Meditations on And Then Volume 19. Bernie Tuchman

Tras un corto periodo de lectura de las entregas de la revista And Then, Bernie Tuchman suele haber una resena poetica de todo el contenido del volumen, pagina a pagina, imagen a imagen. Mas que sinopsis, es la huella que cada lectura va dejando en el poeta. Es tal vez asi como en realidad se leen  y entienen los textos, desde los poeticos hasta los imformativos. La generosidad de Bernie se muestra no solo en este registro  sino en la practica de escuchar con el ojo poetico y el espiritu a cada uno de nosotros.

After reading And Then Magazine Bernie Tuchman does a poetic register of each piece. Rather than a chronicle this a register of the poetic traces the work of art leaves on the poet. Maybe this is the way we really read poetry and even mundane texts. Bernie’s generosity is evident not only in this way of writing, but in listening everyone of us with spiritual and poetic eyes.

Qanlla anllinlla Bernie. Sapan kutin Brother Robert qanmanta rimapayawan

Aqui las meditaciones completas Bernie Meditation

De las cuales reproducimos las dedicadas a Fredy Roncalla (Sobre Flat tire, tambien publicado como Llanta baja) y el brother Robert Roth, editor de And Then

 

p 107 Fredy Roncalla

 

we

the passengers

 

needing to get

to where

we’re going

 

not looking

for each other

to make

our way

in this world

 

roll along

 

and then

 

flattened

 

deflated

pulled over

detained

 

we no longer

know

 

we need

to be

we

 

How thick

the ice

between

us

 

who have

never sung

together,

 

sharing only

our need

for a driver,

 

bearer

of responsibility

for our way,

 

to tell us

how to be?

 

absence

echoes

and hollows

 

we look

at nowhere

 

more comforting

than towards

each other

 

our distress

beyond

consolation

 

and then

 

deus

ex

machina

 

as passive

receptors

 

our

punctured

souls

patched

 

we move on

towards

our gaze

 

 

p 108 Robert Roth

 

melting

in a clash

of vulnerabilities

 

serious empathy

finding each other

 

why should

messages

be unambiguous?

 

empathy is

only desire

ricocheted

through soul

 

love’s reach

needs no target

to score

a direct hit

 

it is an embracing

PLEGARIA. ROGER SANTIVÁÑEZ

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Los vasos comunicantes de la poesia siguen su curso y unen voces.  Roger Santivanez acaba de plublicar en And Then, la exelente y variada revista de poesia alternativa que dirige Robert Roth desde el viejo  Village.

PLEGARIA

PLEGARIA

Amo tu sonrisa de rosa sobre mí

Moviéndote eres un mar devastador

Que posee entera paradisíaca luz

En la penumbra densa & ligera

Brillas como del firmamento

La más lejana estrella sur

Monte deleitoso me das el dulce estilo

Ahora que el aire es leve brizna q’se mueve

& me abre las compuertas del deseo

Un ansia enferma mi corazón esmalta

Como a los arrozales el surtidor alcanza

O la neblina ciega el amanecer en Lima.

roger santiváñez

[ De Roberts Pool Crepúsculos. Hipocampo, Lima 2011]

 

Into Another Time & Shooting Baskets. Robert Roth

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LLapan sabadu, domingu ima Chelsea Marketpi bother Robertwan desayunuta yanukuyku iman semanapi qellqasykumanta rimarispa. Todo un placer conversar  con el editor de la revist And Then. Con la honestidad y bravura que le caracteriza, acaba de escribir sobre las kancha kancha literarios opresivos que actuan en NY. Comparte tambien una valiente oracion en una sinagoga. Pero  con su yanantin. Es decir, tambien se puede trasladar a una kancha de baskebol, donde  emboca canastas (no tan) solitarias. Iskaynikutam kusta qellqayta tukurqoun the same day. You such a brave, honest and refreshing chronicler Brother Robert. Manan timpo kanchu, pero si alguien se dedica a traducir estas piezas al espanol o al quechua estoy seguro que brother Robert estaria feliz yutu yutucha de compartirlas

Into Another Time

Robert Roth

For the first time in my life have been disliking what I have been writing. Usually I either like what I write very much or feel frustrated that I can’t express something that is important to me or am embarrassed by something I once wrote. But this is different. I actively dislike it.

 

A couple of years ago my friend Ralph, the publisher of my book, showed me a new collection of poems he was working on. What struck me about them was they were not as “good” as the poems he wrote in his 40s. Those poems had wisdom and a depth and a power to them that the new work didn’t have. I spoke to Ralph about it because it was clear to me that the deep truths that he was in touch with no longer had the same force or resonances for him. The new work reflected that. Obviously the new work was tremendous beyond measure but what I meant by it was that  it didn’t have the same sureness of insight of the previous work. And I don’t mean in any way there was anything glib or facile about the previous work. It was genuinely  beautiful and powerful. As for myself, I think I have lived beyond the time where my explanations and insights work as well as they once did.

 

When the demonstrations in Egypt were happening for example there was much exhilaration and hope. I told my friends I feared that at the end of the day the military will replace the military. Which tragically is what happened. Now is that something that someone should risk to get hurt or die for. At one point in my life I would say (and still do) it is horrible that things turned out the way they did but some spark has been ignited. If not now somewhere else at some point in the future or somewhere else someone will be inspired by it, gain courage from it. But the enormity of the actual loss in Egypt and elsewhere is larger and more destructive than I had ever before fully grasped.

 

Just the other day a friend on her Facebook page asked people to tag the names of banned books they have read. It was Banned Books Week. It resulted in a very lively and friendly and fun discussion. I wrote back, “I think there should be a week called ‘Couldn’t Get it Published Week’. I know many people who have written important things that very probably will never see the light of day. I feel very fortunate I have been able to read their work.”  This expressed maybe a quarter of what I was actually feeling. Obviously it is more than important, it is very crucial to fight back against repression and be in solidarity with the people whose work are banned, people often enough who are arrested, and sometimes even killed. But there is almost always inside that, the assumption  that certain writers are more worthy to be published than others. In a sense you are aligning yourself with organizations who are in serious ways oppressing you. On Friday I went to a friend’s reading. Someone’s whose work I feel deeply connected to. She was introduced by someone from some big official grant giving agency who said the competition for the grant was fierce, that thousands of people applied for it, so her getting it was such a huge honor. Such pernicious bullshit. And what do you do with that? I was happy for my friend. But still in some serious way I wound up clapping against myself.

 

I often wince when I hear people’s achievements listed before a reading. I don’t like it and I genuinely wonder why people are so in the grip of the need for that type of validation. Particularly when it is in the form of governmental or corporate validation. Publishing houses, universities etc. I usually give only the bare minimum for myself and don’t particularly like it if it is embellished in any way that plays into that. I do like it if the person actually talks about how they feel about me and or about what I have written. Sometimes when I have to introduce people at an event I have to take a deep breath when I have to list what feels to me as culturally sanctioned achievements. If I can get around it without hurting their feelings I will do that. But only if I am sure they won’t feel slighted. Otherwise I do feel it is an ideological imposition on my part towards no particular end.

