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The Poem Again is Yours: A Tribute to Ira Cohen

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"He taught us how to read the texts."
– Tom Walker

 

Ira Cohen was born in 1935 in the Bronx and attended Cornell University
and Columbia University. In the early 1960s, he lived in Tangier and published
GNAOUA magazine, an early venue for William Burroughs, among other Beat
affiliates. He also produced Paul
Bowles
's recordings of dervish trance music (Jilala). Between stints in
Spain, Paris, London, and Amsterdam, he returned to New York where he conducted
shamanic experiments in photography and produced the films
Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda and
Paradise Now (documenting the Living Theatre's
historic American tour). In the early1970s, he went to the Himalayas, studied
bookmaking with native craftsmen, and continued to publish poets and writers
such as Gregory Corso and Paul Bowles. In 1972 he spent a year in San Francisco
reading and performing and mounting photographic shows. In 1981 he again
returned to New York, where he lived between travels to Africa and Asia. In
India, he documented the great kumbh
mela
festival in the film
Kings with Straw Mats. In the latter part of the decade Synergetic Press published On
Feet of Gold, a book of selected poems.
Ira was a contributing editor of
Third Rail magazine, a review of international arts and literature based in Los
Angeles. His photographs have been shown internationally. Ira passed away on
April 25, 2011. The following tributes by Ira's friends were compiled for RS by
Steve Dalachinsky. 

 

There are those rare, exotic
birds that fly into the "real" world distinguished from all others by their
rainbowed plumage all aflutter. They flourish briefly then fall prey to poachers
and become extinct as fast as they are born, leaving behind traces of their
struts, rituals, beauty, individuality, anger, humor, wisdom and illuminations.
One such rare migratory creature was Ira Cohen born 1935, who travelled the
wide world from Amsterdam to Morocco to India only to return to nest in his
native New York in the early 1980's and to leave this "real" world for THE REAL
WORLD on April 25, 2011 leaving behind a legacy of long scarves and mylar,
colourful shirts and long flowing beards, photographic and filmic histories in
black and white and living color, endless poems of the real, hyper-real and
surreal. Tales told in mirrored kingdoms beneath "Thunderbolt Pagodas" by
"Kings on Straw Mats", the twisted fingernails of Sadhu contortionists bent
like pretzels beneath the Bhodhisatva Tree, warm smiles, Buddha belly, harsh
chastising and nasty FUCK YOUs. Born to deaf and hearing impaired parents Ira
made up for it with his huge presence, large voice and well-attuned ear. This
piece is a compilation/collage of words by some of those who knew and loved him
best. This piece is….             

 

About Ira 
as told by

 

1. Romy Ashby

Over the years, I heard a lot of stories told by
Ira. And very often while I'm walking in the city, snatches of his stories fly
up into my consciousness. Ira told me about going to Hubert's Flea Circus once
upon a time on 42nd Street and watching real fleas pulling little chariots. He
told me a few times about Paul Bowles showing him two embalmed Mexican fleas in
little boxes that he had in Tangier, dressed in tiny, colorful costumes. On
another visit to Tangier a few years later, Ira asked to see the fleas again,
but when Paul went to get them the little female flea had disappeared, box and
all. Later still, the male went missing too. Ira told me that Paul told him a
story about sticking a pin through a spider to keep it as a specimen and in the
night the spider got up and left, pin and all.

 

He told me about a dream he had where Socrates
and a bunch of friends were sitting on a beach somewhere, wearing no underwear
beneath their cloaks, and leaving the imprint of their twig and berries in the
sand by which they could be measured.

He told me about his old friend Irving Rosenthal,
the author of a very good book called Sheeper,
and how he had an extra tooth growing out of the roof of his mouth. Ira said
that once when Irving took an overdose of pills he tried to get him to throw up
by sticking his hand down Irving's throat, "past that mean little tooth."

Sometimes I recorded things in my diary, little
things I scribbled down while Ira talked nonstop into my ear from the phone:

 

At 11 PM answered phone/Ira. He told me about Paulita
Sedgwick, cousin of Edie and sister of Susanna (who she looks very much like)
how much he likes her–knows her for many years–and how she turned him down
for a kiss at his 36th birthday party, so he turned to Gianfranco Mantegna, who
was sitting next to him on the other side, and stuck his tongue down Gianfranco's
throat instead.

Sometimes it was something that just reminded me of Ira but
wasn't about him at all, but I'd write it down and I'm glad I did:

6 January 2005

As the E train came into the
station I saw that the driver was a glowering person in a turban who looked
like Ira. Once Ira told me about when he was a kid, how funny he thought it was
when his father farted and didn't realize it because he was deaf. We were
sitting in his living room on 106th Street, full of all his stuff,
me on the sofa and Ira planted in his chair. He looked like a wonderful,
menacing old owl. I'm one of the countless people who hit the jackpot the day I
met Ira, and the winnings will last me my lifetime.

May 2011….

2. from
Sylvie Degiez (from Sylvie and Wayne, CosmicLegends.com) NYC 2011

 

Ira Cohen, always game for anything that
feels Ira Cohen. He was a Mercurian being

 and I love to see himself that way.

