She walks by wearing grapes in a forest of gay color
I feel like Tantalus
Trying to touch the cluster
That covers each delicate breast
She moves to put a book
Back on its shelf.
And I see other
More forbidden fruit.
The forest is short.
I’ve never seen her before.
I sit trying to read Rostovtzeff
Whom I’m sure would understand–
Appreciating the historical process.
I imagine leaving my chair.
She’s left the room.
I agonize over agrarian reform.
It’s history; this history
Damned thing is always the same.
Spring in Atlanta
I remember no one
I remember driving
Up and down the hills
Seeing the purple blooms
And breathing the air.
Or Spring in Philadelphia
As I lay on the grass in the Arboretum
Reading of sensuous Atlanta
Of Baldwin’s imagining
A white man cutting his progenitor’s genitals.
Over the Black soil.
Cutting would bring a relief
So different from biting those grapes
And leaving again
The juice and the sap.
I hold my genitals in my hand
wondering wheter these delicacies
Are worth the necessary price
“Grapes right now are 95 cents a pound.
“Cherries are more expensive
“And besides, they are out of season.”
I’ve changed my mind.
I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.
It’s flowers I want.
My mind turns. Another skirt rides up.
First published 1970 in Prologue Poetry, Volume IV Number 3 by Editors Louis Phillips and Joshua Freedman at 515 East 78th Street NYC. Shortly afterward Gilbert Claude Jardine asked me to read the poem on WNYC-FM.
Asking people if they believe in a Supra Human Plan. Some say– Yes, it is all written own in the Bible. Koran, Book of Mormon etc the Vedas etc.
Some say– no ,the human mind evolves, progresses, unfolds
others reply — wuch speculations are futile–have no plan, there is no progress, take
Timothy Leary wrote me from his jail cell. The adjoining cell contained Charles Manson. Shortly after I received the letter, I visited Timothy next to the vending machines.
I had spent months squiring around the beautiful, French speaking socialite Joanna Harcourt-Smith who was next to Timothy in Kabul, Afghanistan when G.Gordon Liddy, on urgent orders from Richard Nixon, arrested Timothy..
I regarded the interview as one last chance for Timothy to demonstrate that he was not a total and complete horse’s ass.
Immediately after Joanna’s press conference, where ( except for a handful of aspiring reporters, Imwasmrhe only one there who actually published anything. I was covering Tim’s arrest by G? Gordon Liddy, the worst of Nixon’s Watergate bad guys for the Village Voice. Only, after submitting an article on Tim’s plight to my editor Ross Wetzeon, Ross wrote, “ I guess this is interesting Joel. But Timothy Leary is yesterday’s news. Good luck finding someone who cares about an old hat story.”
Meanwhile, in SF, where my friends— attending Greatful Dead concerts in Golden Gate Park—had not a clue that the Sixties were over expressed fascination at Joanna whom SF Chronicle columnist Herb Caen referred to frequently as “Joanna hyphenate”
The only reason I had stayed around the Leary entourage was Joanna with whom I was head over heals in love.
Joanna and I had made love while peaking on Owsley’s LSD.
At the time, Timothy, Joanna, David Phillips and I held to a mystical belief, as it were cannon law, that one could not tell a lie if one were on LSD. So, the test in the red road of Folsom prison, Joanna and I embraced. Then Joanna, who the week before had described in detail how much she had enjoyed making love to me listing descriptions of the orgasisms she had achieved with my assistance, Timothy embraced me. Go figure, There we were all three peaking on acid right here.
After that, there was no turning back. It was Timothy or me. Foolishly, Joanna picked Timothy.
My best friend David Phillips, who died last year wrote the following about Timothy, Joanna and me:
“Joel Solkoff came to live with me in my apartment on Fell Street; we moved to Mullen Avenue and took lots of acid, and then he moved to a house on 24th Street. Meanwhile Tim and Rosemary fled Algeria to Switzerland, they broke up, Rosemary left for Sicily and further exile adventures with John Schewel, Tim hooked up with the adventuress Joanna Harcourt-Smith, was busted with her in Afghanistan, and was brought back to Folsom, a high security California prison near the appropriately named hamlet of Represa in Sacramento County. And here’s where my involvement in the Leariad resumed.
Joel was at this time trying to make a living as a free-lance journalist, and got the idea of doing a story on Tim. I think he sold the idea to Oui, a glossy semi-pornographic magazine started in 1972
Oui was a Playboy product, with naked women but also with intellectual pretensions; Jon Carroll, formerly of Rolling Stone and now (2010) a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, was the editor. To do the story Joel needed to visit Tim, but access to Tim was controlled by Joanna, who had gone through a form of occult “marriage” and called herself Joanna Leary although Tim was still legally married to Rosemary. Joanna had relocated to San Francisco to agitate for Tim’s release, or so she wanted it to appear. Nothing was ever quite what it seemed with Joanna.
I was at home on Mullen Avenue when Joel called me, at 2 AM and asked me to come right over to his 24th Street apartment and talk about getting Tim out of prison.
So I went over, and there was Joel with Joanna and some other people. They had various wacky ideas about petitions and political pressure and so on. I patiently explained the legal situation to them, as far as I knew it. I didn’t tell them anything client-confidential indeed I didn’t know anything specific to Tim’s case that had not been either in the news or in publicly filed court papers.
Most of what I told them had to do with the legal system, which they did not understand very well, and with the futility of that kind of approach in almost any criminal case (and especially this one) that has already gone to judgment, which they did not understand at all.7 As I recall there was some slight hinting about extra-legal means for releasing Tim – I said at once I would have nothing to do with that, and advised them not to have anything to do with it either.Joanna was a very formidable personality. She was brilliant, she was beautiful, she had enormous psychic and sexual power, and she spoke English with an elegant aristocratic European accent.
She was accustomed to using her charisma to get people to do what she wanted. What she wanted at the moment, or so she said, was to get Tim released (did she get him arrested also?), and she quite openly bent all efforts to that end. I’m not sure what she wanted from Joel – maybe a favorable story, or maybe a chance for herself or Tim to use the pages of Oui to make a public statement.
Joel wanted Joanna to give him access to Tim [ which Joanna did in spades]– in theory he didn’t need her permission to visit Tim, but he did need Tim’s agreement to see him and this Joanna either controlled, or said she did.