Nijinsky

Bending up the stairs,
dance case swung to my shoulder to the back,
I looked one flight above and saw Nijinsky
sitting on the steps—I swear—
his thighs wide-stretched and huge,
facing me with wild, high cheekbones, V-shaped chin,
clinging over me like an angry Scaramouch.

His eyes burned with a hollow light,
and stared in mine like a curious grievance brought to bay.
Contempt drew down the corners of his mouth,
made ploughed contours over the ridges of his eyes.
—you are too gross to speak of—he seemed to accuse
—old clot of fifty-eight,
desecrating my youthful art—.

“Exercise!” I stammered.
How could I make the ridiculous word compose itself?
I writhed in the contumely of his eyes
with their ghostly fire,
so the truth came hurtling out
like a series of tours de reins.
“I pickpocket a taste of it, that’s all—for love.”

His face cleared as though with a blast of light.
He grinned, fading,
and I swear, left a fleeting thought
as the stairs grew stairs again
and a tiny wind blew,
—Nothing excuses anything—nothing—
but passion’s the most forgivable greed in a thief—.

Copyright by Andrew Glaze, 1991, from Reality Street

This was the first poem ever published by Dance Magazine, August,1980.

 

What made my father decide to start ballet lessons at the age of 45?

In his youth my father played soccer and softball at school, skied, hiked and biked in France after WW2, and played golf and tennis in his 20’s. When we lived in Greenwich Village I watched him hit tennis volleys against a designated brick wall at a local playground. After we moved uptown to 53rd Street, he biked to and from work every day, and occasionally rode around in Central Park. 

I had been a ballet dancer since age 3. This was for two reasons.
One.  My mother noticed that I spent large parts of the day dancing around the house.
Two. She happened to read Agnes De Mille’s best-selling autobiography.
In it De Mille revealed that she’d led a tortured life, because she’d been denied ballet lessons as a child. My mother said she looked at me pirouetting around the room, went into full panic mode, and quickly enrolled me in The Lola Mae Jones School of Ballet. This was Alabama, and, yes, not only was there a genuine “Lola Mae Jones”, but she had a daughter with the same name, so there were actually TWO of them. My excitement was short lived. Even at the age of 3, I was worldly wise enough to realize that pretending to be a clock or a teapot had little to do with ballet, and I craved the real stuff.  By the time I was five I still wasn’t past the tea pot phase, and couldn’t handle another minute of pretending to be an elephant swinging my trunk. I retired.

THEN, we moved to Manhattan and my father’s cousin Hansel took me to see The New York City Ballet perform Balanchine’s version of The Nutcracker. I wanted to be one of the children in it, and by that spring I’d come out of retirement and auditioned for their school.  By September I was a student at the School of American Ballet.  My teapot days were over. Instead I had two Russian ballet teachers; one frequently terrorized us to tears, and the other was so sweet we took advantage of her. I soldiered on with determination.

However, my father’s own interest didn’t awaken until after he met and married my stepmom. She was also a ballet dancer.  At that point, he wanted to learn more about the career of his new wife, share in her interests, and understand our terminology. In addition, he once told me that he took up ballet for exercise, because he found traditional calisthenics to be extremely boring. I suspect it also appealed to his lifelong love of classical music, and he enjoyed the easy comradery of his adult classmates. For me, the drawback was that my adoring father transitioned into a dad who not only knew when I was dancing well, but also knew when I wasn’t.

After he retired from his job in the 1980’s, he took up golf again, although his equipment was fairly ancient. I have it on the best of authority (my husband) that when things weren’t going well on the golf course (which was frequently), my normally mild mannered father would release a fountain of profanity that made other golfers blush.  When it was really bad, clubs would go flying. This was not the case when he was at the dance studio.

He never flattered himself that he was very good at ballet, and truthfully, he was not. But he enjoyed it, and kept it up until he was 82. At that point he moved back to Birmingham with my stepmom, and switched to yoga classes instead. He kept up with yoga until he was around 93.