 We met at Jedi's bar The Cooler talked right away, I'm kind
of a tall European

 I may have reminded him of Petra a bit. We hit it off, worked
together from then on

 first in the musical performance "Soundbites" at
the Cooler (where I also met the most dear, now departed soul, Rashied Ali). Ira,
Rashied, Wayne and I, Michael Alig, Angel Jack, Screaming Rachel, Taylor Mead,
Gloria Tropp and a few others performed 4:33 for John Cage's 1992 memorial in
Central Park Summerstage. We both loved music, words, costumes and rituals. We
performed The Dwarf of Oblivion/ A King, A Flower, A Point in time / Devachan and
the Monads / Moody Moon / Earth Ark / In the Sun and many other performances
together.

 One day, he gave me the strange manuscript of ORFEO,
scribbled in India by Angus MacLise, to direct. We did it at the Kitchen, Hetty
Maclise came, I met so many of Ira's 
friends. He was always happy to introduce you to someone: I met Ornette Coleman
with him, Cecil Taylor too. He knew everyone that was someone or not I was
lucky to spend his last Christmas with him and Mikki Maher and his last New
Year too, with loyal Alan Graubard. He was sharp as a tack although forgetful
and fragile. I will always love him and if all that's left is love he had
plenty of it, sometimes too much.

 Mercurial love Ira, will we resonate together again?

 Ira, you always spoke of this other world beneath the
trivial. Are you there now?

 

3.
Debbie Harry

What a wonderful experience Ira had in
life.  A sometimes hard fought

 search for his soul, Ira collected people and people's
stories.  He in turn was a great
story

 teller relating in wonderful detail all the nuances of his
stories.

I was often swept away by listening to him
talk about his experiences

and the experiences of the people he
met.  Good bye crazy sweet Ira.

 

 4. Michael Rothenberg

 

PHANTOM, COME HITHER!

                            

You're
not having enough fun  

Or
smoking enough dope

 

Not opening up your head  

 Or heading out into the open

 

So
go (NOW) to the Cosmic Hotel

Check
in to the Paradise suite

 

Give the Akashic cashier

All your hard-earned money

 

Condemn the sacred incantation

Of your tragic virgin muse

 

Pay tribute to the grave robbers

 

To troubadour Francois Villon

Master bandit vagabond 

 

Break open the sky!

 

Let the shattered stars shred all memories

On the bloody road to ruin

 
Map
the trail where lost dreamers go

 

This is not a day for archives

Libraries or documentaries

 

Pound the wheel into motion

Lie without shame

 

In a bramble of white roses

 

Run in terrible glee through worlds

Of avant-garde Pinocchios

 

Dance like Yakas

 

In the hallowed wheat fields

Of Indiana, Ohio and Idaho

 

The Killing fields of Pollyanna! 

 

Drink to the masked dancers. Have fun!

Because that's what suffering is for

 

There is no time for contemplation

No time to lean on a lamppost

And smoke that forgotten cigarette. . .

 

Instead, blow blue smoke into the lights of
a dying city!

While the sun goes up and down and up

 

And you shed your skin
And I shed mine

 

And die, and die, and die

With every fucking breath

 

Death-click, enlargement, refraction,
replication and scan

 

You're holding on too tight

To your rule book

 

Operating manual

 

Your life

You don't need your life! 

 

Step outside and scream

To the Daughters of Hell!

 

I'm waiting for you

Ghost draped in flesh

 

Waiting for you

To turn me on.

 

June 7, 2000

 

 

 (S.D.) Ira shared his crazy whirld with other such exotic
members of the flock as Marty Matz, Gregory Corso, Angus MacLise, Paul Bowles
and Jack Smith, Steve Ben  Israel,
Judith Malina, among others. All comrades, some extinct yet not stuffed and
displayed behind glass but alive and thriving in the hearts and minds of a
fertile underground still filled with outsiders, hunger artists, shop lifters
and lovers.

 

 5. Here are two
excerpts from an interview taped and transcribed by Eric La Prade
from November 8,
2000  with Ira Cohen talking about one
of those  very souls, Herbert Hunke
and their encounters in the 60's including another reference to Irving
Rosenthal:

 

As La Prade puts it: "Ira was street smart.
He could think on his feet, and was always ready to deal with an absurd
encounter."

 

ONE

 

"I knew Herbert
very well.  When he was on
Methadone, he bought me junk every day on a regular basis without ripping me
off.  He loved my mother.  He also acted like there was something
suspicious about me; that if he didn't know my mother, he couldn't deal with
me.  But, we always got along
well.  I remember with a very big
laugh. . . . how, before Louie, (Huncke's lover) he had Whitey.  So, one time they came to my place on
Norfolk Street, right on Houston, over a Jewish Monument Store.  After I came back from Morocco, I got a
nice pad there for Sixty-five dollars, and in the window of the store was a
monument that said, "Cohen."  So,
Huncke came over with Whitey one day and we were doing [something] and
afterwards, I took them to the door to say good-bye, and he [Huncke] was
already at the door with Whitey and as I came over I heard Huncke saying to
Whitey, "Notice how this doorknob turns to the left and the lock . . ."  So, I'm hearing this conversation and
I'm thinking, "What the fuck!" 