 

I am a bit of a fanatic on the subject. Which sometimes has bad consequences. Many years ago I didn’t mention that a piece I was reading had been published. After the reading, the editor of the publication was upset and told me so pretty firmly. He was right. I was being very disrespectful to all the work he had done to put the magazine out. And blithely ungrateful for him publishing me. Having been co-creator of And Then for many years, I know how he felt. It does feel good when someone mentions the magazine. And it does feel particularly bad if they mention other magazines and leave us off the list.

 

 

Over the years I have felt almost any conversation about books or movies or music was feeding the machinery of official (or alternative) culture. That painting is great. That book is lousy. It is critically acclaimed. It is about time they give an award to…What do the critics know about anything? How could that piece of shit win an award? He is an award winning author. It is just stodgy academic nonsense. Prestigious journal. Prestigious gallery. Prestigious label. Prestigious company. Got a fellowship to a writing colony. What a powerful cutting edge series of poems. I liked her early work better. It is the same old nonsense. It is part of a new surging world transforming subculture. A truly remarkable discovery. That was a great book it deserves to win a Booker Prize. The class bias is just outrageous. It was such a powerful affirmation of life. Don’t understand why it didn’t win an Oscar. That writer opened up my world. She is without a doubt the most brilliant composer of her generation. What reactionary culture bound nonsense.

 

 

Even deep actual discussions would have the same impact on me. It feels like a closed circle. No matter what you do there is no way to be free from the the machinery, no way you are not legitimizing and feeding it. My separation from all that in some important ways allowed me to create. This also meant of course that I would miss out on some important work. But even more importantly that type of discussion facilitates certain type of connectedness with friends and other people. Talking about movies and books and music and art and dance gives people some common activity, something to share, some way to excite and connect with each other. As well as to create and learn and be inspired. It is not that I want that type of connection, it is more my separation from it is not providing me with the same alive space that existed in me before.

 

I feel in recent years I have been semi-closeted in many situations (not all)  that  give me a lot but where I can’t fully say what I feel or think. This took on comical proportions a few months ago. Involving two different events. One in the morning, one in the evening.

 

In the morning I went to the synagogue. I go there essentially to be near my dead parents but also because I like the people and have developed a real closeness with some of them. Usually it is okay being there. When things heat up in the Middle East it can be treacherous. There is a part of the service, though, where every week people pray for the American government. And then pray for American soldiers who are “defending freedom everywhere.” And then a special prayer for Israeli soldiers. That part of the service is particularly hard. Not because I wish anyone harm, but because there is an explicit assumption that the Israeli and US governments are essentially in the service of the good; the brutality and crimes of those governments are not only downplayed but are virtually white washed out of existence.

 

While there, I say my own kind of prayer. Pray for Chelsea Manning, pray for the soldiers not to get hurt, pray for soldiers who are resisting their orders not to be harmed, pray for the victims of American aggression. The same with the Israeli soldiers. Pray for those resisting orders, pray that all the soldiers don’t get hurt, pray for the people of Gaza they are trying to hurt and do hurt. I pray for the safety of the soldiers of Hamas and I pray for the safety of the people they are determined to hurt. I pray that the global dance of violence, power, greed and death stops. But the silent prayer I say in my mind only works up to a point in comforting me. Since everyone else is saying their prayers out loud, it is somewhat self deceiving (and not very convincingly so) to think I am not betraying myself to some degree.

 

Back to the morning in question. There was a visiting scholar who came to the synagogue to give a talk.  I was familiar with his work so I was hesitant to go. Many years ago when he was very young he was essentially pretty liberal. A few years later he made a sharp turn to the right. And in recent years has moved kind of to the center. He was born in New York but has lived for decades in Israel. He spoke that these days regarding Israel he is both hawkish and dovish depending on circumstances or what mood he wakes up in the morning. In the course of it all, he said he thought Netanyahu was getting a raw deal.

 

Someone who I like came over to me later and told me how much he liked his talk. The tone of the talk, if not the content, was non combative, humorous, sweet and reflective. “What a gullible jerk you are,” I thought when he said what he did. Felt bad about what I felt.

 

That night I went to a  jazz concert where two people I love dearly were performing. One of them runs the jazz series there. Wrote about the place in a piece I wrote a few years ago. The concert takes place in a highly politicized radical environment. Between sets the head of the organization, a charismatic, colorful, humorous, passionate black woman made an impassioned talk about heroic African leaders, particularly Robert Mugabe who she felt may be the greatest hero of all. All this within a very astute description of how the U.S. and Great Britain are trying to regain a neo-colonial foothold in Africa.

 

The audience clapped with real enthusiasm afterward. What got me was that people not part of the organization,  but   people who were there who just loved the music, were clapping with such enthusiasm. Don’t even know if they know what they were clapping about. Felt the same way towards them that I felt towards the man in the synagogue.  Don’t like feeling that way at all. A quiet contempt to hide my own sense of powerlessness and complicity. So on the same day in two very different situations, both situations where I get an awful lot from, two brutes were being celebrated. This is where my life has taken me. Don’t quite know what to do about it (obviously this is not the whole truth).

 

Recently I jolted someone, someone I care very deeply about, with a comment. It just spilled out from me. Felt bad about it. Not that I said what I said, but that I didn’t prepare her for something that she wasn’t expecting and that she would seriously disagree with. Apologized for springing it on her in that way. She is a genuinely gracious person and said let’s put time aside and have the conversation. Am afraid of actually having it. But will take her up on it.

 

 

 

Shooting Baskets

Robert Roth

 

 For Scott York

 

 

The fluidity is gone. Before it was a matter of subtle degrees. I could shoot a jump shot but not jump as high. I could make quick stops, starts and turns but maybe a little slower. But at the level I was playing at none of that really mattered. I might get out of breath more easily but not that bad. Now it felt more than just a matter of degree.

 

I turned 70 in December. I started shooting baskets again when I had trouble tying my shoes. Bending over, kneeling down I would get out of breath and find it difficult to do. Needed a stoop or a ledge or something elevated in order to do it comfortably.

