John Wieners


Introduction to Transmutations
                                              by Stephen Jonas


How long ago Steve, it was
we walked along Arlington Street
throwing words to the wind.
Before junk, before jail before
we moved to the four corners
                                    of the world.
And you lived on Grove Street
and wrote poems poems poems
to the Navy, to Marshall, to
Boston Common. A simple life.
                                         Frantic comedown.
                                         Gone our lovers.
Gone Arlington, Beacon and Charles
                           Streets, Easter Sunday March
29, 1959. l look now out a back window
in San Francisco. 6 months in Danvers.
                               How can the poem
shine in your eyes in those dark cells?
Bang. Arlington Street comes down
                                    with a clump.
Oh for a blade of grass.
                             Oh for a room with
                                        the rent paid.
Oh for a roof.
                                    I see before me the cobblestones
and the camera. Dana and you
                             in the sun ducking
out of the lens.
                             You cannot move
faster than the shutter of my mind.
                            Those old elms bend over
the street and form an arch
                                    that we walk under.
Sad priests in the 20th century.
                            We began the second half
together. We chalked our words
                                    on red brick
and left them for the rain.
                                  It is not kind.
Nor time.
                    Nor memory the Mother.
                                           A thing of barbs and
needles. The street is long.
                              It runs to the ends
                                               of the earth.
                 We are still
                          on it.
                                         But cannot see
                                 or hear the other.
                                                    What traffic
                                                          drowns out
                                                    all our notes.



Part II
     The traffic in the city of Boston has steadily increased, and
the national debt by 1966 will be between 7 to 8 billion dollars.
They have torn down the West End, they have down Scollay Square,
they have torn down nearly all of Copley Square, erecting insurance
companies, parking lots and underground garages in their place.
As a center, they have placed urban restaurants, made out of plate
glass and neon signs. Renewal they call it. Gone the elegant, old
hotels, basement cafeterias, underground jazz cellars, and strip
atheneum. All night movies, the Silver Dollar at the corner of
Boylston and Essex are dark while Nedicks shines on. Old haunts of
these poems, they become bombs to blow up in the face of the future,
they have become the future itself: BLAST; in the face of emblems
of the past we live by.
     Queen's Row is no more. Those bricks in Arlington Street, known
the world over now moulder in the city sun. The Queen's Rosary once
told by the buttons on a sailor's fly, 13 in all, is counted no
more. Instead retreated to a men's room, where for the price of a
dime, you can purchase a flea. Beacon Hill is no more, the
Lincolnshire, where Eugene O'Neill died, is now a Nurse's Home.
The North End holds its own, but gangsterism prevalent there prevents
kind inhabitation

     What is left? The South End, where the Poet plys his trade.
Boston has no East End, tho there is an East Boston, only the
desperate go there.
     It is here in the South End that the Poet lives, where the
outcasts of old times swing. No longer Billie Holliday at the Savoy,
but Jan Balas still stumbles through the streets at dawn. No longer
Malcolm X on Mass Avenue at the Roseland Ballroom (that's gone too)
no longer Tremont and Boylston, they've moved out to Roxbury;
oh Billy Donahue, he's underground at the Navy Yard. I thought
that was Roger Weber's tramping ground. Anyway, here is Steve
Jonas, here is the language he makes real, the city he lives by
and that has died under his grasp, the gods he lives with, the
poets he meets, and the men he has loved, and the painters,
that are thrown in for good measure. Here is the poetry he makes
come alive.
                                                                                               John Wieners