Monday, December 30, 2019


READ IN 2019:

Burt Kimmelman's WINGS APART
Ernest Thompson's and Mindy Thompson Fullilove Thompson's HOMEBOY CAME TO ORANGE


Eileen Myles' EVOLUTION
Loneley Christopher's THE RESIGNATION

RE-READ IN 2019:

Yvonne de la Vega's TOMORROW, YVONNE


Elaine Durbach's ROUNDABOUT

I know there's many more, but these were the ones that came to mind this time. If I forgot a book you may have sent me in 2019 I'm sorry, but I can assure you my compulsiveness made me read it, even if I haven't finished it yet, or have but like I said it didn't come to mind this time.

Sunday, December 29, 2019


"The 20 Lessons I've learned in the first 20 years of the new Millennium (because I don't take a lot of photos to do the ten-year thing).

1. Charm can get you through every door, but what keeps you there is the work you did before you knocked.

2. You can’t grow to be who you are in places that only remember you for who you were.

3. If you are truly genuine, nothing is corny

4. Everyone is waiting for a fun, funny, interesting person to start a good conversation.

5. Judging people’s sexuality and fantasies is a good way to end up with a boring sex life.

6. Boundaries will keep you sane.

7. Never be “genre” specific. You miss out on a lot of special by only listening to one sound, viewing one style, or spending time with one type of people.

8. Say “Yes” to life. This moment won’t happen again. So move to that city, it doesn't matter if you don't know anyone. And go to that music festival...even if it means sleeping in your car.

9. Read great literature, and bad literature, and good poetry, and bad poetry, and biographies on the good and the bad. Just fuckin read.

10. Whatever you spend all your time thinking about is what you should be doing.

11. It doesn’t take much to uplift or support the ones around you, everyone needs a pat on the back.

12. There will come a time when you will be alone, full of doubt, sadness, and regret, with only your belief in yourself to cling too, and that must be enough.

13. Stand up straight, look people in the eyes, and smile.

14. Following trends is an excellent way to be interestingly dull. Find your vibe, and live in it. Be passionate, be a classic.

15. If you master your strike zone, you can crush “wild” pitches.

16. Thinking “outside the box” is capitalist bullshit used to drive you into debt with shit you don't need. Learn to make the box unique with what you have.

17. Your life should include both the smell of crisp morning adventure and the taste of late-night stories.

18. People are people, so you have to let them be people.

19. It’s ok not to know where you are going. You’ll figure it out when you figure it out, and you’ll get there when you get there. However, make sure to appreciate and enjoy all the roads you have to take along the way.

20. Being confident is all about knowing that you are doing the best you can to be the best version of yourself; while at the same time being happy with where you are now on that journey.

*********** BONUS #21 ****************

21. Ignore people's additions and critiques to your own list."

—Timmy  Lally (a grand nephew) (and a great nephew too)

Saturday, December 28, 2019


Best thing about last week's Eddie Murphy SNL live (for me) was the two performances by Lizzo. Watch this to the end and dig her and her band and her dancers and tell me it didn't make you happy.

Thursday, December 26, 2019


Allee Willis was a force of nature who I ran into at times in my years in L.A. ('80s and '90s). You can look her up to see what she meant to the music world and the culture of this country, but my most memorable anecdote is much less impactful, except on me. I had an antique shirt from the 1950s, dark blue with a strip of yellow diamond patterns across the chest that I often wore when I read my poetry. After one reading where I wore it, she came up to me afterward to say how much she loved my shirt and how much did I want for it. I said it was an old favorite and not for sale, but she kept going higher and higher, and I kept on resisting. From then on whenever I encountered her she'd ask about the shirt and if I was ready to sell it to her. I never was and still have it, but I'm happy it brought me in contact with such a determined and dynamic  creative soul. May she rest in the power of that creative spirit.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019



