Pennsylvania Bio

Pennsylvania Bio

Pennsylvania Bio

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
Nov. 5 1998 3:30 AM

Pennsylvania Bio

Pennsylvania Bio

By Gerald Stern

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(posted Wednesday, Nov. 4, 1998)

To hear the poet read "Pennsylvania Bio," click here.

I wore a black knit hatso I could be undistinguished in the warand carried a small bagso I could be mistaken for a doctor,

and once in a whorehouse while waiting for a friend of mine to finishI examined the madam on the kitchen table; and I spent Sunday at either the Serbian Club

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or the post-war Literary Club on Atwood Street above the pre-war clothing store, and ate hot sausage sandwiches and cold buttermilk across the street from the first Carnegie Library

and made plans for the next seventy years. I drove Andy Warhol to the East Liberty train station in my father's 1949 Ford. Believe it or not I bought a 1949 Buick

thirteen years later for fifteen dollars and drove it into a junkyard six years after. My first instrument was a kind of kazoo and that led naturally to a French trombone. I was

loyal to my own music for fifty years though I detested snare drums and tap dancing, just as I do those singers now who hold their left fists in the air while holding the microphone

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inside their mouths. And I hate short sleeved shirts when they wear them with dark neckties, skinny swine knocking on closed doors; and I had a habit of counting bricks, a nice obsession compared with

washing hands or touching car doors, it gave mefreedom with walls so I could handle bulging and sagging when I had to; and one of the summers I read Steinbeck and made love--in the bedroom--

to my aunt's cleaning woman in upstate Pennsylvania and learned to adore the small town with its rows of stores and trees on the sidewalk and only a short walk into the country, in this case up a steep hill,

the dogs more sullen the farther up you went, and Russian and Roman churches below, the sunlight on the river, the bridge empty, the outer one half-hidden, I was shocked by the sudden distance

and I had a Brown's Beach jacket with a reddish thorn in one of the pockets, which was my toothpick for thirty-five years, and a vest to match, and a flattened acorn I kept in the darkness; and I had a pencil

I used to keep my balance, the edges were eaten,the lead was grey, the green eraser was worn down to the metal, and I had a spiral notebook I kept for emotions, and I folded my money.