Personally, I think Nijinsky would have been rather impressed with that.

Vaslav-Nijinsky-russian-ballet-icon
Vaslav Nijinsky, as the Golden Slave in Scheherazade, 1888.

—E. Glaze

Queen Mab Song

Mother was dying. Asked my sister courteously
(what other way can you think?) – troubled, as one
who’d forgotten a little something—
“Martha, could you tell me who my husband was?”
Then she heard the news. Her gentle cheeks trembled
with a gust of fear – or amazement, out of years past.
–“Not one of those terrible Glazes from Elkton!”

Her people were (and are to this day)
a pleasant, loving, ceremonious folk
who number cousins down through the generations,
build their houses slowly, one next to another,
as children run in and out like spinning bobbins,
weaving the cloth of coming and going and having gone.

My father’s clan were a mad cannibalistic lot.
His father, a run-away, spent the civil war
in the saddle, cutting and bandaging Forrest’s men,
hadn’t spoken to his father or hated step-mother
in years – later, didn’t speak to his second wife–
all the time they were raising a clever brood of five.

Descended from such a union, it’s not prodigy
that I crawl like a baffled planet across an eerie sky.
Driven first by bitter attachment to blood,
nothing at all to do with either sense or the time,
whether my people care for my cares or what I do,
and also, without a break in the music, lives out of step
wildly alone, balks at their company
or being away from it, either remembered or alone.

Yet I’ve had luck. That I could not destroy myself as my father did,
and had one talisman to clutch, and lonely craft
woven out of her music, his passion for words–
her calm plenitude, his untamed wildness,
which by its spell delivers me across ditches,
flares in darkness. By its strange gift to shuttle
madness and wrong, it weaves fire and water
into a strong cloth spun out of one house
winding into another, up against sky, down into earth,
strapping filth and nakedness into song.

Copyright Andrew Glaze Estate, 2018, previously unpublished.

 

The story at the beginning of the poem is completely genuine, and has become legendary among the members of the Glaze family.

My Grandmother, Mildred Ezell Glaze, died just short of turning 94 years old, in 1981. The average age of death in her family was always over 90. Her one downfall was osteoporosis which landed her in the hospital, with a broken hip – twice.  I remember that both times her doctors predicted she’d leave us soon from congestive heart failure after becoming bedridden, only to eat their words — twice. It was only after she tried to open a window and her back collapsed that she really did begin to slide downhill, at which point her memory decided to join in for the ride. 

She had always been a petit but firm matriarchal figure. Her white hair behaved itself in a tidy French twist during the day, but cascaded down her back when she brushed it at night.  She was from Pulaski Tennessee, outside of Nashville. It was a metropolis compared to Elkton just down the road. 

As a teen, during a visit to Birmingham with my father, I went along to a dinner party one of her friends was hosting. Afterwards, Mamma sat in a chat circle with her friends and I realized that every one of them had blue eyes and a pearl necklace.  

My father liked to repeat a story she’d told him about a similar gathering many years earlier. It was spring, and one of her friends had invited the rest of them to her home at the height of strawberry season. They all dressed in their best and sat around her oval dining table, chatting and eating as they dipped their strawberries into a large platter of white powdered sugar at the center of the table.

It was during this idyllic scene of privileged indulgence that the hostess’s pet parrot suddenly got the notion to fly into the room in search of his mistress and aimed for a landing spot. He selected the dining table. It was only as he began his descent that he noticed the platter of powdered sugar below him and changed his mind. Pumping his wings furiously to regain height, a giant mushroom cloud of powdered sugar arose all around him and female guests ran in every direction. When the dust settled everyone was coated in white.