I always worked on Christmas. Well
not always, since I was about 13.
My father had this home maintenance
business, which meant we cleaned up
after rich people and fixed things in
their homes. There was always a lot
to do around Christmas, including
selling trees out in front of the
little hole-in-the-wall store front.
We had this one special customer who
got this special fifty-foot tree every
year. On Christmas eve, after his kids
went to bed, my brother-in-law the cop,
Joe Glosh (short for Gloshinski) and me
would drive up with the tree and put it
up in the middle of this swirling kind of
Hollywood staircase, wiring it to the
banister here and there until we got it
steady and solid, ready for the silver
dollar tip we always got. My brother-
in-law would always wonder why the best
tree we ever saw always went to a Jew who
didn’t even believe in Christmas, right?
Then he’d drop me back at the store and
go home while I waited there alone just
in case somebody might be waiting til the
last minute to buy a tree. Usually no one
was, and when it turned midnight I could
call the local orphanage and they’d come
by for whatever we had left, which my
old man would let me give them for free and
then I could walk or hitchhike the few miles
home. When we were little my sisters and I
would exchange our gifts before we fell
asleep, because we all lived in the attic
together. The coolest thing was waking in
the morning with this sound, like crunchy
paper, and realizing it was our stockings
at the foot of the beds that our ma had
always somehow got up there without us
catching her, and we’d get to open up all
our stocking stuff before we woke the rest
of the folks, our older brothers and grand-
mother and the border, Jack, and our mom
and dad. Then we’d all open stuff and go
to Mass and come home for the big dinner.
But by the time I got the attic to myself,
cause my brother-in-law and that sister
got a place of their own and my other sister
joined the nunnery for awhile, I got to
working for the parks department too,
because my old man didn’t pay me, figuring
I worked for room and board, so I had these
other jobs, and the parks department had a
busy day on Christmas cause all these kids
would come down to the park to try their
new sleds or skates and I worked either on
the hill or on the pond as a sort of guard
and coach and general alarm man. I used to
love seeing a wreck on the hill so I could
slide down the snow on my engineer boots,
the kind motorcycle dudes wear now, showing
off my teenaged skill and balance for the
teenaged girls who might be watching. I
don’t remember ever falling down, it was
something I was totally confident about. Now
that I think about it, I guess working on
Christmas wasn’t so bad, even though I always
kind of felt sad anyway, especially after I
started dating black girls and knew I couldn’t
take them home or share the holidays much
with them, but there was always something sad
about Christmas anyway, once you were over five
or maybe ten, how could it ever live up to your
expectations again? I also dug being a
working guy though, you know? Even today
when I see young working guys going by in
the backs of pickup trucks I catch their eye
and feel like I know what’s going through
their heads, because of what was going
through mine, which was, any time now I’ll be
out of this, a big star or wheeler dealer or
intellectual or anything that means a kind of
success you couldn’t guess when you look at
me here under these conditions, cause now,
I’m a mystery to you, you don’t know who I
am, you think you can categorize me but you
got no idea who I might be someday, or the
the richness of the life I live inside, and
you’ll never know what it’s like to be as
cool as I sometimes feel when you look at me
and see a guy from some kind of ethnic mystery
you can’t comprehend except in the most simplistic
terms, and who is so free he can work in public
and get dirty and sweat and wear his hair greasy
and his tee shirt rolled and know you would never
mess with him unless you’re a woman and get a whim
to find out what it’s like to give a piece of ass
to someone from the working class—I dug the
kind of coolness of it, of knowing I was a lot more
than these ordinary citizens could comprehend,
that I could be sexy in ways their men were too
restrained to be, that I could be threatening in
ways their men would be too frightened to be, that
I could get down and dirty and not give a fuck
what I looked like in public, even though I knew
I looked cool, that I could be inside a life and
world they could never even guess the intensity and
romanticism and pure exhilaration of because it
didn’t depend on material goods and worldly
success but on loyalty and honesty and standing
up for yourself and all the rest of your kind
when you were put to the test—hell I used to
love looking back into their eyes and thinking
some day they’ll be so surprised to find out
what was going on in my head when I put it in
a book or on film or tell them about it in their
bed—so even though I came home late for the
big dinner and my fingers and toes all froze
cause guys like us could never make a fuss about
the cold by wearing scarves or gloves or any of
that rich kid stuff, and maybe I’d get a little
drunk when nobody was looking and try to get the
phone into the closet or somewhere where I could
be alone for a few minutes to call some girl
they might call colored and wrong, and end up
later that night sleeping on the floor of the
kitchen with the new puppy so he wouldn’t keep
everyone awake with his scared yelps and in the
morning scandalize my grandmother when she found
me in my boxer shorts the puppy asleep on my
chest and she’d rouse me and make me get dressed
but not without telling me I was just like my
father, I didn’t have any ashes, which was her
way of implying I didn’t have any ass to speak
of, and then I’d help her get her stockings over
her crippled legs and have something to eat and
go to work again, maybe this time on the pond,
where I’d get to slide across the ice to rescue
stumbling teenaged girls while “Earth Angel” or
“Blue Christmas” blared over the loudspeakers
and in my heart, knowing for sure I was going
to be a part of some important history, and I
was—and still am.