Then
I said, I don't have to worry about that lock, it works very well but because
we're on Houston Street right here and the [Police] Precinct is right down the
block, this house is so well guarded . . . can you imagine.  The other day, somebody came up on this
building on the fire escape and they went up on the roof and they just put the
searchlights on him and they nailed him against the skyline, and the guy was
running here and there, and they just mowed him down with a hail of bullets, on
the roof.  Then, Huncke left.  I just wanted to put a stop to what he
was thinking."

 

TWO

 

"One
day when I was home on Norfolk Street, Huncke called and said, "Know anybody
who wants to buy a typewriter?"  I
said, "No, but if I find anybody, I'll let you know.  So, ten minutes later, I got a call from Irving Rosenthal,
who is on Suffolk Street.  and he
says, "Someone just stole Edward Dahlberg's typewriter.  Do you know where I can get another
one?"  So, I said, "Sure.  It's funny you should call because
Huncke just called me and he said he had a typewriter he wanted to sell.  And it was a Remington; the same kind,
so maybe you should call Huncke."


6. Ira Cohen-In Memoriam
by Valery Oisteanu

What's next? whispers Ira and becomes invisible
Scream no more, from unquenched fate
We'll see you on the other side
A Jewish Shaman walks away
While the big flutes are silent,
The extinct cactus remains still
The bells are thunderstruck
Our holy man of the straw mats
Melts benignly into the molecular earth
After an endless battle with himself
A distorted shadow in search of Ganesh Baba
From Chelsea all the way to Kathmandu
365 steps up to the Temple Swayambhu
Kumbha Mella traveler overran by sadhus
Blowing a dijiridou, jazz convulsions
With potent magic mushrooms
Psychedelic carnal lovers evaporating
Disappearing on the magic carpet to the Kasbah
Lamenting in the sub-ground Ethiopian churches
Following the holy wind into the dessert
Eating majoun, riding the sunset
Tormented musicians of joujouka
Helter-skelter from Tangier to Crete
What's next boychick? What's hip?
Poetry shrunk down to tiny crumbs
Farfetched nightmares no more!
An avalanche of absurd nothingness
Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'may rabo
Sufi in Ira's coffee, Shiva in Ira's tea
Buddha in his wine, Yahweh in his tap water!
Last chillum for trans-hypnosis
The king of Thunderbolt goes to sleep

 

7. The Bat Palace – Jordan Zinovich

Ira
was a man who actively engaged life's mythopoetic potentialities.  I already miss that aspect of having him
around.  If he wasn't recounting
his own adventures, other people were. 
But the second-hand tales were frequently mangled half truths filtered
through weird impressions of Ira's complex personality and performative
personae.  About ten years ago, he
and I created a 350-page manuscript of his prose pieces entitled "Ira Cohen: A
Dissolute Life Spent in the Service of Allah."  During that work I asked him about some of the stories I'd
heard and read.  One of the most
interesting was a claim by Paul Bowles that Ira and the people living with him
in Tangier regularly practiced chiropterophagy and dark magic in the house
called the Bat Palace.

Jordan Zinovich:  Tell me the story of the "bat
palace."  I'm familiar with Paul
Bowles's version, which he apparently told fairly often, but it's about you and
I've never heard you tell it.

Ira Cohen:  My girlfriend Rosalind and I were living with Irving
Rosenthal in a house in Tangier.

JZ:  On the mountain?

IC:  No, not on the mountain.  People with money lived on the mountain.  We didn't have any money.  Our house was in the Medina, close to
the drain.

Anyway,
the Caves of Hercules weren't far away. 
The bats swarmed out every night, so we got curious and went to take a
look.  As usual in Morocco, there
were "guides" there – they always needed money and never asked for much.  For some reason, once we got inside the
caves I decided I wanted a bat.  It
just seemed like a good idea.  So
the guide we'd hired took a long stick and poked around in a crack in the roof
until one fell out.

I'll
never forget that bat crashing down: it didn't just drop, it plummeted like a
star, smashing down stunned.

The
Moroccan wanted two dirhams for it. 
Irving and Roz went nuts. 
Twenty-five cents didn't seem too much to me, but they wanted me to
barter – as if they really knew anything about bartering.  Some people really got into bartering,
but things were cheap and within reason I just paid what the Moroccans asked.  You're never really going to beat them
anyway.  Since the guide
specifically asked for two dirhams I suspected he had some special need for
them, so I said: "Two dirhams, two bats." 
I didn't need two bats, but it was easier for both of us for me to
barter up rather than down.  I got
two bats.

That
was probably good, because the injured bat died by the time we got home.  We laid it out on the table and started
smoking.  You know how it is: you
get stoned, you get crazy; one thing leads to another.  We started talking about what to do
with the bat.  At some point, as a
joke, I said, "Why don't we just eat it?" 
Roz said, "Okay."  She was
so matter of fact about it.  She
got out a frying pan and some oil and started to skin it, which was the last
thing in the world I expected her to do. 
(I nailed the skin to a board and kept it for years until it got so
moldy I had to throw it out.) 
Irving said he wanted the lips and the penis.  I wasn't really sure that I wanted any of it – but when the
time came I went for a drumstick. 
Roz ate the brain.  When
Mark Schleifer dropped by it had become a theatre piece.  Poor Mark had had a terrible time the
night before at Sidi Kacem (the Moroccan equivalent of Walpurgis Night).  He had no idea what was going on and he
recoiled from us in horror.  Before
I knew it the story was circulating as if it was something we did regularly,
which is the story Paul told.

