Julia Vinograd (aka "The Bubble Lady") was for many yeas a Berkeley Icon. She walked up and down Telegraph Avenue near campus, limping with a brace due to polio, wearing her velvets and beads, waving a bubble wand and offering her books of street poetry for sale. I occasionally bought one.
Julia is a poet: A POEM IS A STREET HUSTLER
A poem is a street hustler
living on its looks,
smart enough to play dumb,
tough enough to look easy
and not hiding its meanings
any more than it has to
to keep from getting busted
for indecent exposure.
Despised and irresistible
in carefully torn jeans
a poem leans against the doorway
not quite looking at you
and saying nothing just yet.
Only the tip of its tongue curls,
as if forgotten in the side of its mouth.
it's got a fake I.D.
and it ran away from home
and it doesn't care what happens
as long as everything does.
Culture makes people yawn.
Beauty drives them crazy.
As long as a poem is beautiful
it doesn't need anything else
and knows it.
It laughs dismissingly
at everything that isn't perfect.
It's a little unkind.
Culture comes later when the game gets it
and it needs a pimp and a publisher,
and drugs and distribution
and reassurance and reviews
and it isn't so young any more.
Then the English Teachers get it
and it isn't even a poem any more.
Just homework and a social disease.
A poem is a street hustler
leaning against a doorway
not quite looking at you.
And you can't look away.FOR THE TOURISTS IN THE 60s
I remember how the tourists saw us.
They were wistful middle aged men
who were about to meet a barefoot girl
in an orange mini-skirt
who'd give them a flower
and take them to her pad
and after one toke on a joint
they'd be drugged and helpless
and make love non-stop on a mattress on the floor
and in the morning they'd wake up a communist.
You could tell they were worried about it
and even more worried
that for some reason it hadn't happened yet.
They believed in us
more than they believed in the stockmarket.
Even when they heard scary rumors
they went right on trusting.
I remember when I was hitchhiking
this couple slowed down, looked me over,
and then to be sure,
asked me cautiously, "Are you a psychopath?"
Of course, I'd tell them if I were. Of course.
And the newspapers wrote furious articles
about how naïve and gullible we were.
I remember the tourists,
clutching their cameras like teddybears,
clicking their loneliness at us,
getting everything wrong and waiting for magic.
Sometimes I remember our magic
just by thinking of their puzzled faces.GINSBERG
No blame. Anyone who wrote Howl and Kaddish
earned the right to make any possible mistake
for the rest of his life.
I just wish I hadn't made this mistake with him.
It was during the Vietnam war
and he was giving a great protest reading
in Washington Square Park
and nobody wanted to leave.
So Ginsberg got the idea, "I'm going to shout
'the war is over' as loud as I can," he said
"and all of you run over the city
in different directions
yelling the war is over, shout it in offices,
shops, everywhere and when enough people
believe the war is over
why, not even the politicians
will be able to keep it going."
I thought it was a great idea at the time,
a truly poetic idea.
So when Ginsberg yelled I ran down the street
and leaned in the doorway
of the sort of respectable down on its luck cafeteria
where librarians and minor clerks have lunch
and I yelled "the war is over".
And a little old lady looked up
from her cottage cheese and fruit salad.
She was so ordinary she would have been invisible
except for the terrible light
filling her face as she whispered
"My son. My son is coming home."
I got myself out of there and was sick in some bushes.
That was the first time I believed there was a war.