“Mamma”, as I called her (for Grandma), had 5 sisters and 2 brothers. They grew up living near their cousins and did indeed spend the day running between houses. She had a wonderfully happy childhood. For their entire lives the 5 girls went by the names their youngest sister Mary gave them as a baby. Martha was “Arter”, Marjorie was “Argie”, Mildred was “Mimmi”, and Sarah was “Tarai”. 

My mother once told me that Mamma, who was her mother-in-law at the time, had confided, “Andy’s so proud that he resembles his father that I never had the heart to tell him that he looks just like my own father. I married a man who looked like my father.”

The reality was that he also inherited many of the personality traits and interests of her father. His own father wanted a son to play catch with, and took him to shoot guns at the driving range, but he was more interested in watching baseball, reading, and listening to classical music. According to my father, his younger sister was the apple of their dad’s eye. His mother realized this, and later admitted that she made a conscious effort to be my father’s champion to try and balance things out.  It helped, but not completely. He always struggled under the feeling that he never quite lived up to his father’s expectations, and since my grandfather died when my father was 25 and overseas in the army, he was left to try and wrestle it out through his poems.

Ironically, when my brother became a teenager he spent most of his free time playing softball in Central Park, dreamt of going to the pros, and once lamented to me that our father was never the type to take him out and throw a ball around with him. Clearly, it skipped a generation. As for myself, my father cultivated a large number of common interests in me, which is how I ended up excitedly attending my first opera with him when I was all of four years old, and attending Gilbert & Sullivan productions with him as a tween. At age 8 I loved nothing more than to watch the “Play of the Week” on television with my parents. On the other hand, my brother inherited our father’s gentle and shy personality, enormous loyalty to the women in his life, quick witted sense of humor, and the ability to generate nonstop groan worthy puns. The talent for puns was an ability that my father also shared with his former father-in-law, W.Y. Elliott, and even, to my great dismay, with my husband. As puns have never been my favorite form of humor, I have spent my life cringing my way through many family dinners.

My father spoke several times to me about the fact that his mother read “Water Babies” to him as a child and he remembered it as a beautiful tale. So much so that he picked it up years later to reread, only to discover that it contained a large amount of religious content that he had no memory of. So he asked his mother about it and she replied, “Oh, I left all that stuff out when I read it to you”. He was impressed by her ability to edit on the fly. He carried on the family tradition of reading books to the younger generation at bedtime. By the time I left to study in England shortly before turning 19, he’d carried on reading to me through high school until we finished the entire Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series. I did the same with my daughter and she was in high school by the time we finished the 7th book of the Harry Potter series.  My brother not only read to his children but shared our father’s interest in reading P.G. Wodehouse books aloud to his wife in the evening.

After the divorce, which was initiated by my mother, I remember visiting Mamma’s apartment the following summer and noticing that she’d carefully cut my mother out of a framed group photo. According to my uncle, she also massacred the entire photo album. There was no mistaking it; she was pissed off.  Despite his great emotional pain, our father never said a word to us against our mother. His loyalty remained unshaken, and he remained friends with our mother’s parents.  Mamma also remained congenial to them after the divorce and told me she’d visited the local funeral parlor to sign the condolence book when our maternal grandmother died. It was a lovely gesture that had required effort. She had no way to get there other than to call a taxi.

Mamma had travelled to some extent when she was younger, and she visited us in New York City on several occasions as she grew older. These trips gave me the opportunity to observe a skill that my father and my uncle had discussed with bemused amazement for many years.  Mamma had the ability to strike up a conversation with a total stranger in any city, and immediately find some direct connection they had to Pulaski Tennessee. It happened repeatedly. In Mamma’s world, all roads led to Pulaski.

