shrieks, giggles bellow.

Drawing out my last pinch of pot
savoring three sips over time.

Vignettes building on on and off bits
spotlight the in of my ept.

Yet all is well for fortune flows
from them to me to view.

The neighbor’s nice, the rain wanted,
the wife pure peach in cream.

Grass gone in cycle helps clean the pipes
and sidewalks one day will re-ice.

If it weren’t for me nursing my mean
delight would be bursting my seam

– Smith, 12.27.2015

clevelandgray

Cleveland gray

 

new art in making

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

 

smithladybook4smithladybook4b

Smith & Lady, Book 4 – 11″ x 14″, June 2015, Smith

Here are the beginnings of a mass art attack . . did two of these assemblages this month, the third last September.

Lady and I plan on doing 30 small assemblage/painting/collages between the two of us in July, some hers, some mine, some ours. She did 5 this month. I did 2. Might be a stretch, but worth trying.

smithladybook3

smithladybook3bSmith & Lady, Book 3 – 10″ x 9″, June 2015, Smith

smithladybook2

smithladybook2b

Smith & Lady, Book 2 – 11″ x 14″, September 2014, Smith

Smith & Lady, Book 1 is my memoir – Stations of the Lost & Found, a True Tale of Armed Robbery, Stolen Cars, Outsider Art, Mutant Poetry, Underground Publishing, Robbing the Cradle, and Leaving the Country by Smith & Lady, 2012, The City Poetry Press.

The memoir is $20 + shipping online, but if you go through us, we can mail it to you for $20 total, or hand it to you for $15. Available at https://www.createspace.com/3903652.

 

Smith & Lady March 2015 – Lady’s #29

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

 

I have my keep… there’s something about a goddess guarding a man that happens in this reality, your goddess wrangling snakes of dualism, emotions zapped to me like lightning I stand under moon and stars and cloud and big star and clouds again and whatnot, I demand banging fists against golden cliffs, I call hot dragon breath and float on mists, I make new myths and tell stories to entertain The Big Listener, yield dividends like taking my earring fishhook pull up islands for our house on rock, yes part of me I’m a lizard wahine with angry red eyes or a totem, a panther, a leaping leopard with curling thirsty tongue, and part of me I gave to you a year subtracted from my own and past lives for many more to yours–one of many barters of my myness for the world–here’s a cast for a greater span for the wise man with kindly growling voice, I do I do, like a huge hug of hand I hold and forage and push I do, I have my keep

~ Lady

 

 

Smith & Lady Poems March 2015 – Lady’s #12

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

 

Where did we come from? The page’s gutter
for an aesthetic, faille’s golden joinery,
moulden moiré, a book opening softly with
beginner’s mind ribbing interior corduroy,
congruous fingerprints, event set atop
event in wefts of text, vibrating atoms,
topographical map swimmingly coupled
and walking from the dividend,
this singing bowl

~ Lady

 

 

Sober 23

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Sober 23

One more gone, go one more.
See what tomorrow has in store.

– Smith, 4.21.2014

23 years sober, starting 24.

Drank myself to death April 21 1991 and woke in intensive care. Three days later I rose from my dead and walked home to alcoholessness.

Alcohol was the hardest drug I ever beat . . . over the next nine years I quit NyQuil, cocaine, speed, pills, needles and everything else except for coffee, grass, and the occasional magic mushroom.

Still stride the fine fusion of self delusion, but wriggle in its grasp.

excerpt from my bio Stations of the Lost, a True Tale of Armed Robbery, Stolen Cars, Outsider Art, Mutant Poetry, Underground Publishing, Robbing the Cradle, and Leaving the Country by Smith & Lady, The City Poetry Press, 2012:

