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John & Philomene

Last Days of John Thomas

The Beats: an Existential Comedy
by Philomene Long

Laureate at Ceremony

My Philomene

Illuminating the Wasteland

Majid Naficy

Van Gogh's Ear

Kate Braverman

Lynne Bronstein

Lynne Bronstein's Venice Poems

Ballad of Reading Jail

Wanda Coleman

John Kertisz

Stuart Z. Perkoff

John O'Kane

Clair Horner

Eavesdropping on the Boardwalk
by Anne Alexander

Venice Poems

Zendik poem:
Buck-or-Two Blues Rap

Gas House beat HQ


In Venice CA



















John Thomas and Philomene Long Thomas

photo: Pegarty Long


Aside from Philomene, nothing is more important to me
than the creative process. I haven’t been able to make a
living from writing. Just a life. Which is the thing that matters.
–John Thomas

I write for John Thomas, my Only One. After he died, all my poems
became as whispers within his tomb. I write to return him to my touch.
Our love erodes time. Poems are its living ruins.
--Philomene Long

They are already ghosts
John and Philomene
As they pass
Along the Boardwalk
Where ghosts and poets overlap
As they pass, the gulls
Ghosting above their shadows

Everything's haunting everything

Already ghosts
John and Philomene
Under the ghostly lampposts
Of Venice West
Their cadence
The breath of sleep
At rest
Lost at the edge of America
Already ghosts
And each poem
Already a farewell

Everything's haunting everything
The sea is the ghost of the world

--Philomene Long


went looking for the great Zen master
a sick junkie told me, try the Safeway
I think he works down there

at the Safeway the manager was very busy
cashing paychecks etcetera
but he took the time to tell me
you must mean Jimmy Bananas we used to call him
he don't work here no more since about two weeks
but you ask Swenson that guy over there stamping cans
Swenson knows where he lives
you ask Swenson

so I asked Swenson who said
yeah he lives in the Ocean Spray Hotel
is he in trouble or something?

the lady at the hotel
didn't know anybody by that name
never knew any great Zen masters at all
if it came to that

coming out of the hotel pretty discouraged
ran into the junkie again and he said
you still looking for that cat man?
I just saw him - he's down on the beach by those rocks

of course when I got down to the beach
there was nobody there
just a dog chasing seagulls
just a dog and me standing on wet sand and feeling foolish
and the surf booming over those rocks

--John Thomas


The City of Los Angeles
Has its hermits

Some take to Disneyland
For their annual retreat
But they never return

One hermit is a
Los Angeles Lakers' basketball cheerleader
I know a Venice hermit who has another hermit
In her refrigerator
In the form of her dead cat

The best kind of hermits are those
That don't know they are hermits
Some have no eyelashes
Scorched from looking too closely

There are those who lose their voice
If they look hard enough they'll find it
In their second pocket of their second suit

Then earthquakes come, jumbling it up again
Like a residential milk shake so that it
Takes an act of faith to believe in sunrise

--Philomene Long

John Thomas --- Venice, 1959

I had intended to begin by pointing out that you were frightened and unhappy. I was going to list your sufferings, your hang-ups, the ten thousand things that keep your mind in a perpetual turmoil. But that's not necessary. If there is one thing you know, it is that you are miserable. If there is one thing to which you are devoted, it is to discovering ways to ease our misery. So I would only be talking about what you already know. You know in your hearts that your world has become a huge jail, a diabolical prison complete with all the most scientific instruments of torture. We don't have to dwell on that. Instead, I want to tell you how to escape.

The word "escape" has taken on some very bad connotations in recent years. An escapist is a coward or a misguided person, in short, a fool. The priests and the psychiatrists, members of the Universal Confraternity of Prison Guards, will tell you that escapism is sinful or neurotic. They say, "Be good prisoners. Face up to your life sentence. Don't waste our time sawing on the bars of your cell; earn, instead, the honorable title of 'Model Prisoner'. Stop digging tunnels under the walls. Don't be fools!" If you persist, of course, you are punished. And the greatest punishment, as they well know, is solitary confinement on bread and water. Only the most hardened troublemakers can endure that.