JZ:  That's it?

IC:  That's it.

JZ:  What about the other bat?

IC:  We wanted to learn more about it, so we put it in an empty
room in the house and closed the door. 
But we never saw it again after that.  No matter how quietly we moved it was never there when we
opened the door.  No sign of
it.  I guess it found its own way out.  Animals are a lot smarter than people
think they are.

8. Indra B. Tamang – Ira
Cohen as I remember him most  May 4, 2011

 I remember trekking with Ira in the mountains of Crete, as we
went through little villages, dogs would come tearing after Ira and I'd think,
"Why him and not me?" There was just something about Ira that made the dogs
want to chase him. I think they had probably just never seen anything quite
like him before. Something I always admired about Ira, that I've never seen
anyone else do, was his way of being able to carry on a conversation with a
number of people while writing poems at the same time. Poems just flowed out of
him, a constant flow of poems like a river. Whenever he used to come up to the
Dakota to visit Charles Henri Ford and me, dressed in his unmistakable caftan,
he always came with everything he needed to preserve the moment; pen, notebook
and camera-and he created a huge memory bank of moments with those tools of his
trade. A huge pair of shoes has been left empty with his passing.

 

9. Bobby Yarra remembers:

Coming
home each day, wearing my three piece suit and carrying my briefcase, I passed
Cafe Boheme in the Mission District and often saw a fantastic spectacle. There
was an incredibly handsome man dressed like a Pasha, and what looked to be his
entourage, lounging in the cafe and having a wonderful time. I would say to
myself "I wish that I was with him and his crowd and not scurrying home
after a hard day of misery."

 

I
flew to New York from California in early 1983, dropped my bags off, and went
immediately to The Chelsea Hotel to see Vali Myers, which was what I always did
upon arrival when Vali was in town. I always brought a fifth of Bombay Gin to
room 631 to celebrate and to enjoy the magic of my friendship with the divine
Miss Myers. After imbibing way too much, Vali took me to a party in the Village
honoring George Plimpton, who was her great friend from her early days in
Paris. I remember shaking his hand and then running down the stairs, as I was
about to be sick. After heaving, I looked at a man sitting on the stoop of the
building where the party was and recognized that handsome man from the cafe in
San Francisco. It was Ira.

We
started talking and thus marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

 

10.  Penny Arcade – Ira, You Are Gone Now  May 8th, 2011 NYC

 

Ira, you are gone now

You have lost that body

That needed so much

No more the urge

No more Desire

No more your refrigerator of stolen meat

No more, no more

The epic poems

You are full now Ira

No more hunger

No more emptiness

"A non psychedelic can never enlighten a
psychedelic"

you always said

And of course that is true

as you were true

True to yourself if to no one else

except maybe Lakshmi

your red headed daughter

Ira I walk the Lower East Side

and everywhere

There is you

You were not the best father

You were not the best friend

You betrayed my trust with that psycho
bitch

Still

I always knew that when you turned your
back on me

It was in the hope of pussy

Nothing meaner really at work

When I said "How could you Ira?

I stuck up for you to Ginsberg"

You just shrugged

Majoun and Mylar blurred your boundaries

What a fool for pussy you were

What a cunt collar you had Ira

Ever the hustler, ever the shoplifter

Your desires were so strong

Books, poetry, photos, steak, pussy

And something to smoke,

pussy and the hope of pussy

love and the hope of love

poetry and the hope of poetry

you were that criminal Sadhu, Ira

in the tradition of Villon, Rimbaud , Genet

No mendicant

You shoplifted thousand of books and
thousands of steaks

Ira and you read them all,

And you ate them all Ira

You read all the steaks and ate all the
books

didn't you  Ira?

You ate them all Ira

One extraordinary person after another

One adventure out on a limb after another

You were so hungry, your appetite for life
so big Ira

You out ran death for a good long time

Your death was always with you as it is
with us all Ira

But you made deals with yours Ira didn't
you?

That warm fuzzy death sitting on your left
shoulder

You borrowed from your death Ira

She was your pimp and your lover, Kali

And you owed her big time

At court for Jack Smith's estate, you sat
with the psycho bitch

And when I confronted you

You said "I don't think that shows I'm on
her side"

You sat there just  to be close to the pussy

She was never gonna give you

But you didn't believe that did you Ira?

And when the judge dismissed our case

Without even hearing it

and their lawyer came to you

As I stood in front of you

the crooked lawyer said :

"We couldn't have done it without you Ira"

and You were so confused

you looked up at me sadly, blinking

and said, "I didn't do anything."

But I understood you were just there hoping
for the pussy Ira

I really did

Hoping maybe

For a taste of the recognition that eluded
you

Just wanting to be heard Ira

till the last second just after you died

You never understood you couldn't play both
sides Ira

The Mylar and the Majoun

they blurred those boundaries

See how they played you Ira?

