New Yorkers at The Velvet Garter, Somewhere West


New Yorkers at The Velvet Garter, Somewhere, West

I wanted you to love me on that trip
and felt you pretty much did
after that hour against the tiled
shower, when I was, for at least a while,
as important as your art, something that you might
mount upon a wall, and breathing glee together, we got back
in the car and drove, not at that moment consciously
further West, but to find some twilit entwine
of neon and of dance, even asking
the toll booth operator because no one else
seemed able to tell us–  Where’s the action?
she repeated, dazed bangs sounding out
conundrum, and we said, you know,
and after staring at the strip
of toll roof in case some early stars might just poke through
to point the way, some folks like
the Velvet Carter–
at least that’s what we thought
she said, naming an exit.

You yahooed, speeding off–so moist still with
each other, the windows gusting
rusting cobalt–and I wondered if we could keep this close
in the City with its whipped grey grids
that blocked you into your work, and me, sort of,
into mine,
then found a white-bulbed sign edged red, and everything
just shrunk.

Sure, the sky we parked beneath
was big, and yes, I felt your warmth
at my bare arms, but it was hard
to keep that smirking togetherness as the
hostess led us in, earnest lipstick tucking cherry
between puffed cheeks, and gloom
pressed down,  at least on me, with
the off-slant of the tablecloths, shabbiness
of stale smelled steak, the sateen reds making me almost

Only two other customers, a guy at the next table draped
over a couple
of chairs, skinny legs, boots, splayed, ruffled velveteen bands bunching
the joints of his jeans and sleeves–
a woman squeezed beside him, cleavage even
at the elbows, several bowled goblets encrusted
with gobbed salt and a few more velvet
bands made us realize as we looked down
at the plastiscene menu that what ringed his limbs were garters from
drinks drunk,
and that the name of the place had nothing at all to do
with wagons–

Loneliness fell like night–
hugely; the stub of cigarette
abandoning the guy’s bleared smile showed teeth
stranded at each side, his girl’s hair flat and split
as a bleached beach
under darkening tides, her eyes like the eyes of a collie sad
to be left outside, a collie with one eye black, one blue, though
hers were both just blue, blackened only
by mascara.

This is where people out here
have fun
? you whispered
shaking your head,
but I couldn’t laugh, and as we waded back through velveteen to
blacktop and looked again at the quavering sign, we noticed how
the grin of the G had blown dark (why it looked
a C)–and could not even hold hands.

We were still travelers together,
but any connection of flesh, man-
woman, felt like a worn-out game,
exuberance toothless, our wandering selves slick leeches
sprawling the parched–and I wished guiltily
to be back between my City’s lit grey walls, walls that
held throngs of people and paintings and shelves of words
writ whole, though I knew that was
unfair–the town poor and this bit
of the West beautiful, truly,
if the eye would only
stretch out over its vastness and the City
could be plenty lonely too
just like anyplace where there are couples.


This is very very much a draft poem, and very belated also, intended to somehow be “beat” for the prompt by Gay Reiser Cannon on dVerse Poets Pub —  It is much too long, and prosaic, and hard to follow., but I’m posting it because I’m not sure how else to re-write just now.   I am also posting for With Real Toads Open Link Night. 

PS – the red and white thing in the drawing is supposed to be a velvet garter, not a santa cap. 

Also – the poem is not autobiographical!  I was trying for the Jack Kerouackian.  

Finally– this has been edited since first posting, changing the last word from “people” to “couples.” 

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28 Comments on “New Yorkers at The Velvet Garter, Somewhere West”

  1. hedgewitch Says:

    There is indeed a Beat sadness to this, the sense that life was all used up by someone else before you got there, and it has their deepest alienation, the one that comes from those to whom we look for intimacy…it also explores an interesting concept–where is our home ground? We seldom feel ourselves when out of it, but it isn’t necessarily tied to one place or even person–rather to a feeling born from what comforts or reflects us best, perhaps…I liked the length, the conviction of the images and details, and the rambling narrative nature of this, which seems to lead inevitably to the soft resignation/resolution at the end–I also love the drawing of the tiny lost car, and I’m glad you explained the hot dog/railroad train –er, garter. ;_) Fine writing, k.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks– yes, that Beat sadness was what I was thinking of – but I couldn’t get the end right, really–perhaps better if I try a straight story–the drawing is an amalgam–as I just didn’t have it in me to do something totally fresh today – the car better without the garter, I think! (Ha.) Thanks again. k.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      I’m thinking now the ending line should say “anywhere where there are couples” instead of just “people.” Will have to think about this. k.