(C) 1997, 2018 Michael Lally

Saturday, December 21, 2019




Yang was steady as usual, no surprises or fireworks but no flubs either. Mayor Pete and Warren both took some body blows. The mayor scored on Warren who attacked him for big money donors and closed events for them, but when he countered with his claim that he was the only one in this debate who wasn't a "millionaire or billionaire" she suddenly seemed defenseless, as if she and her handlers weren't even prepared for such an obvious comeback. She didn't point out that she lived much of her life on the low end of the economic scale and was a self-made person who didn't come from anything near wealth while the mayor did, she just folded. And Pete, when he tried to dis Klobachar got pummeled by the winner of the debate, the female Senator from the midwest. Klobachar was quick and smart and sometimes funny but definitely the most together candidate in this debate. Biden had a "no harm no foul" night and Bernie was more vigorous than ever and as consistent as usual also but repetitive and reductive. Steyer was just in the wrong arena. I'll still vote for whoever the nominee is.

Thursday, December 19, 2019


A shot of who happened to read their poetry one night at the weekly reading series me and Eve Brandstein ran in the 1980s and '90s at different clubs in Hollywood and environs, this time at Cafe Largo. Top row: Anne Beatts, Hubert Selby Jr. (R.I.P.), me, Jack Grapes, Eve, Lotus Weinstock (R.I.P.), Joel Lipman (R.I.P.), bottom row, Tommy Swerdlow, Katey Sagal, Yvonne de la Vega (R.I.P.), Michael O'Keefe, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Harris, Miriam Mezzierres, Michael des Barres, Caroline Ducrocq (photo by Nancy Rica Schiff). Some of the regulars not there that night include Ty Grandson Jones, Nana-ana Danquah, Lynn Manning (R.I.P.), Meriline M. Murphy (R.I.P.), Harry Dean Stanton (R.I.P.), Susan Hayden, and too many others to recall at this moment.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


The "pledge of allegiance" Nancy Pelosi referenced in her opening remarks today was an advertising gimmick from the late 1800s and didn't include the words "under god" until the cold war 1950s when you were a commie if you didn't constantly proclaim allegiance to "god"...the so-called founding fathers weren't about allegiance to a flag, or "god" but to the Constitution, so I've always felt if school children and senators and people at public functions want to display their patriotism, they should pledge allegiance to the Constitution.

Michael Lally (C) forever

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


I got the distressing and depressing news last night that one of my dearest and most intimate friends in my years "in L.A."—Yvonne de la Vega—has passed on. The last time I saw her was at the reading I did at Beyond Baroque a year ago. Here she is with her arm around me at the book singing afterward, and another dear friend from L.A., the equally unique performer and poet, Mello-Re Huston.