 

The last time I played was well over a decade ago. I was shooting by myself when someone came over to join me. We kept taking turns. He would shoot a few, then I would. Suddenly I couldn’t miss. He kept feeding me the ball. I hit maybe 8 jumpers in a row from every place on the court. Then one pass hit the tip of my fingers. Two of my fingers felt like they shattered. Not like the swollen multi colored sprained fingers I would get when I was younger. These fingers felt broken. Don’t know if in fact they were. But they do look somewhat crooked to me. The feeling of them shattering made me worry that maybe all my bones were fragile and if I fell, something I am prone to do, I could hurt myself pretty badly..  For years I was discouraged from playing. But periodically I would want to. But my ball lost a lot of air and I didn’t know how to get a pump. Tried a couple of ways of finding one but got easily discouraged. And it seemed too daunting to buy a new ball. Spoke to a friend before the summer who had an extra pump. Started to play with my old ball. It lasted about six weeks. Then the outer cover started to seriously peel away. Bought a new ball almost immediately. Something I could have done all along.

 

As the summer progressed I could tie my shoes very easily. I could bend over and not get out of breath. My fingers themselves felt like they had more dexterity.   At first if I tried to turn or run I felt like a “doddering old man”. It was very unsettling. As the summer progressed I got more fluidity in my movement. Nothing like I used to have. Still it came back somewhat. I started trying to hit 50 shots before I called it a day. That went up to 65, then 75, then 90 and finally a hundred plus a couple extra for good measure. My shot got longer and more accurate. About half my shots would have to be from behind the foul line, more would be okay but at least that many. Then a few from behind the key. And I was able to reach from that distance fairly comfortably by the end. For the most part I couldn’t jump more than a mili-inch off the ground at best. If I were ten pounds lighter it might have made enough of a difference for me to feel at least I was getting off the ground. Any jump shot I would take would be pretty close to the basket. No more than half way to the foul line. Every so often I could actually elevate to a degree which felt incredibly good. And I think it was happening a bit more often before the cold weather came.

 

Since the weather has changed, even on a nice day, I haven’t played at all. The other day I had trouble tying my shoes again.

 

Over the summer I had many aches and small pains. None too bad but they did give me a sense of foreboding. My knee hurt a bit, then my lower back, then my foot. I might take a few days off and feel better. But I still needed to be careful. Maybe too careful, maybe not. Occasionally I played when I thought it might be a little risky but generally felt better afterward.

 

There is a small full court in the playground that is surrounded by a fence. There are a bunch of baskets all around the playground outside that area. During the time I was playing they put nets on the baskets inside the fenced area. It felt great when a shot swished through the net.

 

I would almost always go out early to avoid the summer heat. When I first started playing, there was a man and woman dressed in black playing in the enclosed area. So I shot on one of the other baskets. They were shooting baskets as well a doing exercises and running pretty much full court. They were in some kind of nice rhythm with each other. I could not tell their ages. In fact there ages seemed to change pretty dramatically from whatever the angle I would see them.

 

They would occasionally imagine there were about 10 seconds left in a game and do a countdown for the last shot. I would kind of play along in my head. The man at some point looked to me like Bruce Springsteen. Very much like him. He looked younger and little thinner. But in truth I know very little about Springsteen except what you can’t help but know. They played there for a while then stopped.

Recently my curiosity got the better of me and I looked up Bruce Springsteen on YouTube. The very first one I clicked on he came on stage with a basketball while Sweet Georgia Brown, the theme song the Harlem Globetrotters was playing in the background. He talked a bit about basketball and then began the concert. So who knows.

 

In the beginning when I first started there was another man with thick white shoulder length hair who was skating from one side of the park to the other with a hockey stick controlling a ball then shooting it against the fence. He also only played for a couple of weeks when I first started, then stopped for a long while until he started again. He was graceful and looked quite strong and clearly had been and clearly still was an impressive athlete.

It was the summer so maybe these people went on vacation. Or in the case of the first two maybe being here was the vacation. Occasionally I see the hockey player walking two very expensive looking dogs in the Village.

 

I started going earlier and earlier. The playground was now mostly deserted. Occasionally it made me nervous. Because the court was in a confined space. Sometimes some high school kids hung out in the park. Sometimes someone would be shooting baskets in the enclosed courts and I would shoot on one of the other baskets. Or sometimes some people who might be homeless hung out on some distant benches. The thought occurred to me that I was very vulnerable and if someone fixated on me for any reason I could be hurt. It was I think basically paranoia. Two times I got particularly nervous. Each time a different sullen looking kid came to the court to play. Both times I said hello and they didn’t respond. Very likely they picked up on my anxiety. But again who knows. Then there was another time when someone in his 40s approached me early one morning. He had been sitting on a bench pretty far from where I was playing. He was well dressed but he looked like a junkie, a word I never use and yet it was the fear that word can connote that entered my head as he walked slowly towards me. He asked if he could shoot baskets with me. I said sure. Got nervous, missed a lot of shots but also felt stronger and more energized. He said he had a fight with his wife and came to the park to cool off. That fight had to do with where they would be living. He wanted to stay in the Village. She wanted to move somewhere else. He had been a former basketball player at a New York City high school and then a professional fighter whose uncle trained him. He moved to Florida. His uncle asked him to take a dive with promises of a important fight in the future. Don’t remember if he did or not but it really upset him; he felt betrayed by his uncle and quit fighting soon afterward. He said he had been hooked on drugs (and alcohol) for a number of years but was off it now. We kept shooting and talking. Me keeping a kind of slight distance as we were doing it. Eventually he left. Aside from my anxiety he was a nice, very interesting guy and fun to talk to.

 

One other thing I was worried about was the ball getting stuck in the rim and I would have no way to get it down. This happened three times. Once a park attendant (after opening up they were not always there) jumped and knocked it loose with his hat. A second time the couple in black threw me their basketball and I knocked it loose with their ball. The third time I found a long wooden plank reachable from a construction site just outside the playground fence and I knocked the ball loose. As long as I could reach a piece of wood I was okay even without anybody being there. But when that was no longer the case and when no one else was around I had no idea what I would do. That to some extent controlled what kind of shots I would take. Occasionally I would take a chance knowing if the ball would get stuck it would because of a shot from that angle. So I took extra care and fortunately it didn’t happen.

 

Another time a man with a dog–at a certain hour people with dogs would come to the park– asked me how long I would be shooting. Even though the basketball court was primarily there to play basketball I still felt somewhat like an interloper.   He said don’t rush but that his dog usually ran inside the enclosed area I was shooting in. I said maybe five minutes. I had five baskets left to make to reach my quota. Of course the pressure got to me and it took me longer than normal. But still well within the five minutes. He then said don’t worry. I saw him a couple of times later and said I would go to one of the side baskets. He said it was fine and he just played with his dog in the outer area.

 

The next to last time I played was somewhat later in the day, maybe 11am or 12. Two young long haired men with headbands were playing on the full court. This time the park was filled mostly with women with children. A few extremely tiny kids with wild energy on scooters scooted right under me as I was shooting on one of the side baskets. These kids were totally oblivious to me shooting. I kept an eye out for them but still continued, worried the basketball might hit one of them on top of the head or that I would run over one of them or trip over a scooter and hurt myself. But in the end we all managed okay.