Before she died I asked her to leave me a statuette that I’d always admired sitting on her living room shelf. My father was thrilled that she fulfilled my request, because he loved it too.  The statuette had a story to accompany it.  She said that my grandfather had stopped off to visit a friend who had an art gallery, and fell in love with the statuette. So he bought it. He bought it even though it was during WW2 and he had to use all of the food ration stamps they had for the entire month, which he happened to have with him since he had just picked them up.  She said she was ready to kill him at the time, but was glad to have the statuette now.  Personally, I think our grandfather realized that he had other options available to him and that they’d never starve to death. You see, a few years earlier Mamma had presented me with an Elgin watch she had as a spare, explaining that it was one that Dr. Glaze had received as a barter payment from a patient. He was a dermatologist, and I’m going to hazard a guess that his patients often paid him with food and ration stamps as well.

This may sound strange, but my grandmother’s teeth outlived her.  When she eventually landed in a nursing home, every evening a new nurse would ask her for her dentures, and Mamma would reply, “They’re my own”.  And every evening they wouldn’t believe her until they finally read her chart and realized that, at age 93, she did indeed still have all of her own teeth. In addition, her teeth had few, if any, fillings. My father inherited her teeth genetics. He used to come home from dental cleanings and tell us that while he was sitting in the examination chair, the dentist had dragged every single member of his staff into the room exclaiming, “Look at this set of teeth, because you’ll never see another set like them again!!!”  Her Ezell family DNA for teeth is what everyone in our family hopes to inherit. My brother was lucky enough to be on the receiving end.  It might seem like a strange sort of legacy to leave behind, and it’s about as predictable as a winning lottery ticket, but to those in the family who have it, it’s priceless!

Mama Niazuma Ave. 7-1938

Mildred Ezell Glaze, photographed by Andrew Glaze, 1938.
Copyright of the Andrew Glaze Estate, 2018

— E. Glaze

Lights

For Alice Esty,

In Bengal at the Spring Festival
having carved a small boat
out of the fresh wood,
they walk to the river late at night.
It looks like a vast sliding ebony sea,
and each lights a candle,
sets it at the center
of his own vessel,
and pushes it gently out into the water.

Faster and faster it’s carried away,
thousands  of lights! lights! lights!
rushing past like a field of flickering stars
drifting over the edge of the waters of the earth
into everywhere.
Something in me is about kneeling down
doing that every day.

© Andrew Glaze, 1978, from The Trash Dragon of Shensi

WNYC radio has a 1978 podcast of Glaze reading “Lights”. It is near the beginning of the broadcast:  https://www.wnyc.org/story/andrew-glaze/

In the ’70s I worked in Europe as a professional ballet dancer and my father and I exchanged letters regularly.  The summer of 1976, I came home to visit and my father showed me a page of hand written sheet music by Ned Rorem. It was a piano accompaniment to his poem “A journey”, with the words “For Alice” scrawled in a corner. He explained that a friend had shown his 1974 booklet “A Masque of Surgery” to a female friend who fell in love with the first poem in the book and commissioned Rorem to put it to music. My father played a tape of the song for me. I had no idea who the soprano was.

Not many years ago, I was looking through The Trash Dragon of Shensi when I turned to the first poem in the book (“Lights”) and noticed it was dedicated to “Alice Esty”. My father had no memory of who she was. So I looked on the internet and discovered she was a soprano who married William Esty, the founder of Esty Advertising, and became a patron of the arts. In particular, she commissioned composers to set poems to music for her to sing. Ned Rorem was a favorite. I realized that she was the “For Alice” mentioned on Rorem’s sheet music for “A Journey”, and it was her voice on the tape that I’d heard in 1976.  The logical conclusion was that when his next poetry book came out in 1978 my father decided to dedicate a poem to her as a thank you. When I jogged their memories, my father and stepmom concluded that their link to Alice Esty had been a friend named Walter Perry, from Birmingham. Walter had inherited money and once a year he would come North to Manhattan and host a formal dress party of epic proportions. This may be how he came to know Alice Esty.

Walter Perry's party

Walter Perry (left), Adriana Keathley Glaze (center), and Andrew Glaze (right), at one of Walter’s annual formal parties in Manhattan.
Photo property of Andrew Glaze Estate.