The New York Times Obituary

You didn't expect

So respectful and so grand

They gave you your rightful place in
history Ira

The place at the table you helped set

And now your photos will be worth money Ira

But you won't be there

To pay your rent with it

Or to buy a dinner or a pack of smokes

That's the catch Ira

The New York Times never mentioned your
poverty

Or how it twisted you to be so
unrecognized,

So left out

They didn't mention your skill at
shoplifting

A skill, you said, every poet should have

Later when the psycho bitch cut you from
the

Jack Smith Film except for one line

You were so angry and so disappointed

When I told you she was a trust fund cunt
with a million bucks

You said "A million dollars? She told me
she was starving!

I bought her a sandwich with my last 5 bucks!"

Oh Ira you got played

And I was so pissed off

I didn't talk to you for two years

Then one night at The Pink Pony

Lucien said to me

"It's Ira's birthday "

I felt your sorrow from across the room

And I came to you and kissed your head

And I didn't say anything

But you knew I forgave you

I remember your mother in the hall

On 106th St. and Broadway

The deaf people signing madly

clustered in the doorway

The deaf neighbors of that silent tower of
babble that formed you

And I entered the wordless magic world you
grew up in for a little while

Your mother's sweet, silent laughter echoed
in yours

Your eyes so merry like hers and so filled
with life

You knew joy Ira

You really did

 

Ira I could listen to you for years but you
never let me get a word in

Years of living in that silent world

insured you would have to talk uninterrupted
for decades

But I hear you Ira, like I always did

You channeling the secrets of the Akashic Record
for all to hear

If they only listened to you instead of
looking at the crumbs in your

beard

I heard you Ira.

I listened.

I really did, and you can talk
uninterrupted in my ear forever now

I always wanted to hear every word you said

Ira , we laughed so much

I remember that Ira

I really do

All those days and nights with Jack Smith

When you first called me to say he was
dying

And not answering his phone

And you sent me to ring his bell

Because you were afraid of Jack's famous
rage

And after you asked me

"Now that Jack knows he's dying, do you
think he

will be easier to deal with?

And I laughed and said

"No Ira, Jack is more difficult then ever
but so what?"

And you said, "Yes, I guess it will be
alright"

You at Jack's bedside, in Beth Israel

The day Ginsberg came and tried to
photograph him

And I stopped him

You said "You are so brave."

Allen said, "You take such beautiful care
of Jack"

And Jack lifted himself off the pillow

And screamed at Allen

"It's because I am not a walking career
like you!"

and standing by his pillow

you gave Jack the little  ball of opium

he craved

It can be said now

No one will think you killed him

AIDS did that

But remember when Jack turned to me and
said

"Thank God Ira is here. No one knows how to
talk anymore"

and oh how happy that made you

Oh Ira

All that long night as Jack died

We massaged him and spoke lovingly to him

You and Mikki, Mitch and I

And when he died in my arms

You anointed his body with the special
perfume

From Marrakesh's master perfumer

As the nurse tied the white cloth around
his head

To keep his jaw closed

Jack's eyes wide open in ecstasy

And the Doctor said "I have never seen
anyone die like this"

And I said "Photograph Jack, Ira"

And you hesitated

And I said

"Get on the chair Ira

Shoot from above

It is Jack's best angle

Jack wants this. It is his death portrait"

I never saw you hesitate before

Oh Ira

They never let you read at St Marks

You the real poet

The cruelty of Ginsberg and Burroughs

At the PEN Award

When the staff tried to throw you out

Because there was no chair for you at the
dinner

And Allen and William turned their backs on
you

Like you were nobody

And you shrugged you shoulders and said

"Ginsberg wants to be the only beard"

You wanted their approval Ira

But it was you who were the time traveler

You who sat in dirt with the Nagas

You who smoked chillums with the Sadhus

You who stood in the Atlas with the Berbers

You who went to the Kumbh Mela

How many times?

They could only write

They never lived it

And they knew it, Ira, they knew it

Oh Ira

You always had one foot in the astral plane

I know you are at home there

With Ginsberg, Burroughs, Julian Beck and
Don Snyder

Brion Gysin, Charles Henri Ford and Paul
Bowles, Jack Smith, Marty

Matz and Corso

With Lionel Ziprin, Roger Richards, and
Hunke,

Louis 
Cartwright and Tuli and Vali

And soon the rest of us

The Sweet Return

And we will all be there together

in the sweet bye and bye

Ira

I know that

and I feel you there ,

and 
I feel you here

with me now

I always will Ira

and I know

You will never go away again

 

 

11.
Inside Outsider for Ira Cohen – Shiv Mirabito

 

When we first met with the Kathmandu set

 on a sunny day in Woodstock

You explained the joy & the pain of
publishing poems

 on handmade paper in Nepal in the 70's

& You inspired me to start Shivastan
Press in Nepal in the 90's

 
to continue the tradition You & Angus started

Bardo Matrix, Star Streams, Dream Weapon

   Spirit Catcher Book Shop

All now rare as opal vulture's teeth &
1000 year old unicorn eggs

A book is a beautiful thing

 

You name dropped me an avant garde
education

Bowles, Burroughs, Gysin, Ziprin &
Corso

Midgette, Malanga & Maclise

Paul Babes, Little Ira, Ganesh Baba, Jack
Smith & Penny Arcade

Vali, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein & Joey
Ramone

Peter Lamborn Wilson, Charles Henri Ford
& Indra

etc, etc, etc

Morocco, Amsterdam, New York, Kathmandu

Italia, Ethiopia, Angkor Wat & Timbuktu
too

 

Now that the translucent psychedelic opium
bubble

   swirling on the edge of time has burst

   may the purple shadow of your poetry never diminish in
size

Your work will live forever in the Akashic
records of eternity

Born of parents who could not speak

You never stopped speaking

or creating

or writing

& I tried to devour every golden razor
tongued word

 

You were right when you screamed at me on
the phone:

"You don't know anything!!!"