Wolf at the door. Robert Roth

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El brother  Robert Roth, editor de la revista And Then, al que le  debo un  relato de cuando conoci a Ginsberg y no sucedio nada, comparte  con nosotors la memoria de Arnold Sachar, quien  fuera  su coeditor y amigo. Esta es una de las mas hermosas y honestas “biografias” que he leido en mucho tiempo. Esperando traducirlas al espanol y al quechua.

 The Wolf at the Door

“The whore you can fuck but not be seen with. The man you would never fuck but turn to in the middle of the night to be reassured, excited and affirmed.”

The lines flashed out of me the night Arnold Sachar died. I was shocked at their intensity and my bitterness.

I first saw Arnie at a Free Speech rally at Queens College in New York City during a student strike. I think it was in 1962. This beautiful and intense figure moved from person to person, group to group, listening, speaking, engaged in the event with a seriousness much different than anyone else seemed to have. It was as if a spotlight followed him everywhere he went. Wherever he stood, it seemed as if something historic was at stake.

The next time I saw Arnie was in Spanish class. He looked spaced out, dazed, lost in some deep internal chaos. The only person more spaced out than me. Each day we would go around the room and have to translate a sentence from English to Spanish. Arnie was always the ninth person called on. I was always the twelfth. Neither of us ever got the answer right. One day I saw that the translations were in the back of the book. So I started memorizing answer 12. But Arnie never knew answer 9. So it really was answer 11 that I would have to give. Finally it dawned on me to memorize answer 11. Of course, that was the one time Arnie got the answer right.

Another time I saw Arnie was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A solitary figure on a desolate corner on the campus, he spoke with extraordinary eloquence about the insane criminality of everyone involved. “Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Khrushchev, Mr. Castro” all complicit in a profoundly immoral dance.

His great oratory skill was something he shelved. He knew he had the eloquence to move a crowd but felt  he did not have the experience or wisdom to do so. Particularly if it involved the risk of significant danger.

Over the years, he would speak and write about alienation, yearning, repression, community, transcendence. Much of his work was an examination of psychic pain and its social/political roots.  He could speak beautifully about the nightmarish structural oppression that can flow out of that pain. He articulated the ways in which people resisted and acquiesced to their condition. You often could feel the rawness of his nerve endings whenever he spoke about this.

2

My own nerves are shot.  The tragedy of my dearest friend lying in a coma on Long Island. His body flooded with fluids. His head swollen, covered with bandages, tubes and a face mask.

The tragedy of his life. Always spinning his wheels. Never able to appreciate himself. The humiliations and traumas of childhood ridicule. Physically awkward, nervous.

It is now four years after Arnie’s death.

I’ve been writing this piece since before he died. Not all the time but going back to it. Reading parts of it to him when he was still alive. Trying to figure out what to say. How to say it.

My own body is breaking down. Two teeth broke recently. I am missing appointments. I am scared of what can happen next. And what can happen can happen very fast.

3

Arnie could be a bottomless pit of need. No matter how much you poured into him it could be as if nothing had happened.

As much as I loved him, admired him, respected him he would convince me how marginal, how disrespected, how ignored and isolated he was.  I would say that’s ridiculous, but start, more than start, to actually believe it. So much so that when someone would ask me how he was doing or having heard him on the radio say he was terrific or God forbid just have a nice feeling towards him, I would grow livid. “So now you feel good. But I don’t feel good.  I had to go through days listening to this. And you get the compliment. And what good does that do me. You feel good and I am just  exhausted.”   He lived with ghost images, fear, deep insecurities. And a mind that could both take flight and simultaneously be imprisoned. He was  always looking out the door to be validated by whoever was not in the room. Whoever was in the room lost the ability to affirm him.

When we were much younger, I would run home to tell Arnie anything and everything. Call him up and talk endlessly. Almost living my life to talk to him about it. Living experience to relate it back to him. He would do the same. My other friends resented this. And lovers resented it even more.

His experiences mostly life inside his apartment. It was lonely. But also very rich. Talking on the phone, listening to the radio, making calls into the radio. Developing a following from those calls. Transforming the role of the caller with his insight and eloquence and urgency. His room in fact could feel like control center. He being at the center of everything without moving an inch from his room.

Very occasionally he would talk about  a neighbor or a restaurant. Though there was a period where he would sit in the park outside his apartment engaging the neighbors in political conversation. At times he would venture out from Forest Hills to Manhattan. And inevitably some drama, some excitement would occur.  He would also come in for things we did together. And he would often stay in my apartment. Sometimes for a day or two. Sometimes longer. We organized discussion groups and writers’ groups over the years. We would write public statements. We would also write petitions on very volatile and to us very crucial  issues. And then gather signatures. The process was in many ways  gratifying, nerve-racking, exhilarating.

Arnie  knew by heart almost everything any number of people had written. He would read things over and over again. Study them, constantly engaging what he was reading. Naturally people would be very flattered by this. I remember him calling up the radio, it was Paul McIsaac’s show actually, and asking Carl Oglesby how he reconciled something he was saying with something he had written twenty-five years earlier. Oglesby laughed and said, “I wrote that? It sounds pretty good. But I don’t remember a word of it. I have absolutely no idea how to reconcile the two.”

On the phone he was always summarizing things he had just read. As well as read me passages of something that particularly grabbed him and on occasion he would read me a whole article. There was however  a three year period when I had forbidden him to read me anything, except maybe something he had just written.

My stricture was a result of  Arnie having read to me for five hours an autobiographical piece in Working Papers in which Elinor Langer describes her experiences as a social activist in the 60s. Arnie had a good speaking voice and a love for anybody who put words to paper. And so when he read me Langer’s piece I just didn’t know how or when to ask him to to stop because he was enjoying himself so much.  But for the last two hours I could hardly breathe and I didn’t want to have that experience ever again.

4

The last year I would call and get off very quickly. I did most of the calling but I ran away from him. His obsessiveness mixed with the direness of his condition was harder for me to take. He grew both more mired, attached and simultaneously liberated from his demons. I felt  bored and disconnected. Something I had never experienced before. I would yell at him. I felt at times it crossed over from frustration and wished to shake him out of repetitive patterns into abuse. I got off on it.  Looking for any traces of what would bother me, then go after him. He mostly said it didn’t upset him. He thought I was trying to ground him (not grind him down), bring him back to some sort of reality. I felt I was crossing a line. Being more caught up in a drama than trying to help him. I didn’t trust myself. I was locked in.

The horrible panic of that last night. I was too depleted, too exhausted from  all the years of reassuring, trying to calm him down. It felt often that he was crying wolf. But the humiliation, fear, panic was there and it was real. Terribly, terribly real. Trying to be talked down from his panic insecurity. But also really fearing the wolf in ways I couldn’t fully grasp. Sometimes crying wolf because the fear was familiar and in some strange ways felt safe. The horrible security of a familiar even very negative state. Now the wolf was really here and it was gorging out his insides. And I no longer had the energy needed  to help in the way I might with someone else.