Escape--practically a dirty word. But I want to tell you how it is done. It is really very simple. It is just a matter of making yourself invisible, transparent, and then walking through the wall! (You were warned that this talk would deal with foolishness, so don't complain!)

Become invisible, become transparent, then simply walk through the walls. And now, the techniques of invisibility. You have built, over the years, an attitude towards the world. Let it die. You have learned, over the years, ten thousand things about life. Forget them all. You have devised ways of speaking to people, of dealing with them on a verbal level. Forget all the tricks. You have learned how to act -- have studied the proper behavior for a model prisoner. Drop it. You have learned how to earn your beans and jail coffee-- have you become a skilled worker in the prison tailor shop? Forget all the skills they taught you. They won't help you to escape. Drop it. Drop it all. Apply yourself only to the end of escaping. You are no longer a part of the system. You are now a potential escapee. Fix your mind and y our heart on that. Contemplate nothing but escape.

You will try to argue with me. You will tell me how soiled the walls are, how alert the guards are, or how absurd it is to practice invisibility. If you are really dishonest you will maintain that this isn't even a jail. My only answer is to point through the barred windows of the cell. See! They are walking around out there, free! They made it. If it has been done before it can be done again. You are awed by the walls, by the guards, by the threat of solitary confinement. I see only the free ones, the ones who walked through the walls and enjoy the open air all day.

Historically, Zen is a method of release that came from India to China in the sixth century A.D., then to Japan some centuries later. Historically it is traceable to the teachings of the Buddha and of the Chinese Taoist philosophers. In Japan it took on certain aspects of Jaene thought. But that's not important. It has always been accessible. I was turned on to it in San Antonio, Texas, by a bookseller. You may be turned on in this silly establishment by my words--and I am no Buddha, no philosopher, not even a proper fool. I hear that one of the Kyoto Zen masters is studying English right now, and that next year he will come to start a monastery in Los Angeles. But that is probably not important either. The important thing is release, escape, realization, enlightenment, satori-- many different ways of expressing one even-- the only important event in the world.

What is he like, this holy fool, this man who has attained enlightenment? What are his qualities? What describes him? What is it like to be invisible?

First, he is free. He floats with the currents like a jellyfish, and yet he is free. Prisons have ceased to clutch at them. He is free, like a gas which expands to fit any container. All of space is his home, and it is food, and he is-- not happy, but beyond happiness--he is blissful. He is free. He is immortal. No, this doesn't mean he will go to some sugar-candy heaven when he dies, and spend eternity singing Sunday-school ditties to a bearded father-image. No. He is immortal because birth and death no longer exist for him. Everything is NOW, this present pure and blissful moment, and there is no death in the world of NOW. He knows no fear, no anxiety, no ambition, no hate, no greed or envy. He has passed through iron wall of such hankerings. There are no frontiers for him. He has no shame, no modesty, no pride. He has no needs.

He appears in the world, of course, as a fool. His life is common and anonymous. When he is hungry he eats; when he is sleepy he goes to sleep; when the time for action comes, he acts; when there is no reason for action, he sits quietly, doing nothing. It is all the same to him; it is all one. He is, in this urgent world, a fool.

In his conversation he is foolish. Don't expect subtle philosophies to flow from his lips. He makes no neat verbal distinctions. He has no polite phrases. He offers you no answers. He IS the answer, in the flesh. It does no good to ask him about Buddhism. He is not in that prison and doesn't know anything about it. It does not good to ask him about Zen. Zen doesn't exist for him. He has arrived. He has made it. He is where philosophy, religion, morality, birth and death mean nothing anymore. He is free. He is a fool. He is a saint.




The Day
the Muse Died

by John O'Kane


















photo: Pegarty Long

© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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