Was the bat palace really Shangri-la?

Why did Mata-ji cry on that houseboat on
the Ganga in Banaras?

Was the Bardo Matrix press really financed
by the CIA

             
& King Birendra of Nepal?

Why did the silently smoking sadhu

         hold his arm in
the air for 12 years?

How many million pilgrims shit at the Kumbh
Mela?

How did Paul Bowles make love to a
Moroccan?

How did William Burroughs make electricity
from dead cats?

Was mylar photography really inspired by
butterflies wings?

Did the secret caverns below the self
arisen stupa

       really connect to Lhasa?

How big were the roses in Bir Singh's
garden?

What did Jack Smith's bejeweled lair look
like?

How did Vali get those tribal tattoos?

How many topless angels can dance on the
head of your pen?

Has the gold dust in your squid ink finally
faded?

Does the one legged blind beggar cry for
you?

Is it true that "Whatever you say may be
held against you"?

If Groucho Marx said you had an ethereal
body

   would you hold it against him?

 

 

12.
Louise Landes Levi

                                                      I

met
Ira Cohen on

the
Weesperzijde home of poet-

anarchist
Simon Vinkenoog – I had read

&
marveled at his works – editing Americain's Abroad,Vol.2 w. Lynne Tillman –

unpublished,
Amsterdam 1974. Ira Cohen arrived at Simon's moments

 after
I'd received a psychic message don't meet him –

I
was trying to preserve a love relation, absent lover in India

, I
knew close contact w. Simon & his entourage wld. bring the circle to a
close – IRA

appeared
– the conversation centered

on
confetti in Benares bearing  images of

Antonin
Artaud, Daniel Moore's Floating Lotus

Opera
Company had I slept w. him? & Petra Vogt, 

 Ira's great
love – great actress of the German stage & the Living Theatre. 

Ira
was returning fr. a visit w.Jodorowsky – he had
wanted to score a part for

Petra
in Dunes. He wanted to get back to Nepal as soon as possible. 

The
next morning Ira arrived at

 my
place on the Laings Nek Straat-

(Daumal
& Michaux translations – literally – hidden

under
my bed- The boyfriend did not approve.


knew.someone wld. be sent who did. )

Ira
needed a place to stay, yes,of course, welcome,

It
reminded him of Nepal, Indian

instruments,
books on Buddhism, very quiet.

Ira,
Heathcote Williams & I, that night do a

show
at the Milky Way. The boyfriend returns, luckily

headed
for his parents, his twin -or double – had already found another

 
place for him. IRA had entered my life –

A
symbolic, empowered (by the poetic

 muse),
entirely personal (Uncle Ira where are you?)

relation
– over the next 4 decades-evolved. Countless readings, 

publications,
photos, a film, musical accompaniment (for
his

readings),
radio shows, endless talks, cafes, bars, living rooms, 

his
living room that is – I never had my own apartment 

after
the Laings Nek Str., Ira the rival

of
my sweethearts but never my sweetheart –

it
wld. be incest
we agreed. Poems written for

you,
written together, a few out bursts

diabetic
rage. Louise what shld. I do,

 toward
the end, bravely persisting,

you
can't kill yourself. It wld. be terrible for Lakshmi, yes.

Breathing
yr. last the

day
I return fr. my retreat. I was

thinking
of you on the island, dancing

for
you. the dance encapsulates the teachings-

        
why didn't you ever talk abt. it?

you
never asked
.

 

Sweet
prince,

You
waited until the day

I
returned to die/you are living

In
my heart, O my poems have flown

away

                   
w.

                            
you

*

IRA-AMSTERDAM/NYC

 

                                                                  
You

wind
up on my

bicycle,
you are so heavy,

but
I do not falter, notebooks, photos,

Petra
is a princess fr. a dark world, you are

a
ruler of an other wordly planet, or

place,
as yet unencountered,

We
are friends, we

are
the priests of the nation*, you

have
the social gifts, I am an outsider, a temple

musician,
according to tradition – By the

same
tradition women are not allowed

to
play, we break – at a cost – w. these

traditions.
It is a long road

clad
in black, we meet in Naples,

in
Amsterdam, in NYC, in London, when

the
paradigm is changing & I am playing w/o you,

But
the photos, in the gallery are yours. The relation

 at
this point. Changes.

You
are bedridden & your

mind
has been affected by the endless medications

imposed
on you & by whom? I will ask that question

for
a long time. Your poetry continues,

We
write & work together. The tables of fortune

turn
on a vast mandala & you are mine & I am yours,

that
is, we never took the poetic voice, it overtook

us –
talks of deep personal nature, the poets

Li
po & Tu Fu maintained such dialoge.

