My Life by Michael Lally

Ken McCullogh and Michael Lally
Ken McCullogh and Michael Lally

My Life

I ate everything they put in front of me
read everything they put before my eyes
shook my ass, cried over movie musicals
was a sissy and a thug, a punk and an
intellectual, a cocksucker and a mother
fucker, helped create two new people,
paid taxes, voted and served four years
and a few weeks in the United States Air
Force, was court martialed and tried
civilly, in jail and in college, kicked
out of college, boy scouts, altar boys
and one of the two gangs I belonged to,
I was suspended from grammar and high
schools, arrested at eleven the year I
had my first “real sex” with a woman
and with a boy, I waited nineteen years
to try it again with a male and was sorry
I waited so long, I waited two weeks to
try it again with a woman and was sorry
I waited so long, wrote, poetry and
fiction, political essays, leaflets and
reviews, I was a “jazz musician” and a
dope dealer, taught junior high for two
weeks, high school Upward Bound for two
years, college for four years, I got up
at 5 AM to unload trucks at Proctor and
Gamble to put myself through classes
at the University of Iowa, I washed
dishes and bussed tables, swept floors
and cleaned leaders and gutters, washed
windows and panhandled, handled a forty
foot ladder alone at thirteen, wrote
several novels not very good and none
published, published poems and stories
and articles and books of poems, was
reviewed, called “major,” compared to
“The Teen Queens,” mistaken for black,
for gay, for straight, for older, for
younger for bigger for better for richer
for poorer for stupider for smarter for
somebody else, fell in love with a black
woman at 18, kicked out of the family
for wanting to marry her at 20, I sucked
cock and got fucked and fucked and got
sucked, I was known for being a big
jerk off, a wise ass, for always getting
my ass kicked so bad neighborhood kids
would ask to see the marks, for running
for sheriff of Johnson County Iowa in 68
on the “Peace and Freedom” ticket and
pulling in several thousand votes, for
winning people to the cause with emotional
spontaneous speeches at rallies and on TV,
for being a regular guy, a romantic
idealist, a suicidal weatherman, a bomb
throwing anarchist, an SDS leader, a
communist, a class chauvinist, an
asexual politico, a boring socialist,
proletarian man, a horny androgyne,
a a boozer, a loser, a nigger
a junkie, a boozer, a loser, a nigger
lover, a black woman’s white man, a
race traitor, a greaser, a fast man
with my hands, a hood, a chickenshit,
a crazy head, an unmarked thoroughbred,
a courageous human being, a Catholic,
a fallen away Catholic, An Irish American
Democrat, a working class Irish American
writer from a family of cops, a skinny
jive time street philosopher, a power
head, an underground movie star, a
quiet shy guy, a genius, an innovator,
a duplicator, a faker, a good friend,
a fickle lover, an ass lover, a muff
diver, another pretty face, a lousy
athlete, a generous cat, an ambitious
young man, a very tough paddy, a macho
hippie, a faggot gangster, a faggot,
a big crazy queen, a straight man, a
strong man, a sissy, a shithead, a
borne wrecker, a reckless experimenter
with other peoples lives, a demagogue,
a fanatic, a cheap propagandizer, a
fantastic organizer, a natural born
leader, a naive upstart, an arrogant
jitterbug, a white nigger, an easy lay,
a pushover, a hard working husband,
a henpecked husband, the black sheep,
a crazy mixed up kid, a juvenile delinquent,
a misfit, a surrealist, an actualist,
an Iowa poet, a political poet, an open
field poet, a street poet, a bad poet,
a big mouth, a voice of the sixties,
petty poet, a gay poet, a clit kissing
tit sucking ass licking body objectifying
poet, a gigolo, a jerk, a poor boy, an
old man, an assman, unsteady, immature,
charismatic, over confident, over 30,
impetuous, a rock, a pawn, a tool, a
potato lover, a great teacher, loyal
friend, concerned citizen, a humanist,
the bosses son, Bambi’s old man, Lee’s
