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.  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.

In 1979 Norman published a poem about my father in his book Norman Rosten Selected Poems.  It was titled  “The Split Bicycle”.  Apparently Norman was amused by the fact that my father’s latest purchase was a bike for city residents who wanted to easily store their bike in their workplace or apartment.  The wheels were on the small side, it quickly dismantled into two halves, and it was easy to carry. At that point in time a lot of people in NYC were riding them.  The poem is posted under the “Friends” Menu on the Home Page.

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.”
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1970’s photo of Norman Rosten, by Adriana Glaze.  Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

— 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

 

173 Bleecker Street
173 Bleecker Street, between Sullivan and MacDougal Streets.
The store downstairs was a launderette when we lived there. We were on the 4th level if you count the ground level. Our two windows were the left side of the fire escape.

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/

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Fletcher Pratt at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, 1948.
Photo by Andrew Glaze, property of The Andrew Glaze Estate.

— E. Glaze

Bill Where Are You?

For William Gaither 1917—1966

I think of you racketing
around Birmingham astride our purple Henry J,
busted door lashed shut,
and running a bowling alley out
Mountain Brook way.
Still, I’m convinced, once more we’re going
To put up a house on the Southside.
But Schatzi says we’re not.
That it happened again.

The first time, they thought you were drunk.
You spent ten hours
in the city tank, bless your infarcted heart,
and sued the council.

The only carpenter-plumber
I ever heard of who loved ballet,
started life as a dealer of 21
in the loop of Chicago,
acted in plays, studied at school
with the Syndicate’s odds maker,
and every year got four week’s work
as Santa Claus.

I remember we made a practice barre
for Richard and Gage,
and one day Schatzi wrote and said
you wouldn’t come home anymore.

Once you said, to hit the jackpot,
catch a women square upon the cervix.
You caught her,
But she hadn’t caught you anywhere.
You were still most happy thinking
of bumming drunk and free
about the two foot snow
of the blizzard of ’48 in Illinois.

18 months you came every day,
you helped remake my house.
I don’t know why, there wasn’t any money.
Maybe you needed like faith
to be useful at anything.
You kept me from going insane.
That’s all I wanted to say.
Except – sleep well.
I can’t figure out for the life of me
where you’ve gone.

© Andrew Glaze 1978, from The Trash Dragon of Shensi

 

Betsy with Bill Gaither, who worked as Santa every Christmas.jpg
Bill Gaither with Elizabeth Glaze (age 5) at a Birmingham department store.
Photo property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

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Gage Bush Englund, on the cover of Dance Magazine 1963,
photo by Jack Mitchell.

Yes, we really did have a purple Henry J.  The day my father first drove it home he stood with it on the street, as a surprise, and my mother sent me to look out the window of my 2nd floor bedroom. Up to that point we’d been driving around in a car with rope strung across an opening where a door was missing. Nowadays that would be highly illegal, but this was the ’50’s.

Gage Bush was an heiress who grew up with my father, and overcame some degree of polio as a child to have a successful ballet career and meet her husband dancer Richard Englund. At some point, Bill and my father helped them build a barre for ballet practice. Over the years, Gage and Richard alternated living in Birmingham and New York. When my stepmom Adriana met my father she already knew Richard because they danced together in “Camelot”. When my father and Adriana married, we took over an apartment from Richard and Gage while they returned to Birmingham for a few years. They ended up founding The Birmingham Civic Ballet before returning to New York where they worked with American Ballet Theatre and the Joffrey Ballet.

Bill Gaither was a neighbor who lived around a corner and downhill from our home-in-progress.  According to my father,  Bill drove past our house everyday and had been steadily watching the renovation process.  Then one day he decided to park and walk up hill across our front yard to introduce himself. By the time he left he’d volunteered his services to help, and from that point on he was there almost every day.  He and Schatzi (his wife’s nickname), became great friends with my parents. I remember having dinner at their house. One day during “naptime” I managed to sneak past my mother as she stood with her back to me at the kitchen sink, and went off to visit them. I was fond of them as well.

The final stage of our move to Manhattan was in the summer of 1957.  Bill and my father alternated driving North in the Henry J with a small rental trailer hitched to the back, while I sat/slept in the back seat. My mother, grandmother, and I had already forged a path to Manhattan and found an apartment. I returned to Birmingham with my grandmother while my mother waited in NYC. At the end of our journey, knowing we’d have no need for a car in Manhattan, as a token of gratitude for his work, friendship, and help with our move, my father gave Bill our purple Henry J and he drove back home in it.