— E. Glaze

What’s That You Say Cesar?

To Cesar Ortiz-Tinoco

The poet—a political animal?
Yes! Yes!
The way you said that phrase undressed me completely.
There I was naked in a painting of Orozco
holding up a torch which was my own
arm burning above the elbow.
And you yourself were Father Hidalgo
tolling the church-bell of Dolores,
pulling yourself straight up into the air
with your own emotion.
At a moment like that, who would not agree?
yes—yes—a poet is a political animal.

But he is as many other kinds of animal as possible, too.
A suffering animal—delegated
to take on the madness and feckless atrocity of us all,
and of everything.
A hungry animal.
Everything at which he looks with passion
he desires to eat.
A living animal—almost so much more alive
than he or anyone else can have the patience to endure.
A traveling animal, emitting and transmitting
A fighting animal.  He is always down
at the back fence gathering handfuls of ass-manure.
He is able to throw three hundred yards
and strike his enemy in the eye without fail.
A capricious animal.
Here he is sniffing at the holes of bad fortune
and good fortune,
he is trying to decide which will taste better
and is worth digging out of the ground.
A lustful animal.
See how everything he looks at makes him either angry
or in love?

He is always down by the docks helping Venus
out of the sea to be raped.
He is always avenging her rape in a vertigo of righteous rage.

Backs and buttocks and breasts–
he is thrown into spells of deep breathing
and scalded imagination by backs and buttocks and breasts.
By the idea of backs buttocks and breasts!
(male or female).
He falls away constantly
into snatches of mating dances and fertility incantations.

Well then, of course–
when he has been all these kinds of animal,
what you say, too.
Certainly he is in love with the idea of kings and queens,
also presidents, secretaries, first commissar’s
leaders of communes, oligarchists and prime ministers.
He does not disdain dictators.
He has been one, he expects to be one again,
at the first overturn of the state.
Do you see that creature crawling below
about the ballot boxes, snuffling?
It is he.
Also that one standing on the balcony
eating up the cheers.
If there is anyone who loves justice he is there
if there is anyone who loves injustice,
he is there also.
He is in whatever place anyone lives or no-one.
Whatever gave you the idea he was any person in particular?
He was intended to be you.

© Andrew Glaze, from A Masque of Surgery, 1974

 

Cesar Ortiz Tinoco was a Mexican diplomat who worked at the Mexican Embassy in Manhattan. He was the husband of Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz, a poet, writer of cookbooks and other things, and regular contributor to Gourmet Magazine. He was short and compact, while Elizabeth was tall, large boned, full figured, and English. Together, they made one of the most entertaining couples I have ever met. They also greatly enjoyed their cocktails, and came to every house party we had.  Elizabeth consistently wore an attractive cluster of chunky Mexican silver jewelry and they suited her large frame.  Cesar’s position as a diplomat once brought them an invitation to a party at the Irish Embassy.  They laughed as they told us it had been addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Cesar O’rtiz, thereby proving that everyone really is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

According to a 1985 interview, my father said that Oscar Williams introduced him to Elizabeth.  All I know is that a photo of my father with Elizabeth was taken on the same day as a photo of my father with Oscar.

Elizabeth and Cesar hosted one legendary dinner party in 1967, to celebrate her newest effort, The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking.  Elizabeth had spent at least two years testing and perfecting the recipes for the book.  Misguidedly, someone left Craig Claiborne, the food critic for the New York Times, in charge of mixing the margaritas. I think I remember hearing about his “special recipe” during the aftermath.  Everyone had a great time and got up to leave. One guest immediately slid down the stairs on the way out. A second was so dazed she left her glasses in a taxi. A third tripped over on the walk home. Basically everybody in attendance had some sort of accident on their way home other than my parents. My parents made it home safely, and at about 2 AM my father got up to get a glass of water in the kitchen and promptly passed out. The following day was spent trading stories of post-party mishaps.