His last night before the accident he called me 6 or 7 times.  Every twenty minutes he would call me frantically from the hospital, trying to calm himself down.  He was having a hard time breathing. He also said he felt as if sitting, lying, standing, walking were  entirely different functions, totally divided from each other. No connection at all between them. This terrified him. Terrified me.  A couple of weeks before, his doctor put him on a small dosage of an anti-depressant that seemed to throw everything off. People speaking to him the week I was  in Montreal said he sounded different. Less connected. And just as arbitrarily they took him off it. No blood test, no nothing.

As we  were talking his doctor came by. The two of them started laughing.  The laughter made me nervous. For I had a feeling the doctor in some way accepted Arnie’s picture of himself. Not exactly laughing at him but not entirely with him. Which may have made the doctor a little too cavalier. In reassuring Arnie, in a need to settle him down, he might have misjudged the actual severity of his condition.

Arnie got off the phone but not before I told him I needed a break. The whole thing was exhausting me. Wanted to watch some TV to regain my equilibrium. I remember thinking that this could be the last time we ever spoke. Paul called me very early in the morning telling me that Arnie had fallen, cracked his head against the hospital bed and was in a coma. I think his death was one part negligence. One part inevitability. That last night that we spoke he told me that he thought he would be dead in two or three days.

In the early years of our friendship, I ran home to tell Arnie almost anything and everything that happened to me. I would call up and we would talk endlessly. I remember calling Arnie once from a pay phone upset about something Denise Levertov said at a reading of hers. Almost living experience so that we could relate it back and forth to each other. This led to resentment from other friends. And some deep resentment from lovers.

            Arnie would do much the same. But his experiences were largely listening to the radio, calling up shows, reading the newspapers and journals, talking to various people on the telephone and interactions with his parents. Occasionally he would venture out. And always something dramatic would occur.

            The last year of his life was the first time I felt even a little estranged from him. Very connected but not excited to speak to him. It was like  falling out of love with someone you still loved very much.  In the last year I felt that I was abusive towards him. We would have wild fights. I felt continually provoked by him. I hit back. And I started to hit back at a shadow presence of a previous consciousness. Because he was in some ways changing. I was addicted to the dynamic. I apologized at times. He felt though that I was trying to help him, ground him, help him shake the frozen state he was in. I often felt he was one small turn of the screw away from doing something that would pull him out of the places he felt stuck.  But that one screw turned the wrong way could also unravel everything.

One night about a couple of years  before he died, Arnie fell flat on his face while we were walking and talking in the rain. He bruised his lip and his face.

He often was in extreme states of anxiety, and had a fear that at times bordered on terror.  His insecurity was real. The SELF-LOATHING was real. The self-almost rape was real. “Robert you don’t believe that I feel the way I say I do.” Often someone exaggerates a feeling to get the kind of affirmation or attention to pain they think they deserve. And I think it is important to respond as much as possible to the pain felt and not get bent out of shape by what can feel manipulative or dishonest. Or in my case feel mocked and diminished. Because in truth you are not exactly there at those moments. This is all much easier said than done.

What do I do with him. There is just too much pain there. He dies; it all is unresolved. There was both a frozenness and an immense ability to feel. A solipsism and powerful empathy. An insecurity and an extraordinary confidence. A prophet scared of his own shadow. And then he would get up in a room to hushed silence as people waited to hear what he would say. Years of eloquence and profound engagement creating the  anticipation. Knowing something extraordinary was going to come. For me that moment at my book party–him ambling up, getting into his composure–was overwhelming. His eloquence and seriousness breathtaking. His affirmation so loving and deeply vital to me.

Late at night after appearing on Carletta’s radio show we screamed  at each other on the streets down by Wall Street as we walked back to my place.  He started talking about how desolate his life was. “Who is ever celebrated the way we were just celebrated,” I answered.“Well it was only one show,” was his fallback position. And we screamed even louder. Who has people like that speaking so warmly about what we have done.  Carletta putting all her magic into the show. And then there was Ahmed,  the great trumpet player and bandleader; Monique, an exquisite poet singer,  partner with Ahmed; Elinor,  Arlene’s mother making her media debut from her apartment in Brooklyn–first quiet soft almost inaudible gaining strength as the  show went on. “The magazine is real for real people,” she said. Creating instant anxiety in Arnie that the magazine was shallow. Arnie wincing, his insecurity, his neurosis tapped into. He should have been able to wince without me jumping on him later for it. Since I knew also how much he really appreciated the comment. “Do you have to notice everything?” he said.

“I can’t put myself  down without putting you down. You have me boxed in,”  he then said,  half laughing. “Fuck you,” I said only a quarter joking.

But now Arnie’s gone. It is extremely painful for me to be working on the magazine without him. I feel very incomplete. I feel lost at sea.  We would talk five or six times a day. When new pieces are coming in now I can’t call him. If there is a problem I can’t call him. If we get a compliment I can’t call him.  I won’t be able to work with him to figure out what order the pieces should go in. I won’t be able to work out political and social ideas with him. I can’t argue about things as openly and completely with any other close  friend. There is no one else I can obsess with. No one else I can argue with in the same way. Anyone else I would drive crazy.

Arnie had a profound prophetic imagination. And an extremely active and insightful political mind. The great pacifist/anarchist Igal Roodenko said that we are all instruments in the orchestra. Arnie’s presence lingers and has become a part of many of us. But in its fullness, it really can’t be there. That section of the orchestra is silent. And the music I play sounds tinny and very lonesome and totally inadequate without it.

5

“Coming into political consciousness I had imagined a radical movement similar to the  beggars march in The Three Penny Opera. It would be a home, a place to gather for the despised, the grotesque, the disenfranchised, people in pain, outcasts. Together  we would menace the society in our very being in our very acceptance of each other’s humanity, in our essential beauty and defiance.” (Robert Roth, &then, 1987)

He was often filthy. He at times smelled of shit. He would cut himself up shaving. Splotches of raw razor cuts in between thick black untouched facial hair. Finally he went to get a weekly shave. He loved  the warm towel and neck massage from the barber. At one point he would buy He-man shirts designed specifically for heavy set men. They were sexy and colorful. And a surge of compliments would come towards him. Until the shirts were tattered  and torn. And somewhere in his mind when he put them on he expected the same excitement. He was genuinely confused why it wasn’t happening. Further confirming his belief that nothing he did would change how people perceived him physically.

We walked down 8th street. He had mismatched shoes. One possibly four sizes too big. He foot was swimming inside the shoe. He was almost shuffling down the street. His pants falling, the  cuffs tattered from being stepped on. Ran into Sohnya who panicked when she saw him. Thought that he would be a target. That he looked so spaced out and  homeless. She dragged him into a shoe store and bought him a pair of shoes.