One night in April 1991 watching the movie Mortal Thoughts downtown with Mom, I started swallowing small amounts of liquid, which was odd because I wasn’t drinking anything. An alcohol induced ulcer at the base of my esophagus had hemorrhaged and I was swallowing my own blood. I came home scared and didn’t tell Mom.
While Mom was downstairs in her space, I lay in my loft for fourteen hours vomiting blood into a bedside bucket, passing out, coming back, all the time my little computer brain computing, saying, This is serious, you’re going to have to go to the hospital. But hospitals meant money and I was poor with no health insurance. I’d vomited blood the previous December for four hours and managed to stop it through will or luck so I thought maybe I could stop it this time, too.
For the first six hours I thought, Right now I can get up and drive to the hospital.
A couple hours later, more lost blood, more unconsciousness, I thought, Well now I can take a bus to the hospital because I’m too weak to drive anymore.
Later it became, Now I have to call a cab.
Each time I’d start to lose consciousness from blood loss, I’d think, Is this it? But each time I worried about Mom who still needed my help and company, so I came back. All through this, I collected the blood into the bucket and wondered, What art piece can I make with a bucket of my own blood? Buckets of human blood aren’t easy to come by, so this was a seriously unique art supply.
Finally I couldn’t do anything but weakly call over and over until I woke Mom. She called EMS. I was too heavy for them to carry down from the loft because I weighed ninety pounds more then from all the wine and food. I rolled out of my waterbed, crawled on my belly across the floor and slid like a seal head first down the loft stairs where they put me onto a sling and carried me to the ambulance, where I immediately disappeared into unconsciousness. When I returned to this reality after an indeterminate period of time I looked at the nurse and croaked, “Wow, nice to be back,” and threw up a huge amount of gelatinous blood. It looked like pre-chewed Jell-O quivering in her tray.
Oh, I was gone. I mean, I left my body. Before—in the fourteen hours of vomiting blood—I would occasionally lose consciousness and there’d be a nether region where I was aware I might not come back and then I’d worry about Mom and return. But down in the ambulance I zoomed right past that point. I was gone. When I regained sight, it was literally, Wow, I’m back, and it felt good. I was glad.
I officially quit drinking in intensive care the third time they shoved the tube up my nose and down my throat. The first two times I gagged the tube back out with my throat muscles. I decided right then that if I lived I would never have a tube shoved up my nose again due to alcohol, and I haven’t drank since.
The docs dripped six units of blood into me. After the fifth unit one doctor turned to the other two and said, “Where’s it going?” A friend inquired later if I knew what type blood I’d received. I said, “No but the next time I went downtown I bought a five hour boxed set of James Brown music.”
Back home, Mom dumped my blood bucket because the rot smelled bad. Everyone’s an art critic.
After I stopped drinking Mom admitted to me, “It was so bad living with your drinking I was thinking of moving out.”
“Where would you have gone?” I asked.
“I had no place to go,” she said, “but I couldn’t have stayed with you the way you were.”

I got a call from Dick Head while still in the hospital. “I can’t drink anymore or I’ll die,” I told him.
“Then why don’t you die!” he screamed. “I’d rather die than not drink.”

 

neZ Zen

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

iceZen

neZ Zen

Lying in hot bath eyes closed
sweat running down face
silently chanting
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo
in my heart head
the chant bought in San Francisco
in 1966 for six dollars
that being 48 years ago
makes it twelve and a half cents per year
so far
which is a reasonable return on spiritual investment
especially since it was a set-up
me thinking the two attractive Asian girls
inviting me to the suburbs
were into romance
but arrived at a Buddhist temple instead.

It wasn’t Zen but like John Lennon said
I don’t believe in Buddha or Christ
or Marx unless it’s Groucho
so I chant half to myself
half to the Conscious Cosmos
and half to whatever’s in-between.

They say chant sez
Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra or
Glory to the Sutra of the Lotus of the Supreme Law
I didn’t know that then
and don’t know much now
but agree with go and flow.

In Sanskrit
Nam ~ devotion to
Myo ~ to open, strange, mystery, miracle, revive, life
Ho ~ law, principle, doctrine, death
Myoho ~ supreme law of Buddha
Ren ~ lotus
Ge ~ flower
Kyo ~ sutra, teaching.

For me it’s more a multi-levular way
of saying thanks to the Cosmos for the fun of my life
or soothing reminder to calm down let anger go
and buffer the boredom down here in the food chain.

Chant’s 761 years old
I’ve had it 48 so far
six percent of its life
seventy percent of mine
as I truck along
in spite what those along the way
thought of my chances
in this left foot right foot eyes down mouth closed world.

All harmony to the Dharma.

– Smith, 3.5.2014


tireZen

StephenKingZen

 

Bakers Shoeman

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

bird on wire

Bakers Shoeman

Working at the shoe store
seeing ladies’ thighs, seeing ladies’ thighs, seeing ladies’ thighs,
working at the show store seeing ladies’ thighs,
heaven is a state of mind.

But since eyeballs bring no commission,
and pussy don’t pad the paycheck,
cash’s more important than the flashes.