At some point, I remember my father telling me that Bill had been mistakenly locked up as a drunk when he’d had a heart issue. He was upset at the news.  I don’t remember how much time passed between that and when Bill had a fatal heart attack, but when my father learned that he had died at the age of 49, he was crushed and broke the news to me. It was only 9 years since our move, and they’d stayed in touch. I always liked the fact that my father wrote a poem to give him a moment of immortality.

— E. Glaze

Earl

He was twenty. He was half crazy.
With his head like a half-baffled chocolate easter egg,
there he was painting my house in Birmingham Alabama
doing things backwards,
painting from the bottom up,
so the new paint from above
ran down on the new paint below,
putting turpentine in the water colors.
He always jumped from the back-porch roof
to the ground- -fourteen feet.
—I used to be a paratrooper, said Earl—
I came down in the war with Russia
Shooting a submachine gun around me in circles,
nobody had a chance to get a bead on me–
I shot them first. They thought
I was the holy, iron-assed , frosted bird.
I won the war—
The top of the house was fifty feet in the air,
the ladder was forty.
Earl fastened a ladder to the gutter.
He nailed a two by four with wooden cleats
to the top of the ladder.
He nailed a paintbrush to a broom.
He climbed up and sat on the top of them all.
He looked like a man just out of a fountain spray
of white paint. He waved the paintbrush
over his head like a banner on top of the broom.
He yelled out over the roofs of Birmingham Alabama
—look at me up here—
Look at me! Anybody want to argue?—

© Andrew Glaze, 1965, from Damned Ugly Children.

Who was Earl?

In 1950, my parents began a 7 year task of converting a large house into 4 apartments (6 if you include an attic apartment and the small servants quarters building in the back yard).  They divided the house into four quandrants, and each time they completed an apartment in one quadrant they would rent it out.  I have memories of living in at least three, if not all four portions of the house, because as soon as the section we were living in was improved, we would move to another quadrant so they could finish it off and rent it. It made for an interesting childhood, and my parents accumlated a large number of construction skills. My mother later taught me to do drywall, and in the ’80’s my father helped me sand the floor in my Manhattan apartment.

For the house in Birmingham they occasionally needed hired help and that is how Earl arrived. My mother later said she felt that Earl had some sort of developmental brain damage that left him a bit simple minded.  I never noticed, but then I was only about 4. In any case, he made himself memorable.  At some point his job required spending time on the roof, and when he was finished he rarely used the ladder to come back down. The house was on the south side of Red Mountain, and the back of the house was built on an upward slope.  My father would make sure I was well out of the danger zone, my heart would rise to my throat, Earl would take a flying leap, and he would land both feet firmly on the ground below. It wasn’t until 1963 that I realized my father had written a poem about him.

— E. Glaze

A journey

I was three years old
and I stepped up into the streetcar
while they thought I was taking a bath
where I sat next to a lady who smelled like raspberries.
Instead, she smiled like a macaroon.
“I’m going to find my mother,” I said.
“Jing!  Jing!” said the bell.
The conductor knew where he would be going,
how could he fail, set like intention
on that shining, parallel window-bar?
They asked me my name and I knew.
Trees and houses, gutters, motorcycles and cars.
So on ever since with never a stop.

© Andrew Glaze, 1974, from A Masque of Surgery

This poem caught the attention of Alice Esty, a wealthy Patron of the Arts and soprano singer, and she commissioned composer Ned Rorem to set it to music for voice. You can go to Youtube to hear an audio version of it.

My father explained his childhood adventure this way:
His father was at work at his medical office downtown, and his mother had taken the streetcar downtown to sit for a portrait at a photographers studio.  His nanny was looking after him, but he managed to get dressed and sneak out, probably while she was doing other things around the house. He confidently waited at the streetcar stop and climbed on when it stopped for riders.

The lady he sat next to — who smelled like a macaroon — turned out to be a genius. She quickly realized he was on his own, engaged him in conversation and in short order  learned his father’s name and the fact that his father had an office downtown.  She stood up, quietly instructed the driver not to let the little boy leave the Streetcar, got off at the next stop, found a phone, and called his father’s office to tell them what was going on. By the time the streetcar arrived downtown by his father’s office, his mother was there waiting for him. He said he ran to his mother, happily exclaiming, “Momma what took you so long!”  My father followed this with, “and that’s how I ended up in the portrait photo”. My uncle and I recently searched for a studio portrait of my father with his mother at that age. When we found it we realized that his baby sister was also in it. So perhaps he wasn’t happy at being left behind, and that was the motivation for his journey.

—E. Glaze

A Journey photo