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Long Poem to Gunther and Paul: Contact Improv, 2015

Long Poem to Gunther and Paul: Contact Improv
today was full of memories and associations from the dance jam at contact improv. I
come to dance in a loft on Broadway where I lived in Soho forty five years ago. It is very
difficult for me now. I am hungry but I cannot eat. My life has been on edge with the
past before my eyes at every familiar place and person I see because I have been sick
for almost two years now for unknown reasons and at every moment I feel myself to be
in a different consciousness from the living; aware that I no longer care about the things
I used to or that most everyone else does. Before the jam I pass some time in a very
garish neon lit full of the latest black Nazi-like styles clothes shop. I’m looking thru a
book of Picasso paintings - black and white - that is sitting on a table as part of the
decor. The paintings are in the style of todays fashion; leather, studs, black and death
like. The paintings - like the dismembered paintings of the psychotic people I painted
with while I working at the psych hospital. Then I escape to climb the long wooden blue
stairs up to Edens’ Studio. The floors creak and it is empty and I can stand and not
move. I stand and stare and remember - as I move with Paul comforted in our moving
together without speech remembering Gunther and how we lived together in his loft
with Martha and Mica, Sara and Shirin in the early 70’s. Then like now the factory
buildings are stark and the light lifeless and sterile but then it was as if we lived on the
outskirts of civilization. Broadway was deserted, factories empty and artists living in
some of them very cheap. There was a great freedom about the place. Completely
dark at nite and by day empty except for the few clothing factories remaining that left
ribbons of velvet out front in boxes we used for the children's art. It was like another
country - we lived on our own terms - away from convention in these old industrial
spaces. In the afternoon the sun shone down the streets, Canal, Wooster, 16 Green
Street where I lived with Gunther when I was homeless with two children and he took
us into the loft he had rebuilt; lofts all up and down Spring, Prince, Grand, La Guardia,
Houston, and Broadway. The changes now make me dizzy - make me feel homeless
like I am again, like a shadow. We made art then in obscurity and silence away from
the rest of the city and busyness and expectations of normalcy. It was like an asylum
away from how you were supposed to do things. We visited each other - looked at
each others work and helped each other with our children and were happy to be away
from pressure to conform. We started the Soho Coop Nursery where Sara and Mica
went. My daughter and Gunther’s son. And Gunther was there. He could never let any
one near him and yet he was full of yearning and love. His history spoke thru him. He
called himself the wandering Jew. He’d been part of a group of wandering orphans
during the war. Both his parents killed in the camps. He was adopted by a very normal
Jewish family in the Bronx who never forgave him because he wouldn’t call her Mother.
He was always apart. You could see it in the way he stood. Apart from everyone on his
own terms. He didn’t move like other people when other people would walk he would
stand - still. He never said anything he didn’t mean but he could hardly ever say
anything good about anything unless he loved you then he could see no wrong. He
couldn’t chat or pass the time. He would just stand there. I liked that about him. We
often did not talk. I liked that about him. The space around him felt real. Not like with
most people where it is as if you are being pushed away. In that space I felt that he loved me.

Thirty years later he helped me get to Red Hook where some artists had
moved from Soho. He said you’ll be all right here and I was. It was the only place I ever
really was alright. It was deserted except for the other artists and him. He was an
electrician. Before he came to Red Hook he electrified half the lofts in Soho. The good
ones. This was in the early 70’s and late 60’s. There he met and came to love Robert
Frank while electrifying his loft. They loved each other and treated each other as
sacred. Gunther protected his friendship with Robert guarding it from other people. The
fame part of it as if that would pollute it. Robert had a place in Nova Scotia where he
would go with his wife June to escape. Gunther went to visit him there sometimes. Both
Jewish and depressed and hating anything false and pretentious and - one - Gunther
burning with an unquenchable rage at the cruelty of the world. I think they shared that
hatred - of cruelty and pretension. When Gunther was dying he ranted about a muffin
that spread crumbs all over - why did I have the nerve to bring him a muffin. “I hate
muffins!” That is how he would get. Be sweet and then over nothing - strike out and
crucify me so irrationally I would leave. To the end he did that but it was as if the
burning of his love was equal to the furnaces of the camps that had taken his parents
from him. Still I had huge pity for him, love and gratitude that twice he had nearly saved
my life and found a home for me - and still often seemed to hate me tho I never could
hate him. Every time I called him he helped me till he became afraid of the way he
could get when he was around me. Ultimately I was afraid to be his partner or his lover
tho I told him I would love him forever. Once I lay beside him in the cabin he built for
himself by hand in the country and he never touched me. Each of us waiting for the
other. Each of us terrified. I came to him knowing by intuition when he was recovering
from cancer. I came to him when he was dying and he seemed to want to be alone -
that was when he chided me for bringing him crumbs which he must have meant were
the crumbs he had gotten from life or that I wasn’t ever able to love him enough beyond
his rage.

I remember this as I move in contact with Paul whom I barely know - but know him
deeply in his body presence where we owe each other nothing, expect nothing, and
require nothing but give each other what we both want most which is unconditional
presence. And still I wonder what is it in me that finds such a comfort in this non sexual
communion that feels more intimate even than friendships that I have had for years. A
deep fulfilling experience in this yet strangely detached connection. I am afraid to take it
to the spoken level afraid we will loose it. It is the kind of communion I have with other
artists when we can talk together about the process and what it is for us to make art -
the dream state shared made conscious.

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