  2. This is power-packed, Karin. You really captured the atmosphere of that era and the feeling of beat poetry. I was away for this prompt. It sounds like it was a lot of fun and a bit of a challenge.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      A challenge for me certainly, Victoria–I am looking for a funny children’s poem I wrote at once point, but cannot find it! So frustrating, as fully illustrated! Maybe never typed, I don’t know. Anyway, I have some job work to do, but will think about your lovely post. I may not get it done till after closes–just a bit pressured right now. Thanks much for stopping by. k.

      • Do what you can…maybe for OLN!? I’d love to see it, especially since it’s illustrated.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        I just wrote something new this morning and am doing the illustrations now. I think I’ve got something old I can use but probably faster just to do new ones. Hard to find old.

        I will try to get up before the prompt runs out. Thanks. k.

  3. brian miller Says:

    what a last couple lines there…a place lonely as anywhere there are people….i think couples would be a bit more pointed which could be a good thing…this is a little longer for you and not bad either…as you let it develop…

  4. Okelle Says:

    I found it quite enjoyable. I’d love to see it in a collection of your work someday. I find your conversational voice — which often tells the story sideways through details like the velvet garter — quite refreshing. But I share your desire to hone and hone the language. These days I’m struggling with deciding when something is ready to post. Perhaps a first draft is better than silence.

  5. claudia Says:

    this is a poem i can really feel…ugh..the loneliness in the being together..different priorities and the melancholy is take on the beat pompts k.

  6. There was definitely a “Jack Kerouac” feel to it even before I got to the end and read your footnotes. Loved your poem. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  7. You have captured this EXACTLY – the downer of the couple’s mood in response to tawdry surroundings – I especially like the closing lines…..this scene to be repeated often everywhere there are couples. Cool.

  8. Helen Dehner Says:

    Don’t know what it says about my brain … I had NO difficulty following your poem! I think it may have a bit to do with ‘relating.’ WOW!

  9. “the windows gusting
    rusting cobalt”… loved that line, tucked in, a pause in the journey. I think you’ve captured the Kerouack feel really well.

  10. Steve King Says:

    This a wonderful odyssey. Not prosaic at all. Ideas develop here with an internal momentum and rhythm that’s built by waves of stylish, distinctive and hard hitting lines. It feels pretty final now. Can’t wait to see it when you think it’s done. Very admirable.
    Steve K.

  11. Kay Davies Says:

    Nothing like seeing that worn-out couple to take the glow off young love, for sure.
    The line that came to me was Wordsworth: “The world is too much with us late and soon” and then someone drawling “Yeah, man, tell it like it is!” in reply.

  12. margaret Says:

    “after that hour against the tiled
    shower, when I was, for at least a while,
    as important as your art, “…. I so just love this!

    I can’t help but feel that they were disturbed by what they saw because they saw a bit of themselves in the sad, worn out, (over-used) couple.

    It would leave me sullen and pondering as well.

  13. Susan Chast Says:

    The sex that pushed the two forward for Fun, the tawdriness of the one choice they were given, and then this transition:
    “. . . but I couldn’t laugh, and as we waded back through velveteen to / blacktop … ” swept me, too, to the opposite side of the car seat rather than close … as if a vision of the future had just taken place, not just another episode in a journey. Life sure smacked these two in the face, and gave me the same experience. If that’s not Beat–or better–I don’t know what is.

  14. grapeling Says:

    sure, might stand a bit of a trim on top, the sideburns thinned, but good looking nonetheless ~

  15. I loved the length of this that gave me time to join their world and see the fading of their coupling. So much of your wording is fresh and made me see what you were describing. And the ending is a sad echo of the beat’s loneliness.

  16. “Together” doesn’t always mean togetherness…you certainly have shown that in this piece…great write!!

  17. Jamie Dedes Says:

    Bravo! … and hard to believe its a first draft.

    We know this place, this space, these people … beat, alienated … you captured it all well. Bravo!

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha. Thanks. No, it is not a first draft–a first day’s draft more like it–I went through many reiterations during that day. I feel like something is a draft when it is fresh and I haven’t had a chance to live with it, but I did go though repeated go-rounds with this. Thanks, Jamie. k.

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