Elizabeth’s Mexican cookbook contained a recipe for Mexican Wedding Cookies. She’d enjoyed that particular cookie at my parent’s annual Christmas party for years, but still did a taste test of over 10 alternate recipes for comparison. In the end she said, “None of them are as good as yours!”. To this day Elizabeth’s book is still available and page 286 says, “This recipe was given to me by my friend Adriana Keathley Glaze, the dancer and actress”.

For more detail about Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz you can read this link:
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2003/nov/27/guardianobituaries.booksobituaries
Andy with Elizabeth Lambert
Andrew Glaze with Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz, photo by Oscar Williams, June, 1964.

with oscar williams 1964
Oscar Williams with  Andrew Glaze, June 1964.

— E. Glaze

Ghost Writer

                 In memory of Norman Rosten, 1914-1995

It’s been only five days now, but reliable
as Mozart, he’s already following me around
like a clumsy phantom of winds, reeds,
flies and brown bears. Doppelganger
with the sardonic smile, he took such long pains
to construct himself—a sort of small-sized, shaggy
aircraft-carrier, emitting flights—
now he can laugh, hide behind doors,
make great fun of going where he’s already gone.
What they call Death is ordinary,
respectable and rude. He doesn’t fit.
How can he be giving me prods
and showers of hilarious meaningless threats?
He makes a terrible spook, an incompetent vampire
who’s donated all his blood to poems.

Yet no mistaking who’s slamming the doors,
creaking on the stairs, fluttering in the glass
with the orange juice. Each wandering electricity
is followed by the smell of its own ozone.
You may throw iron filings in the air, as you will,
he’s free of exact diagrams. And honored
as I am to be haunted so, I remember there are—
how shall I say, ever so many others’—
he’ll want to frequent, to honor with his wraithly
touch, that it’s pure luck—pure luck!—
every one of us—to be dogged by the spirit
of such a generous poltergeist, whatever
side of the door the gift is coming from,
whether going out or coming in.

© Andrew Glaze, 2002, from Remembering Thunder

 

Norman Rosten, was the Poet Laureate of Brooklyn, and became my father’s best friend. Their story began in 1964, when Oscar Williams suddenly died.  Oscar was a poetry anthologist with several highly successful volumes that were standard at US high schools and colleges. Someone introduced them, they became friendly and eventually Oscar asked why my father never showed him any of his poems. When my father obliged, Oscar shared them with his poet friend Elizabeth Lambert and reported back that they were “Impressed”.  In a 1985 interview with Steven Ford Brown, my father said that it was Williams who’d nagged him to put a manuscript for a book together.  I remember that my father said Oscar was planning to include his work in the next anthology.  During this time, Oscar invited my father and stepmom to his weekend home (on long island I believe), and introduced him to Elizabeth Lambert. I met Williams when he came to dinner at our apartment one evening.  But most importantly, he personally took the manuscript of my father’s poems to Trident Press at Simon & Schuster and told them to publish it. Trident was the publisher of his own books, and he was an advisor/editor there.  Oscar began overseeing the editing of the book and my father was blissfully happy. And then, just as suddenly as the burgeoning friendship began, Oscar was gone.  My father was in shock.  Then a miracle happened. Trident Press had another poet advisor by the name of Norman Rosten. They turned to him for advice and he said, “Publish it!”  He was also impressed.

Norman was a special person, warm, gregarious, and with a sense of humor that matched my fathers. He lived in a huge rent controlled apartment in a Brooklyn brownstone building that he shared with his wife Hedda and daughter Patricia. It was in fact such a great apartment that later in life when he was an aging widower, his young landlord, who longed to live there himself, offered a trade to him. In exchange for Norman giving up his rent controlled lease, he would receive the gift of ownership of a nearby studio condo apartment. Norman took him up on the offer.