Yvonne was one of the most dynamic and essential presences in my almost twenty years in Southern California, and in the lives of everyone who knew her in her lifetime. Her life-affirming creativity and joyful presence, at least for me most of the time, despite her struggles, was inspirational. She never gave up it seemed. So I'm finding it difficult to accept the reality of her physical presence being no more. Fortunately, her work is still in the world extending her life force even to those who never knew her. Like one of my favorite books of all time: TOMORROW YVONNE, Poetry & Prose for Suicidal Egotists (Punk Hostage Press). Here's part of what I posted when it came out:

Yvonne is an L.A. poet, singer, musician, dancer, spoken word performer, and much more. This is a collection of pieces that she's been reading and performing around L.A. for decades, some newer than that, but a lot have been knocking live audiences out for a while. Including me.

I'll quote my own words that I wrote for her to use on the back of the book:

"Yvonne de la Vega is our steampunk poet laureate, mixing not only the classic and the contemporary in poetic tradition and personal expression but doing it in her uniquely original way. There is no one in the world of poetry quite like her, or the world of anything for that matter."

I hope Yvonne doesn't mind if I reveal that I first dug her as one of the "native girls" who rushed out to meet the plane on the TV show FANTASY ISLAND. Discovering her that way was like the first time I caught Rosie Perez dancing on IN LIVING COLOR. But Yvonne is also the woman who Herb Albert wanted to, and did, record when he heard her read one of her classic poems, "Flamenco Sketches."

She's a self taught performer poet in the classic tradition, and when she's cooking her poems are as much music as language. Many of her best known classic pieces, like "Everything Pink," are too long to quote here, but I'll give you a shorter one that conveys the power of her approach at its best:

In Being My Father's Daughter
                                 -for Daddy, Silvero Duro de la Vega RIP
               June 12, 1928 - May 8, 2007

Because laying on the bare hardwood floor
is too gentle and aesthetic and still
does not offer that masochistic solace, and
because crawling under the bed to weep is
only an instinctive feral urge,
it seems the next thing
that might do it,
that may finally satisfy and replace the urge
to cut my face with an exacto knife, would
be to
break something,
smash all the windows, burn my guitars,
topple the piano, club the TV to pieces,
slash my sofas like the D.E.A.
break all my dishes
...and etc.,
Still, playback of the sequence
"madness as medicine" only
proves that
out of every single object in my home
I can't find one single thing
that can present to me
the perfect punishment,
here and now needed
so badly...
Daddy & I were deemed "wild eccentrics".
Infamous, the both of us from L.A. to Manila.
We remembered being peacocks in a past life together
we never gave a shit about
what the Family thought.
la la la...
I could jump off the roof,
I won't die but it'll hurt.
I did not kill my father.
But someone else did.
Yet I am guilty,
after longing to be with him all
these lost but hopeful years.
Of not being at his side to kiss his mouth at his final sigh,
breathing in to catch and hold his fleeing ghost inside me,
for just one moment for the parting in this lifetime,
our spirits' last embrace
here and now. Instead,
I was fucked up, drunk and jacked up in Hollywood,
when I should have flown straight to Luzon days ago.
I was the worst daughter
he was a worse Father,
which is why I was his favorite, and why
every man
I've ever truly loved
is exactly
Almost Him.

[PS: I might add that Yvonne's prose Preface to the book is worth the price of admission alone, like an introduction to her voice, her life, her unique personality—seductive and engaging, impressive and effective...]

