{Cover of The Americans | Trolley New Orleans, 1955}

 

All the motionless world of Time between

You, Swiss born shooter —

found yourself in a hell of a fever dream.

America had you.

Year was 1955.

That fever burned like crazy

over blacktop county roads

(1950 Ford Business Coupe, used).

Film, 500 rolls.

Jail, three nights. Stopped. Questioned. You were Jewish.

1950s America.

Negatives, 27,000.

Enigmatic pictures, 83.

Worked yourself into a state of grace.

Shooting this crazy place changed photography.

Showed your book to every girl I knew. Wanted to be you.

Parade, Hoboken New Jersey

 

Who sang out of their windows in despair

Those stars, them stripes.

That goddamn flag everywhere.

There’s your 1950s cold war right there.

From Walker Evans’ shoulders

oh say you could see

the dark side of America’s fable.

(It was Kline, DeKooning, Ginsberg you got your freedom from.)

Look, your pictures say.

Would you look at them.

The forgotten and misbegotten,

everywhere I look,

hiding in plain sight.

Your America —

a whole different scene.

A saloon too strange.

Only you

could bear witness.

Bar, New York City

 

Who wandered around and around at midnight

Everydays are everything.

From the streets and the barrooms,

you dredged up your own way to see.

Hip prose, subterranean.

Darkened shadows, sideways shot,

tilted frame, Tri-X film.

Lighted Wurlitzers. Low light and plenty of grain.

No one had ever imagined us —

our dead, our dead lying by the roadside,

our drifting losers,

our workers,

our soldiers,

our newlyweds,

our dailybreads,

our gamblers,

  our heart of darkness,

like you.

“There was no thinking.”

Spiritual trip, then.

Restaurant — Leaving U.S. 1 Columbia, South Carolina

Who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals

That’s Oral Roberts, yo, trapped inside the telly.

Preaching to salt. Pepper, too.

Oh, brilliant blast of light

kissing that holy Formica!

Is that you lord? Playing

tricks on the Swiss bard?

One quick shutter click of

an empty diner with a TV evangelist.

Hot shaft of sunlight passing through glass.

Nothing ever changes.

SOUTH CAROLINA STILL LOVES JESUS

Man STILL thunders

from streetcorners and TV church –

SINNER REPENT!

And bring me some checks.

Elevator — Miami Beach

 

Who dreamt

 The uptown, mink stole, night life thing.

That portly, double chin of wealth

on the elevator car.

That girl.

First came the seeing?

And then came the feeling?

“It was a myth,” said you, “that the sky was blue and

all photographs were beautiful.”

These faces in time, in black and white,

this ‘vision of hope and despair”

– your lonely gaze

still hypnotic fifty years on.

“I hated those goddamn

stories with a beginning and an end.”

Mean like Hollywood?

 

Los Angeles

At dawn looking for an angry fix

Page after silvery, tritone page,

in vivid, continuous, dream-world sequence –

your allegory rolls west, south.

Urban, rural, black, white,

well-heeled, down at the heel.

(Did nobody tell you that nobody walks in Los Angeles?)

The spell of your story lodged deep inside me,

pierced my heart like a love dart,

hunkered down, never left,

urged me to think, see, and have heart.

Bleated out a silent message.

Mister, your hometown –

what in fucking hell.

Public Park — Ann Arbor Michigan

Shrieks of the fairies of advertising

THE LEICA M-3

Lifetime investment in perfect photography

“You are holding a LEICA in your hands —

we hope you will derive as much pleasure from it

as the multitudes of confirmed

LEICA enthusiasts all over the world. In the LEICA M3

you have the utmost

in photographic performance, speed, and convenience

that we, as specialists in high-grade optical precision instruments, can provide.

Such a camera does not come into being

from one day to the next.“

Hollywood Premiere – Los Angeles

The archangel of the soul

Americans,

star struck by false idols to fill our days and nights.

That beauty mark on your blurry, sad mouth blonde,

is like an apotheosis – a divine mark

of random good luck.

Say The Americans

is a random beauty mark on the face of a random world.

Gives us our anonymous vanity,

our perfect aloneness,

our lovelies, bejewelled,

our bad good luck,

our front of the bus and back.

Our sick and tired sojourners rolling down midnight roads.

U.S. Route 285 — New Mexico

Visionary Indian Angels

Robert Frank, I went to New Mexico

to study photography. You’re to blame.

On a winters snowy day, ‘85,

climbed onto my motorcycle,

girlfriend on the back, holding me tight.

We roared up into Santa Fe,

on a road much like yours

(Highway 14, the Turquoise Trail)

bought my wedding day suit

with a post-dated check.

She knew you inside out. And I loved her.

We had to give up. Something happened.

Her life is there still. Remarried. Found Jesus.

Mississippi River – Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Praying for each other’s salvation

The Americans is my all time favorite song. My lover as book.

It’s our sovereign cantos, eulogy,

found poetry, folk tune, street verse, cri de coeur.

The storytelling thing?

Sequence, rhythm, improvisation.

Voice.

Genius.

Pure feeling. Total freedom. And more feeling.

Cinematic sequencing. Editing.

Grace.

Good fortune.

Guts.

Rage.

Raising up the commonplace like a prayer flag.

Shooting that perfect, hard-to-get-to space —

between the real world and

the inner feeling world of a pure photographer —

one bad mother.

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