– Smith, 2.20.2014

excerpt from SotL&F:

When I started at Loyola College, I couldn’t work at Bethlehem Steel anymore because of the hours, so I became a snow cone flavor delivery boy. Once I saw how filthy the flavoring vats were, I stopped eating snow cones off the street. Then I became a womens shoe salesman because the store had flexible hours and I could still go to school. After I sold a pair of shoes, I was required to try to sell a belt, purse and gloves to go with the shoes. This made me feel unclean and indelicate, so I didn’t.

One day I told my boss, “I’m not carrying my weight around here, am I.”

“No,” he said. “But you add a sense of class.”

I didn’t wear underwear then. One night my pants ripped as I crouched down to put on a customer’s shoe and my testicles popped out. The boss gave me a stiff canvas money bag, and I went down to the mall’s mens room with its seven urinals and green metal toilet stall walls and sewed the bag to the crotch of my pants and got this poem:

National Debt

Huddled beneath behind
Green metal stalls
The tile encrusted
Yellow, he sews an
Empty money bag
To his crotch, watches
His reflection mirrored
In regimented urinals
five six seven
Decaying down the wall
Cradling his existence
Fraying five to seven
In staid erotic fear
Small spider woven
Through uninforming ears
Tired of heaven he sews
His money to his crotch
He huddles

Outside of being one of 2,754 naked people in Spencer Tunick’s Cleveland nude shoot in 2004, I have never seen as much female flesh as I did as a womens shoe salesman. Women knowingly spread their legs as I crouched at their feet and asked me help them on with their boots. But after the first couple weeks all I cared about was commission.

– from Stations of the Lost & Found, a True Tale of Armed Robbery, Stolen Cars, Outsider Art, Mutant Poetry, Underground Publishing, Robbing the Cradle, and Leaving the Country by Smith & Lady, 2012, The City Poetry Press, $20, 364 pages, 5.06″ x 7.81″

createspace.com/3903652

amazon.com/Stations-Lost-Found-Steven-Smith/dp/1477628290


on a roll

 

what would Jack do?

Monday, August 5th, 2013

detail Smith sculpture – foto Smith

What would Jack do?

Reading Jack Keroauc’s truth-disguised-as-fiction “Tristessa” (1960) which I hadn’t known about until I bought it used from Guide to Kulchur for $5.

Kerouac was my main driver of yearning for adventure and travel ever since my 17 yr-old self read “On the Road” in 1963 and it inspired a fire to go to Mexico and smoke dope.

Took me four years to find marijuana, two more months to put a needle in my arm, 44 years to hit Marrakech and six months more for Mexico.

Now I read his adventures and think, hmmm, getting drunk, done that . . . smoking grass, yup . . . joy riding, yes . . . mainlining, been there . . . smoking opium, of course . . . hash in Morocco mushrooms in Mexico, uh huh . . . walking Zen trail, still dabble.

But the one thing I did poor Jack didn’t was pass through the maelstrom of alcohol and needles and snorting and sniffing and popping.

I ended up drinking myself to death 22 years ago and haven’t imbibed since, stopped needles 14 years ago, quit cocaine three years later, and discovered a couple years ago during my hip replacement I no longer enjoy pills.

So I’m down to 2 cups strong coffee daily and grass anytime I have the chance. Last did LSD in 1985 and magic mushrooms down in Mexico 5 years ago, though I’ll do both again in ten years or so.

Find that Jack’s words which excited my 17 yr self now seem tame, shallow, but still the initial thrill that primed my adventure pump by showing there was more out there than suits, suburbs, TV.

What he did and wrote was important because he did it first and he did it well. He hopped the Beat train before it left the station, before it even had a destination. Unfortunately he drunkenly stumbled off part way thru the journey to go home, live with mom, drink himself to death, losing his mad holy light while railing at those still riding, especially the (to him) free loading hippies who hadn’t earned a ticket.

That’s the second thing I did Jack didn’t – I stayed on the train. There’s a third string we have in common . . . we both drank ourselves to a bleeding throat ulcer which killed us, except I rose the third day and walked home sober.

What he did isn’t lessened by later because we’re all weak and constantly stray quit fail walk away, so thanks Jack for the journey. You are my original light, and I cherish your burnt-out bulb. You turned America to the possibility of leaving the sheep pen and having exotic adventures. You also showed us failure.

Both are lessons to use.


2 from Guide to Kulchur – foto Smith

London, 2006 – foto Smith

 

 
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