Norman was full of surprises. Besides doing screenplays, stage plays, poems, and a children’s book, in 1973 he came out with the book Marilyn; an Untold Story, revealing his families close friendship with Marilyn Monroe. In fact, Norman was the last person Marilyn spoke to on the night she died.  In 1993, he wrote the libretto for an opera titled “Marilyn” which was premiered by the City Opera at Lincoln Center. But his real specialty was sending postcards to friends with humorous cartoon balloon captions drawn above postage stamps of past presidents.

One winter in the 1990’s, when he was recovering from heart problems, he flew to Miami to stay with my father and stepmom for a while.  When I was there at Christmas my father told me about the visit and said, “We have to do whatever we can to keep Norman healthy. The world is a better place with him in it”. He mentioned that Norman had looked frail when he arrived, but enjoyed going to the beach, relaxing, and looked a bit better when he left.

When Norman died in 1995, I can truly say that my father was heartbroken.  Yet, what came out in the poem was his fondness for Norman, the shared sense of humor, and the twinkling eyed personality of his late friend.

Andrew Glaze 1970's, visiting writer and good friend Norman RostenSag Harbor Lovers July '75
Visiting Norman and Hedda Rosten.  On the playful photo of Glaze with his wife Hedda, Rosten wrote, “Stop it you two!” on the front and “Sag Harbor Lovers, July 1975” on the back.  Photos by Norman and Hedda Rosten. Property of the estate of Andrew Glaze.
The postcard below was sent to me by Norman, in 1969.
“I hear Betsy’s going to England.”
“I hope she remembers we won our independence.”
IMG_20171207_0001

— E. Glaze

I Come In Late

I come in late.  My daughter has gone to sleep.
There is an army of old shoes scattered,
they seemed like verve this morning,
tonight they have suddenly grown old.
There is a cold air from the window over her head,
she likes being friendly with the outside,
she is not so lonesome sleeping in my bed,
often she lies awake in the back
where her mother made her the princess bed with curtains
and stars, listening to the people next door
cursing each other.  She says her mother told her
people’s religion keeps them together
all life long, shouting at each other.
I get lonesome back there with strangers,” she says,
she misses her little brother complaining in the night.
She likes to see her mother twice a week
and has a witch who lives under her bed with a buzz saw.
She has to twist and turn to protect her feet.
I wish I had a witch under my bed with a buzz saw
who’d cut me clean in half while I was asleep.

Andrew Glaze, 1965, from DAMNED UGLY CHILDREN

 

My father wrote this poem during the separation and divorce from my mother.
It’s very visceral, and at the same time very literal.  That first year was extremely hard and my father and I kept each other going.  

I was 11 and my primary residence was with my father, while my 3 year old brother stayed with our mother. We still lived in the same Greenwich Village apartment at 173 Bleecker Street, with living room windows that looked out on the street below. When you first entered the apartment it was into the kitchen. There was a make shift closet in the opposite corner with a curtain across it. Shoes were always spilling out at the bottom.

My parents had given me the only bedroom in the apartment and one summer, while I was visiting Birmingham, my mother removed the long sliding doors from the closet and placed my twin sized bed inside it.  Using gold paint she drew interlocking circles on the wall at the back (“stars”), and draped diaphanous curtains across one end. It was undeniably my Princess Bed. I was almost 8, and quite in awe. I did silently wonder what I would do for a closet, but then she showed me the free standing wardrobe she’d built for me.

When my brother was born we became roommates. I had the far end and he had the end closest to the rest of the apartment. A partition divided us, but I could hear every sound he made. When he was a newborn, it was easier for me to hear him than it was for my parents and I was often the one who had to tell them he was crying. Sometimes it was easier to change his diaper myself just to speed up the process. Despite it all, when my mother and brother were no longer with us, I missed them.  Occasionally, when I was feeling down, I would ask to cuddle up to my dad on the fold out bed in the living room.

