For Lewis Warsh.
And so ended the question
Whatever it might be
Current events politics war genocide
And so began the talk
Of two marvelous hours
On Saturday afternoons bimonthly
In a marvelous place
Be’s place – no Be’s Salon – on Park Ave So.
Be’s gone too now – a magical woman with a magical place – since last summer
Large windows with glass beads from top to bottom
That crystallized into notes if the windows were cracked open
If we brushed up against them accidentally, Yes?
Two hours of almost magic because i don’t believe in magic
But i learned so much in those hours learned to love the poetry
My fellow poets… those we studied… those i studied with…
We were 8, 10, usually, Yes? Or more?…
Be, Ruth, Lilla, Phyllis, Michele, Donna, KB, Dennis? Valerie, Karin,
Joe, Peter? Billy? Merry? Noam… Who am I leaving out?
Do you consider yourself an intellectual, Yes?
No i thought
I come from the working class
Though i’d hardly done any work
To be part of the class that duly works
Not like my father toiling in cane fields
In cafeteria fields on Delancey washing pots pans
Short order cooking for Jewish delis
Or Mami working in the dixie cup factory making dixie cups
But I wasn’t an intellectual… how
Could I be if I’d not come from the class of the intellects
You have to come from a class,Yes? And stick to it, No?
Lewis that day went around the Be’s salon[around Be’s salon] and asked each
One, Yes, Are you an intellectual,Yes…or No?…and why so, Yes?
Lewis went around the group always so expertly, so interested in whatever
We had, we gave, we had to say… he always called us poets
What we said could say might say was important to say to hear…
There were 8 of us… Yes?
We’d met at the
Poetry Project workshop and at the end of the 10 sessions, Phyllis Wat came
Around and asked if any of us had any interest in studying with
Lewis Warsh privately… we’d meet at Be LaRoe’s apartment on Park Ave So.
And so a group out of the Poetry Project group was formed and so we met
At Be’s and we paid Lewis 3 dollars apiece…Yes? After a while, did it go up
To 5, 8 even… Yes?
So little for so much
So much kindness
So much love
So much learning
Lewis never asked for a raise… it was one of us who seriously
Knowing how little we paid how much he, Lewis, gave made a suggestion
And so l found out, Yes? after weeks, months, years, yes, i was an intellectual
And Yes, I was I am a poet…
I dedicated my second book, Whose Place,
To Mami y Papi, who started it all…
And to Lewis Warsh
Lydia Cortés is the author of the poetry collections Lust for Lust and Whose Place. Her work has been published in various anthologies, journals, and online zines. She is now working on a poetry book on the late poet/playwright Pedro Pietri.