My heart goes out to her kids and all her family and friends and fans. May she Rest In Poetry.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


7 Stories Press is having a year-end sale, and my book, ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY:Poems 1960-2017, a 540-page "new & selected poems" which is normally a bargain selling for just under twenty dollars can now be purchased from them at just under ten dollars! It would make a great gift for most poetry lovers and supporters of the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and racial justice and honesty and more. Lots of other "leftist" books on sale as well (including ones by Howard Zinn, Kurt Vonnegut, Noam Chomsky et. al.). Here's the link:

Friday, December 13, 2019


I just watched the last half of LOVE ACTUALLY for the third or fourth time this holiday season. I'll be surfing cable movie channels and stumble on it and stay. Despite at times it being what some might find a little cheesy or contrived (and let's not even mention that excrutiating scene with Mister Bean doing his gift wrapping schtick) there is so much great acting and clever, even brilliant at times, writing, it wins me over until by the time it reaches the airport arrival montage this old sentimental Irishman is dropping a tear or two. Not as perfect as some other Christmas movies (starting with the 1951 black-and-white Alastair Sim starring version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL) but my favorite in this century.

Thursday, December 12, 2019


Lyn Lifshin was born the same year I was, 1942, and her poetry started being published in little magazines when they began to blossom and multiply in the 1960s, as my poetry did too. We both had poems in many of the same magazines back then so often, I felt like I knew her, like we were some kind of secret poet friends. I don't remember if we corresponded at all, though I feel like we did.

I was often advised by poet friends that I published too much, and to be more selective about where I published. But my policy was to say yes to life, including anyone who asked for poems. Although whoever wrote the wikipedia entry on me links me to The New York School, and I certainly was influenced by the poets originally self-branded with that name, though they meant it ironically at first, I always felt like an outsider, along with Lyn, even though all the poets in the original generation of The New York School who were still alive when they discovered me in the early 1970s generously accepted me and my work which appeared in many magazines associated with them.

Lyn's work didn't appear in those mags, but in so many others that for every hundred poems of mine published in little mags back in the day, a thousand of her poems were published. I write every day and have since I learned to write as a boy, but Lyn Lifshin has written and published so much more, and most of it distinct, and good.

She deserved a lot more recognition from poets and critics and academics who dismissed or disparaged her kind of poetry (as many have mine), and I'm sorry I never wrote about her until now. Especially since her work has never not been a part of my life. We appeared in magazines together when we started out, and we appeared in a little magazine together just this year! Our poems sharing space in literary magazines for six decades!

As an example of her best work, to my mind, here's a poem of hers that was published in a 1999 Penguin poetry anthology called Identity Lessons edited by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan that I too had a poem in as well:

Yellow Roses

pinned on stiff tulle,
glowed in the painted
high school moonlight.
Mario Lanza's "Oh my
love, my darling"
over the basketball
floor. When Doug
dipped, I smelled
Clearasil. Hours in
the tub dreaming of
Dick Wood's fingers
cutting in, sweeping
me close. I wouldn't
care if the stuck
pin on the roses
went thru me,
the yellow musk
would be a wreath
on the grave of that
awful dance where
Louise and I sat
pretending we didn't
care, our socks fat
with bells and fuzzy
ribbons, bloated and
silly as we felt. I
wanted to be home,
wanted the locked
bathroom to cry in,
knew some part of me
would never stop
waiting to be
asked to dance.

Sunday, December 8, 2019



One warm night, when I was a kid,
we were all playing ringalario in
the high school field at the bottom
of my street when Mrs. Murphy, known
mostly for the time her hair turned
purple when she tried to dye it, stuck
her head out the door and yelled across
the street to us, “Go on home now and be
quiet, Babe Ruth just died.” And we all
did go home where everything was somber
and serious and adult and strange,
worse than when one of the family died,
because then there were outbursts of
emotion as well as jokes and stories
and good drunken parties, but
the night Babe Ruth died, everyone
felt as sad as if it was a close close
friend or a sister or a brother,
but no one was really related so
there was no call for an actual Irish
wake or funeral party. I couldn’t help
remembering that night again, the
night John Lennon died. Nobody
threw a wake or a party where we
could all get drunk and high and
have a good cry together. We all
went home and wandered around our
rooms and heads looking for answers,
unable to sleep or forget or accept
or understand what had happened.
It had to be a mistake and it was,
a fucking senseless, horrible,
deadening mistake.
                               It’s hard to
recognize even the most familiar
things. I don’t know where I am
half the time, the other half I’m
flashing on some song or line or look
or attitude so close to my own
personal history I thought it was
mine. But it ain’t, cause it’s gone
with John and I feel like I got to
go do something now to spread a
little joy and loving and honest
fucking answers and questions about
the world I live in and the only times
we ever have, our own. I hope I’m
not alone.