One night, it was an isolated incident,  he shit all over my bathroom.  Somehow it wound up on the walls. In an attempt to clean it up he was smearing it everywhere. He looked almost like a kid fingerpainting. I gagged. Yelled at him. Ran out in the middle of the night to a bodega for cleaning material including a painter’s mask.  Felt horribly guilty. Squeamish and uptight. He said he didn’t blame me for yelling. I didn’t even realize he was in touch enough not to take offense.

Years later when he was sick, brought him home from the hospital. The apartment was reeking of shit. All over the floor. In every room. I was shocked and horrified. Again I ran out of the apartment gagging. Again I was ashamed of my squeamishness. Felt someone else could have handled it better. He did not even know that it was there. The floors covered with shit. His bed beyond filthy. He described his apartment as “messy.”  I convinced him to hire two close friends to clean it.

At times there were moments  of recognition. He saw himself in the mirror and saw he had grown significantly bald. It surprised him and upset him. He had looked that way for years.

*

The constant stigma of Arnie’s life. He craved a certain normalcy while simultaneously defiantly living outside the world.

Whenever he was relaxed a calm came over him.

Delicate hands, almost fragile

Beautiful spirit soaring

   6

The searing humiliation of himself as freak. Me never knowing how to fully engage that feeling. How to help him through it. How not to get caught up in the compulsive self-laceration. And through it  all we thought together, created together, worked together. Tried to engage the world, to help change the world together.

“Can’t you ever accept people’s love. You just  torment me with all this nonsense.” I would yell at him.  “Okay then you’re right; you are just a repetitive bore. You only speak in headlines, and say the same fucking thing the same way over and over again. Who the hell would want to talk to you.   Everyone should be bored with you.” Then I would catch myself and laugh. “And if they’re not bored with you then something must be wrong with them.”

It was a tough time between us. His inability to accept or embrace our various joint achievements as well as those of his own felt like a putdown. But it wasn’t. It was just some horrible internal dialogue flowing out of him towards me. In a world where so little affirmation was coming our way it still felt like a putdown.  Because even if you feel somewhat confident and proud about something, one slight negative gesture and you can dissolve into nothingness. One step out of a bubble–is it a bubble, or is it a community of shared consciousness–can unsettle you and make you feel totally inadequate. I needed his support. I needed his affirmation. I felt abandoned by him in those moments.

And yet the stigma he carried was greater than mine, as painful as mine is for me. Don’t know what to do with it. It is so hard to think about, so hard to relate. How does someone who feels ugly but knows the world thinks of them as beautiful feel as opposed to someone who feels  ugly and the world confirms that feeling almost every minute of every day?

A line I wrote once but never used in a fiction piece I was writing  about someone whose body looked “lopsided.” “It is where the spirit broke free from the armoring of the body.”

How not to live vicariously through his “freakishness.” Thinking of it as a manifestation of freedom. Him bearing its brunt while I’m drawn to it as liberation. To have him play out my fantasy of someone totally outside the world. I once wrote that for  some left wing people the only good oppressed person was a dead oppressed person.  Here was my version of that.

We betrayed each other in some core place. Betrayed is a strong word. Probably too strong.  A word unfair to either of us. And yet there was an aspect of betrayal certainly on my part not knowing/understanding the depth of the stigma, the humiliation he experienced almost constantly.

One friend said that Arnie carried the pain for both of us.

7

Twenty-five years ago when Akemi saw the condition of the sheets in my apartment where Arnie slept, she was outraged. I thought well what does he know? He is so oblivious why bother cleaning the sheets. A strange fatigue on my part. They’ll get dirty again in no  time. Something deeply punitive in my own passivity here. Can’t fully locate what it was. He just accepted  the humiliation of his condition. Expected almost nothing from the world. When I changed his sheets he expressed his appreciation without me even saying that I had changed them. So he was much more aware than I realized. And so there it is. What that “it” is is probably something I don’t want to look too closely at.

8

Michael Sahl just told me at a concert of his at The Cell one of the people in charge said, “Who is

that​​?” referring to Arnie, whose dentures were falling out as he became all excited by various friends being there. Especially excited to be with Michael and Margaret and celebrate the concert and their achievement.  Michael pretended not to have a clue who or what the person was talking about. The cool hip trendy edgy sophistication of the place violated.

Edgy. That is what the New York Times says about plays or books or music or art. Or they might complain that something wasn’t edgy enough. Or subversive enough. Such bizarre terminology emanating from the belly of the beast. Very much also the terminology of the fashion industry: Revolutionary, cutting edge.  Nothing means nothing. Don’t even know where to go from here.

I do remember one night my dear friend Aziza, her father very much involved in  liberation struggles in Africa, she just beginning her career as a fashion designer, sitting in my living room, listening to me go on and on about this very point. Until she lifted her head from a sketch she was doing, flashed a smile and asked “How about  ‘self-determination’ for the name of  my new line?” Brought me off my high horse. And we both started laughing.

Back to my high horse. Raw exploration, deep insight  wind up as a blurb or an ad. Everything is commodified. People themselves are constantly referred to as “brands.” It feels almost stupid to say something that obvious. And yet it is so taken for granted, so pervasive, so unchallenged.

But even in its purest form where those terms actually had the power and authenticity of people deeply engaged in struggle there was often something hollow and manipulative about them. For example,“Power to the People” too often morphed into “Sorrow to the People.”

Almost anything you do politically runs the real risk of you becoming the “useful idiot” of forces larger than yourself. The alternative often is to fall into a world-weary cynicism. A know-it-all fatigue. A terrible resigned despair.

Arnie and I would together always attempt to negotiate a political/social terrain fraught with this danger. We would talk constantly. Working out ideas, discussing things. Writing public statements  Our conversations at times would be so rarefied that someone overhearing them would not know what we were talking about. Some of the concerns were constant. We would go back to them over and over again. But as much as we talked it does not really help me now in figuring out how to address a problem that is new. The same basic principles might apply but that helps only up to a point.

One day I was in a cafe and obsessing about a problem that I knew only Arnie would fully understand without me having to lay out the givens that we had worked out over decades. And I was really in pain that I could not speak to him.

So I called my friend Bernie  and said I need to discuss something, something I could only talk to Arnie about. I’m in agony about it.  You are my second choice, a very distant second. Do you mind? I knew Bernie was a dear enough friend and someone rightly confident enough in his own thinking that he wouldn’t take offense. He laughed and said sure. And it was exactly what I thought it would be. The very best second best conversation imaginable.

9

 

I loved Arnie’s parents. They looked entirely different from each other. But in a room of thousands you could pick them out as Arnie’s parents. He looked exactly like each of them. When they weren’t fighting they very much enjoyed going out dancing.  They were also great story tellers.   Roz had a particular gift with words. Being able to take words that were in the air and give them her own particular slant. She also would continually be giving away gifts. She would create spontaneous parties anywhere and everywhere at any time of any day. A present could  be a tiny trinket wrapped in tin foil. Or something significantly more valuable. When she died Dave beyond grief kept repeating how he could never give people gifts the way she could.