My father grew up in a family that was very gung ho on fresh air, and he carried on the custom. There was a window near the head of my bed, Manhattan apartments are notoriously overheated, and my window was always open at night. There was only one problem with this, which was that the window opened onto an “Air Shaft”. In Manhattan, this is a legally required open gap area between two buildings that would otherwise be completely butted up alongside each other. An air shaft provides fresh air, some degree of light, and a reverberation of noise that would make a movie sound engineer proud. Add a married couple who have screaming arguments with each other at night to this equation and they might as well be standing in the room with you.  My father was accurate in his account of what my mother told me when I asked why our neighbors stayed together when they clearly hated each other.

Other than nail biting, the one expression of anxiety I had was a witch living under my bed. She’d been there for several years. She did indeed have a buzz saw and I had to keep changing my position to prevent being dismembered, at least until I fell asleep. Whenever I had to go to the bathroom at night, I would also cleverly avoid having my feet cut off at the ankles by taking a flying leap off of and then back onto my bed.

I remember finally telling my father about my witch. Fortunately, she stayed behind when my father married my stepmother and we moved out of the apartment.

— E. Glaze

Skyline

“Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?” —Francois Villon
In memory of Fletcher and Inga Pratt

The skyline is foretelling, with its usual mystic fistula,
what’s to come,
as we ring the Pratt’s bell, and climb the stairs
to that lavish disheveled, vast frigate
forever casting off and around Columbus Circle
to dock at Central Park.
The tumbled decks thrive with Dictaphones,
marmosets, models of battleships, blinking girls,
life disguising itself with gossamer, lying, and illusions of ecstasy.
It’s only a ramshackle dream, but he’s paid
a weary admission to things that sneer and grasp and slam
that hurt awfully because they’re gone.
Back come back, he beseeches the shimmering past!
Once for an hour or two, he’d such companions—
David Garrick spying through the keyhole
on Doctor Johnson’s honeymoon with Tetty,
Sheridan eloping with Lizzy Lindsey out of the house
where Emma Hamilton shucked the beds as upstairs maid,
where Evelyn got his oranges off Nell Gwynne,
and Peter the Great is renting a garden, learning to sail
down the Thames flats, waving at Pepys and his brass spyglass.
Here we read all day long
the entries in each other’s eyes,
rustling the springs of a hundred trunks,
uncle, toad, bawd of the Prince of Wales,
toy, wink, devil and bad mistake.
Our illusions are practicing how to live,
and somehow happiest now
misted in the shifting clouds of a scribbler’s dream.
But infant and quonmdam prince, he must learn to be thankful
for any opening door,
content with making do, grasping for an instant the precious
chalice
that shines and vanishes. A risk the proud man
stays forever shackled to.
Dante explained it was like fire.
You crouch with impossibilities, the ugly and hateful,
the earnest, the humorless, the bilious, forever,
until that day you enter upon the dreadful dark,
around the knees of some vile maggoty mountain
and surprise! Enter on what you‘ve become,
a sort of dancing floor, beneath the riot of stars.

© Andrew Glaze, 2015, from Overheard In A Drugstore.

 

Fletcher Pratt was a beloved and eccentric pioneer in the field of science fiction novels and his wife Inga was a successful designer and illustrator. My father came to know them during his visits to the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference in 1948 and 1953. In reality their home was not on Columbus Circle in Manhattan, but at the New Jersey shore in a huge mansion they dubbed “The Ipsy Wipsy Institute”.  It was legendary for the constant flow of guest writers, celebrities, regular meetings of burgeoning science fiction writers that Pratt encouraged, and Pratts predilection towards pretending he was the host of a grand British manor house in the style of the English gentry.

If you’d like to read more, there is a wonderful blog on the subject:
http://www.thewaythefutureblogs.com/2010/12/fletcher-pratt/

IMG_20161023_0013 (2)
Fletcher Pratt at Breadloaf Writer’s Conference, 1948.
Photo by Andrew Glaze, property of The Andrew Glaze Estate.

— E. Glaze