 

Wasn't
it you who introduced me to Arberry?

Wasn't
it you who was as light as

 

a

              
shaman?

 

 

(in lore
of 10 lost tribes, the Cohens occupy the position of

the
socially active 'priests' or rabbis, the levites are

wanderers,
are not permitted to own land,

but teach
as travelers. The Cohens &

the
Levites guard the treasury

  
of the 5 books.)

 

 

13.
Peter Lamborn Wilson remembers:

 

Some time in the late 80's in NYC I
happened to be at a poetry reading that also featured Ira Cohen, whom I did not
know. He happened to mention his guru Ganesh Baba and as it happened I too was
a "disciple" of this great enlightened eccentric – who smoked more ganja than
anyone else I (or Ira) ever met. I met Ganesh in Darjeeling in 1969. Ira met
him, I think, later in Katmandu. Ira helped bring Ganesh to America. And
published a pamphlet of his outrageous aphorisms – which I later re-published
in Orgies of the Hemp Eaters  (Autonomedia). I loved Ira and if
there's a heaven for dope smokers I hope to meet him and Ganesh there once
again, for an eternity of emerald bliss.
 

 

 

 

14.  from Gabor Gyukics – Hungarian poet /
translator and good friend

 

  it has nothing to do with

(in
memoriam Ira Cohen)

 

say farewell to all the previous notions

walk among sleeping crocodiles

towards the center of colors

not withstanding the magnetism of mysteries

below the crowds of nothing under the skies

along the chords of the infinite circle

 

with silent lips

with goggled eyes

with storming calmness inside your skull

your defenseless
cells lead your invisible steps

across the forbidden zone

 

yellow fog feeds

your leftover body

 

 

17. From Herbert Kearney

 

I had the good fortune to spend his last
weeks' transition with Ira. He held true to the last when the nurse tested him with
who's the president of the U.S. he replied 'FUCKHEAD!' . you filled me empty.

 

   For
Ira Cohen…Keeper of the Akashic records.

 

Crazy man
takes my black shmotta from your hospital room

 it
returns with open hand of steve dalachinsky 

 Later
stilled you I in timeless silent stare

 somewhence
between birthmark and buddha

pen-knifed ink
tatooed on my paper heart

doing
upside down mudra magic with gummy worms

 outside
'Herbies cuoferi' on 110 th st.

taking London
strides to october gallery

where
you wrote the last samurai in a book

I
gifted made from English meadow flowers

 challenged
double decker bus for the road

looming
big caped in black lunged I between as offering. 

Unpoliced
poet pulling Malanga's 'Living theatre' from Italian prison 

 band
aid buttoned old Nikon marrying words to pictures

the
haunted rose finally talks to the angel

sitting
on cosmic straw with matz

 listening
to the sound of jade growing in stone

rather
then the jingle of gold

wearing
Kaufman's eyes blinded by loud sounds of Hunckes hipster shirts

did
the ex professor of tempest and torment confess to her mic

that
the listener risks all in the nightmare of Corso's mindfield ?

where
Angus makes Omas' bent bowls sing arye with sounds of light

and Villon's
noosed neck need not know the weight of his ass

where
the insomniac sleeps the big sleep

 we
seek undying dreams as death dreams us back

where
Luca puts his head thru a hole in the Romanian Flag

 which
now drapes around Andrei Cadrescus'

still
stretching like suspenders of nations that have no meaning

here
no one sleeps in these times

 when
the maker is the monster's myth

here
the minoans still bemoan dolphins deaths

 waiting
for drunk gods to drown

as
the brown owl stays up all night

 filling
the white goddess with stolen meat

four
hour phone calls pass like moments planning plays

 where
Bobby produces 'a ship of fools' at 631 

 Vali
as captain hennas your beard to look like an Afgani tourist

 fantasizing
a gypsy wedding

pissing
in the same can thrown into inseparable seas

 with Lionel
as navigator using five dimensions at once

 inventing
stars to go by

you
as mate busy keeping records of cultural icons

 personal
happiness too low a star to shoot for

 and
I as crew trying not to fall overboard while 

landgarten
in panama style

 collects
the songs of the ancients thru gulls cries 

in constant 
constellations of creation

 through the
sound of silence

 brings
back coconut economics

and
now… you are the temple.

 

 

 

16. Allan
Graubard reports April 26, 2011 that
:

 

    The day after Ira dies
A Great Horned Owl lands in a
backyard tree in Chicago
Startling all the little birds
Who know their time has come

A friend calls me up to tell me
How it happened
Sitting there on the back porch
Smoking a cigarette
The sky going dark
And the lamp light wrapping its
soft fingers
Around the shuttle cocks

We know it¹s him
Another guy from the gang
Who went years ago
Returning
To tell us
He knows
That we know
What Ira knew

Never knowing how
To say no
When it was
Always better to say yes
We¹ll do it
And it will do us

So are there two owls now
Shuffling shadows
Between their feathered eyebrows

Or is that the illusion
Of a reflection
That night
Gives us
Back
For being there
When that owl landed
And all the little birds
Shivered


Us, too

 

As the funeral proceeded, a slight wind
came up and above floated a hawk, no other bird in sight, careening up and down
on the updrafts. For a time, above the mourners and coffin it hung there like
some ancient glyph, spirit messenger from the feathered realms to tell us, we
know, we see, he who helped one of us we now recognize. Pass on, brother, we
are here to help you.

