Tuesday, August 21, 2018


Poet Frank T. Rios, "the man in black"—not sure whether he or Johnny Cash was first called that— was a friend and an inspiration. Though originally a New Yorker, he ended up in Venice Beach in California in the 1950s and became known among some as part of the original Venice Beach "Beats."

I knew of him through Stuart Z. Perkoff, who I met in Denver when I was A.W.O.L. from the military for a few weeks in the summer of 1962, but whose poetry I'd known of for years. So when I moved to L.A. in 1982, Frankie was one of the first poets I connected with.

I read with him many times and was always impressed by his unique style, including "blowing" poems, a la jazz musicians "blowing"—i.e. improvising live on the spot—as well as his ritual of reading a poem jotted down on a piece of paper and then burning the poem after he read it to an audience.

Relatively late in his life he met and married his final muse, Joyce, who was a comfort and support to him and helped him get his books more widely distributed, which made us all who loved him happy for him. Here's the last poem in ALMOST MIDNIGHT IN AMERICA, a little book from 1995:

in all

in all
the dark corners
America blinks
its black eye
slapping the streets
of its bloody cities

in all
the dark corners
America blinks
a black-eye
a dead hand
against the face
of its cities

blinking shut
the window
of its heart

And because my posts are about my connections to things I write of, here's a poem he wrote only for me as an inscription in an issue of a serial anthology/magazine he edited called BLACK ACE BOOK 5 in which he referred to some lines from my poetry and for which I was and am humbly grateful:


there was a time
it didn't hurt
& then there was

like Rocky we die
for the poem
as she puts the rose
in our mouths.

I hope baby
has you eyes.

thank you for the poem
I love them.


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