Roz in very real ways was very brazen, she would speak her mind. But she was also incredibly fearful and her feelings got hurt easily. A fearfulness and sensitivity to slights she passed on to Arnie in an extreme way. Arnie had enormous courage in putting his ideas out there. But he could fall apart over almost anything in an instant. As for Dave, a veteran of World War II, I remember him going to an early  teach-in about the Vietnam War and getting up and saying “My fucking son is right about this fucking war.” This to the great delight of the audience and to the extreme embarrassment of Arnie.

One time I along with my lover, Charlotte, and her mother, Betty, who was in from Minnesota, visited Roz and Arnie in Forest Hills. At one point Betty referred to Arnie and his mother as husband and wife. A look of primal horror crossed both their faces. I literally fell off my chair laughing. Another time Arnie rolled in the middle of the street kicking his feet against the pavement in response to something his mother said–a four year old throwing a massive tantrum. Until her death they would spend hours in the kitchen talking.

Dave was kind of a tough guy, wiry and small. He was also an athlete.   He told me a story of being in the bowling alley hitting strike after strike. Until he was a frame away from a perfect game. The whole bowling alley gathered around for the last frame. He got so nervous he threw a gutter ball.

He had been a bat boy for the NY Giants and also once delivered some dry cleaning to Mae West. It would be story after story. And here he had a son who would do nothing but spend hours on the phone in his room calling up the radio. Being extraordinarily eloquent and in his own way having a significant influence on the political and social movements of the day. This both amused and worried Dave. He did not know what would become of Arnie when he died.

Arnie’s special gifts were appreciated early on. His father was an accountant. Some of his clients were mobsters. One was called in front of a congressional committee investigating organized crime. He asked  if, Arnie who was fifteen, could write his introductory remarks. When the time came he read Arnie’s words as if they were his own. It was in large part a paean to the greatness of the country.  His gravelly voice became more and more filled with emotion as the senators and the gallery grew increasingly spellbound.

*

The Forest Hills Streaker–I got a call once from the managing agent of the building Arnie lived in. He heard complaints that Arnie was running naked through the building. I told him that couldn’t be true. But I asked Arnie about it. He said his belly was so big and wearing pants so cumbersome that when he had to throw out newspapers he would poke his head out the door,  look  around and when he saw no one, would dash or sort of dash out of the apartment totally naked,  make his way up one flight of stairs to a recycling area and then return to his apartment as quickly as possible. He was surprised anyone had noticed.

*

Arnie Sachar at Riverside Church. I remember attending a major political event at Riverside Church. There was a young black woman always rising from her seat cheering every comment that had any passion, integrity and militancy behind it. When Arthur Waskow spoke, he threw out what he clearly thought were a series of show stoppers. But they had virtually no impact on her. She remained glued to her chair. Just polite tepid applause at the end. I asked Arnie would he rather be praised by one of the high-powered left intellectuals he was preoccupied with, but not have her budge from her seat. Or have her rise with wild enthusiasm and have the left intellectual barely acknowledge his words. He said I was being totally unfair and started to giggle.

*

One time we were at a party. Arnie was in a corner talking with one of  the sexiest, most beautiful women imaginable. She took a real liking to him and asked him to dance. She held on to him and started grinding against him. His face flushed his body tensed.  Arnie getting more nervous by the second started quizzing her compulsively about her position on various issues, trying to find the one issue that could drive her away. She  ignored the bait and continued dancing. After a while though she did get discouraged.  Not that there was a cause and effect, but a few years later she wound up in a torrid affair with a higher up in the Carter administration.

*

His father told me a story of Arnie playing softball as a kid. The last inning, the bases  loaded, two outs. Standing in right field completely lost in his thoughts, his glove absentmindedly stuck out in the air, when without him even knowing it a fly ball landed in it. He was the hero of the game. The whole team ran out to him and triumphantly carried him off the field.

*

He wrote a magnificent piece about what it was to feel ugly when much of the world actually saw him as ugly, freakish. The places he shut down, the places he soared. The places he embraced his “freakishness,”  the places he craved to be respected and accepted in deeply culture bound terms. It was here—in his need for that acceptance–that the greatest tensions and struggles existed between us.

*

In camp the counselors and fellow campers would seek Arnie out late at night. In the darkness, they would talk intimately about their desires, pain or intellectual interests. Sometimes in the case of the counselors the conversations turned to books or politics. During the day he was often shunned, mocked, had practical jokes played on him or, in the case of his fellow campers, he was also at times physically assaulted.  Not to the extent of causing serious physical injury but enough to leave lasting harm to his psyche.

*

Twirling a pen. A pencil, a swizzle stick, for a time a dirty toothbrush. Twirling ever faster, while rocking back and forth, the more excited or delighted or upset he would get. It would unnerve some people. Others simply enjoyed it as a basic feature of any conversation. Another friend, Paul Meyers, a wonderful poet, did that also. But not as noticeably. He had a different rhythm. Used different fingers. It was fun to see them in a room together.

*

Early on we attended parties at David McReynolds’s apartment on the Lower East Side. Dave was deeply involved with the War Resisters League. He helped organize massive worldwide protests, was a political theorist and a very out gay man. When we wanted to discuss some pressing political issue with him, we would go to the WRL office. However, whenever  Arnie would attempt to get into a discussion with him at a party, Dave would always say, “Arnie, no talking at parties.”

*

Arnie walking crossing the street as cars were whizzing by looking like Jesus walking on water. He never getting hit not even close. His doing this caused no small degree of anxiety in many of us. Though at least in my case it was clearly offset by the knowledge that nothing had ever happened so it was very unlikely that it ever would. He did get a jaywalking ticket for crossing Queens Blvd. once. There had been a large number of deaths and injuries so the city cracked down. His day at court was filled with one adventure after another which he recited with great gusto and humor.

*

Arnie, beside himself with excitement, was  talking with the ex-lover of a woman he was totally hung up on. As they were walking down the street, he nervously pointed  to his pants, now wet with semen. He had ejaculated without even touching himself during the conversation.

10

The chief rabbi of Poland was visiting the chief rabbi of Warsaw. They were in the synagogue. The first rabbi, suddenly overcome, ran up to the ark, threw himself on the ground and said, “Oh Lord I am nothing in the face of your glory.” The second rabbi  overwhelmed by the sight of the first rabbi followed suit. “Oh Lord I am nothing in the face of your glory.”

The Shamis, the caretaker of the synagogue,  totally transported  by the sight of these two wise, holy men prostrating themselves with such fervor, stopped what he was doing and threw himself on the ground. “Oh Lord I am nothing in the face of your glory.”