(C) 1982, 2018 Michael Lally
(from Hollywood Magic and Another Way To Play)

Saturday, December 7, 2019


I've taken some flack for my criticisms of THE IRSHMAN. But if you want to see a real masterpiece about mob life and some of the history covered in that film, though a lot less distorted, check out GODFATHER OF HARLEM, the TV series starring Forest Whittaker and a mostly impeccable and in some cases revelatory cast, including Vincent D'Onofrio and Paul Sorvino as historic mob bosses, and incredibly realistic performances of Nigel Thatch as Malcom X and Clifton Davis as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Giancarlo Esposito is a little over the top as Reverend Clayton Powell, though Powell himself could be over the top, but never as much as a buffoon as Esposito plays him. Otherwise GODFATHER OF HARLEM is a refreshingly new take on the history of mid-20th Century organized crime.

Thursday, December 5, 2019


This sonnet is part of an unpublished memoir-in-sonnets that I've been working on for too many years. and I meant to repost yesterday, the 50th anniversary of Chicago Black Panther Fred Hampton's assassination on December 4th 1969.  I met Fred at various radical activist gatherings in Chicago in the late '60s, mostly thanks to Mike James, a radical organizer of RISING UP ANGRY and its newspaper, for which I wrote many articles under my own name or anonymously or using a pseudonym. Fred was a seriously intelligent young man, an inspiring leader who could connect with every kind of person, which obviously made him a threat to the powers that be. 

In early December Fred Hampton, a young
Chicago Black Panther leader I knew and
admired, was brutally slaughtered with
Panther Mark Clark, when police raided
Hampton’s crib, after firing hundreds of
bullets into it, and into him, asleep in his
bed. It was the last straw. I’d objected to
Panthers calling police pigs, thinking of
cops in my clan who were decent, but this
time it seemed insulting to the actual pigs.
I wrote a poem called DON’T LOOK NOW
with the end couplet: like this short ugly
knife you are mine/Black Panther Fred
Hampton murdered in bed by pigs 1969.

—(C) Michael Lally 2017

Wednesday, December 4, 2019


Sorry Kamala Harris dropped out of the race, she brought an unpredictable energy and perspective to the debates, the last of which I watched all the way through and the best thing about it was the four women moderators and the Tyler Perry venue making it the smoothest running debate yet, in which all the candidates had high and low moments except for this guy, who was totally steady in making his points and should have been given more time.

Monday, December 2, 2019


A unique story—well directed, well shot, well acted, well told—and yet totally representative of the universal story of our times: the divide between most of us and those wealthiest others whom we all seem to serve in one way or another, like it or not. THE PARASITE is a grand cinematic metaphor for the new Gilded Age, or worse The New Dark Ages. And an artistic representation of the universal predicament despite the movie being Korean (with subtitles) and the cultural and social differences. Perhaps not the "the best picture" ever, or even of the year, as some are claiming, but definitely worth seeing.

Sunday, December 1, 2019


In honor of AIDS recognition day, I honor lovers lost to the disease—like Greg Millard, Joe Brainard, and several more—and dear friends—like Tim Dlugos, Cookie Mueller, Brad Davis, and many more—and those I knew, but less well—like Anthony Perkins and Keith Haring et. al.  They all still live in my heart.