 

Ira is in the feathered realms; this man who spoke
the language of the

birds…"

 

 

 

17.
and a similar experience by Ira Landgarten

 

Ira Cohen was
buried beside his parents & grandparents in Mt. Lebanon Cemetery in Queens,
April 27, 2011. 

During the funeral, a single majestic hawk
soared above the open grave…

several of us mourners saw it hovering
on the thermal winds. 

 

How fitting, this spirit bird, how totally
Ira!

 

 

 

 18. steve dalachinsky

 

your death was so
real  like being in a movie

you were buried today

& bobby said it
was all very jewish

& some little kid
had ½ his body

½ his mouth blown off
by a car bomb

in iraq

so they brought him
here

to feed him ice cream
for his birthday

 

alan g. & ira l.
said a lone hawk hovered over your

grave as they laid you
to rest – rest

& you who

evoked the natural
world with your dinosaur bones

sought what could
never be truly represented

in the "real" world

tangible you endured

rendering the "real"
thing false

evolving

involved

informed

invested in this
LIFE   beyond this life

always a small group
of the faithful

seeking your every
move

 

it's too beautiful
today

said the BIG RED
flowers

not like yesterday –
all grey & misty wet

when the breath they
forced into you choked on itself

& the great
machine that you were shut down

in the midst of
spring's silence

big body lost in the
paradise of the JEWS

 

it's a great upheaval
today

said the big white,
yellow & orange flowers

all confused

who are you talking
to?  she asked

to impending summer
little girl  – they answered

short skirted little
girl

& the guy wearing
the Disney t-shirt that says

NO MORE MR. NICE GUY

says that Boccioni's
unique forms of continuity &

space would seem like
cartoons today

& Apollinaire

died of WAR &
Pestilence – small fragments

of his body blown away

just disappeared into
the battle stained air of metamorphosis

zero relative cube
architecture

a non-
manifesto-ist  in a time ruled by
manifestos

& great art
everywhere succumbed to &

influenced by
influenza

gutfreund

contrast of forms –
romanticism – solidarity

& the cone itself
was a symbol of the future

& your warm
chromatic swirling strength

quiet feet in the
corridor

"what's happening to
lakshmi" you say

"she's falling off the
page"

"the pillow is falling
off the bed"

"my leg is falling off
the bed"

"why don't i get a
fucking blood connection"

" i need a fucking
shot"

"i'm gonna punch you
in the nose"

"i don't want the
pillow to fall"

let it fall – i say
–  "fuck you" you say – bag ½ full
of piss

the afternoon rush is
quieting down

she sweeps silently
along the corridor

 

it cannot be true

what the old
Nicaraguan poet

incanted

what the long gone
scientists

claim

that we all evolved
from a

single cell

you & the hawk
perhaps

the ice cream cone

the muddy rainbow

there are unstoppable
counterfeiters

out there

hence uncountable
counterfeits

remnants

all that is left of
original civilization

the inside story of a
vital brain

closing doors while
opening minds

you leave it all
behind now

NOW behind you now

waiting to play your
song

waiting for the world
to begin again

born of mutes

an automatic son  – your links to the very origin

land of the free –
free links to the world

the universe whose
hands you are now in

traveler wherein you
travel with your autobiography

beneath your arm/your
skin

& our biographies
as well within this one/celled DNA-circus

waiting for you to
bring toward your chin

hidden behind your
long white beard

GOD or something like
that

anyway

see-er / translator of
traditions

here/now the angel of
death finally annoyed

kissed you on the
forehead – & the skin peeled off its lips

& you surrendered
said hello to the bright light

your shoulders
lightening – the pillow falling

your vocabulary
communing with the SEASONS

solutions – your very
memory multi-layered

multi-celled lingering
in the substance

 

& you threw the
dice

said farewell to the
color of music

said hello to the
rumor of otherness & immortality

left behind the deep
clarity of your voice

the reflective
rewinding of a journey

& its steps

& you slipped the
Akashic Record beneath

your cape

kissed the little boy
of WAR on the forehead

took a lick of his ice
cream

threatened to stick a
pencil up the nurse's ass

set your wings in
motion

& said FUCK YOU to
DEATH – death

          
HERE    I      AM!

 

So here's to you dear Ira, one who had the
wisdom of an owl, the appetite of a hawk and the heart of a dove. (S.D. – NYC
may 2011)

 

For those interested DREAMWEAPON – the Art
and Life of Angus MacLise

is on view at 521 W. 23rd
Street, NYC from May 10-May 29. Angus was a good friend of Ira's and there are
many photos letters, poems etc by Ira in this show. A poet, musician and
original member of the Velvet Underground, MacLise was only 41 when he died in
1979. Also there is a Jack Smith exhibit at Gladstone Gallery on 515 W. 24th
St. oddly right around the corner.

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