The first rabbi turned to the other and said, “The nerve of him to say that he is nothing.”

In their book Bound by Love,  Lucy Gilbert and Paula Webster talk about how those men who could not dominate on the athletic field would assert their patriarchal power through their  intellectuality. Arnie and I would talk about that often.

11

                                                                   A Buddha, Arnold Sachar

By

Louise Rader

When I first met him

I felt unnerved

by his intellect’s power

to pierce illusion,

by his rocking roundness

as if prayer were a physicality,

by his ungoverned giggling

echoed in the swizzle stick

he twirled fizzing air,

by lucence then sudden

constriction in his eyes

stunned at a society

with love, joy, communion

shackled,

by his refusal

to put on constraints.

Decades

of his longing, written,

his voice from the radio,

the presence he bestowed

on a moment,

a teaching,

a touchstone.

Here, each leaf falls

into a ground mosaic

12

Arnie was timid. He was fearful. He had a soaring confidence. It was like he was always rehearsing for the State of the Cosmos Address. The one that at the precise right moment when called upon he would deliver to the universe. And it would also deliver him from the humiliations and pain of the world. So a conversation with him could be like watching someone rehearse in front of a mirror with you being the mirror. He could be very repetitive to say the least. I would roll my eyes at times when he read me something he wrote. In conversation there were way too many times when he wasn’t  speaking with you, but at you.

That was the down side. My friend Andy calls it the talking sickness. It is hard at times to distinguish hysteria, compulsiveness, real insecurity from a bullying insensitive arrogance. A very not uncommon trait of forceful people in the grips of massive insecurity

Arnie was always pitching to be brilliant, more than brilliant. At times it felt like his life depended on it.

“I am not James Baldwin,” he would declare. As if not being James Baldwin was the next best thing to being him. That the failure of the intent was much greater than any other achievement imaginable.

What do you do with that? What could James Baldwin do with that?

Other times Arnie was expansive beyond measure. His face relaxed. His anxiety lifted. He could separate himself from his fears, his insecurities.  In fact he had separated himself from that aspect of a radical/intellectual culture that could feel almost pathological in its need to  compare and evaluate and situate people in a hierarchy of consciousness, intelligence, understanding, location and power. A movement acting in many ways as a parody of the dominant culture. The depth of Arnie’s warmth and appreciation for people at those moments was a thing to behold.

*

Even people with virtually no power in the world can function as conduits for forces that oppress you. And the actual powerlessness of the person doing it can be forgotten. Or even if you fully understand the absurdity of it, that understanding might only deflect a little the injury you’re experiencing. This can work in all directions.

Every slight in the street, in the supermarket, at school would somehow be overcome by the  sheer force of Arnie’s brilliance. That the affirmation of a small select group of “special” people would undo or provide salve for that injury: He funneled so much of himself into that hope. Really only a partial hope. Because he understood how toxic it all was. Trying to get out from under it. He was in fact bitter at the end that he had bought into it as much as he had.

Simultaneously, unaware of his own power Arnie could hurt people pretty badly. Trying to prove himself he  could ignore someone or appear condescending in conversation. He could talk over people, ignore what they were saying. Or focus exclusively on one person at the expense of another. So powerful was his attention and focus, that his ignoring someone could create rage and insecurity in that person. As close as we were, that person at times could be me.

Being pushed aside in a conversation, I might snap back in front of people, embarrassing him. Did this the other day with another close friend who pushed his body between me and someone I was having a conversation with and just started talking as if I wasn’t there. He had done similar things before and we had spoken about it. But in this case, he had just done a reading  and  it was the host of the reading he did this with. So I embarrassed him and her and myself. I felt bad about it. He felt bad about what he had done. We spent the whole next day apologizing to each other.

But still there was no excuse on my part. My own anxiety, maybe jealousy, more likely insecurity had kicked in. It is just simply not a good thing to embarrass someone that way.

13

Arnie and I were two people thrown into turbulent waters, flailing away, terrified of drowning. Sometimes it was as if one of us was pushing the other’s head below water so that the other could keep his own head above it. Most times though we would help each other stay afloat and at times, glorious times, we would swim spectacular distances together.

There is no more Arnie. His funeral and the memorial were quite extraordinary. Tributes to him, tributes to the world he imagined. A tribute to the smaller world we helped bring into being. With the magazine, with his statements on the radio, with his eloquence at public gatherings. To the discussions he worked so hard to bring about. At his funeral I looked out at the people in attendance, such a wide variety of people, and realized that Arnie finally had the discussion group he always imagined.

 *

I can’t think of a better way to end this piece than with Arnie’s own words, an excerpt  from  “A Bitter Outburst,”  Arnie’s last essay: 

I wish to advance an oppositional culture. One which moves entirely outside the existing framework. I am not concerned with being so-called adjusted or mature. Existing cultural norms are often malignant. Even benevolent social democracy gives civil liberties and material well being in exchange for efficient production and consumption. Highly disciplined wage-labor with concessions from the boss. The illusion of comfort. Severe anxiety underneath. We have a self essentially conditioned to fit the machine. I was involved with anarchist-pacifist politics, the sixties counter-culture, the early seventies social movements. We meant to turn things upside down. To foster the return of the repressed. Open fugitive spaces. Political movements were reaching towards transcendence and ecstasy. Nowadays this is implicitly and explicitly ruled out by the left-liberal establishment. They are trying to reform the machine. We were trying to stop it. I ultimately come from a place where I do not fit in. I think a radical movement is ultimately internal as well as external. A breakthrough into a subversive consciousness. I wish to move outside the given. To negate the social order. I am not speaking of strategy or tactics. My disposition is rather mystical. I am exploring a different reality. Perhaps even an altered state. A move away from conventional notions of rationality. At one point we were taking emotional risks. Perhaps even playing with fire. At one level I might wish to withdraw from politics. Pursue an interior journey. Simply step out of the world. But paradoxically I also want to change it. To break the collective chains. To affirm the wild and strange. And reach towards the seemingly impossible.

 

What a ride this has been! Arnie I love you.

Meditations on And Then Volume 17. Bernard Tuchman

Unaychaman padrino Keithpa wasimpi waynuta waqtachkarqayku, Linowan, Sebastianwan, huqnin maqtakunawanpas. Hinaspa un kuchupi upallalla tukuy tuta  huk machucha noqaykuwan qepaykun. Brother Robertmim kasqa, allin harawiq, And Then riwistapa qollanan. Paywan anchata hununakuspa qellqaymanta rimayku. Nan 17 And Then lluqsirqamun, hinaspa qayna kuti hina  Bernard Tuchman llappan hamutaykunmanta  palta poesiyata qellqaykusqa. Kunan pachawan iskay kutinan paykuna ruwasqankuta qawachiwachkanku. Chaytaqa aswan mejorta scribdpi hawana.