husband, Matthew’s ex-lover, Terry’s
partner, Slater’s main man, the bishop’s
favorite altar boy, the landlady’s pet,
the class clown, the baby of the family,
the neighborhood stranger, the hardest
working kid, with the rosiest cheeks, who
was an instigator, a trouble maker,
too smart for my own good, too soft,
too distant, too honest, too cold, too
tactless, uncommunicative, anal retentive,
self-sufficient, shameless, unsophisticated,
too butch, too skinny, too
white, too defensive, too hungry, apologetic, in-
decisive, unpredictable, I never hit a
woman or woke up gloomy, I’m a light
sleeper, an affectionate father, a bad
drinker, a city boy, paranoid, compulsive,
and a terrific body surfer, I love
the hipness in me I thought was black back
in the 50s, the vulnerability I took for
feminine in the 70s, I hate the poor kid
act I’ve pulled on strangers and friends
to start them out owing me, I learned to
cook and to sew, stopped chewing gum and
biting my nails, I was a weather observer,
a map maker, a printer’s devil, a
carpenter’s helper, a glazier, a locksmith,
editor, publisher, promoter and critic,
I stopped dancing at 15 and started again
at 30, math was my best subject, languages
my worst, I’ve been knocked out several
times but only one black eye and one
fractured thumb, I’ve totaled several
cars but I’m an ace driver especially
in cities, I haven’t had an accident since
I stopped drinking, knock on wood, I’m
extremely superstitious, don’t speak too
soon, I gave up cigarettes and coffee and
using the words chick, spade and asshole,
I’ve read Confucius, Buddha, Lao Tzu,
The Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, The
Koran, The Bible, The Prophet, Thus Spake
Zarathrusta, Marx, Trotsky, Stalin, Lenin,
Mao, Che, Hesse, Proust, Firestone, Fanon,
Castenada and Davis, I read all of Joyce
and all of Dostoevsky in translation
at least two times through on night shifts
in weather towers through 1961 and 62,
I love all of William Saroyan, Van
Morrison, Jane Bowles, Samuel Beckett,
Joe Brainard, and Bertold Brecht, I’m
finally getting to know and like some
“classical music,” I went to my first
ballet, opera, and concert this year and
loved all of it, took my first trip out
of the country and was glad to get back
although it was great, I love the USA and
many of the people in it, I’m afraid of
my own anger, and any kind of violence,
I’ve been the same weight since 1957 though
I have an enormous appetite, my hair’s
turning gray, I’ve had it cut three times
since 1966, I spit a lot and pick my nose
too much, I could buy new shoes, eat ice
cream, chicken or chocolate pudding anytime,
I’m afraid of dogs and hate zoos, I’m
known for my second winds especially
when dancing or eating, I used to think
of myself as a dreamer, I had a vision
at 9 that I’d die between 42 and 46,
the image was me doubling over clutching
my stomach, whenever I’m embarrassed I
see that in my head, some of my nicknames
have been Faggy, Rocky, Spider, Brutus,
Paddy Cat, Newark, Irish, and The Lal,
I’m a father, son, brother, cousin,
brother-in-law, uncle, record breaker,
war child, veteran, and nut about Lauren
Bacall, James Cagney, Robert Mitchum,
Bogie and Brando, “Last Tango” and “The
Conformist” are the favorite movies of
my adult life, I’ve fallen in love with
eyes, asses, thighs, wrists, lips, skin,
color, hair, style, movement, bodies,
auras, potential, accents, atmospheres,
clothes, imaginations, sophistication,
histories, families, couples, friends,
rooms full of people, parks, cities,
entire states, talked to trees since
1956 and the wind since 52, between 56
and 59 I had few friends and a “bad
reputation” which made it difficult
to get dates with “nice girls,” in 1960
and 61 I had more friends and several
lovers, I was at the SDS split in Chicago
in 1969 and didn’t like either side’s
position or tactics, I almost cried
when I heard John Coltrane had died,
and Ho Chi Minh, Babe Ruth, Jack
Kerouac, Eric Dolphy, Roberto Clemente,
Moose Conlon, Frankie Lyman, Fred
Hampton, Allende, Clifford Brown,
Richie Valens and Buddy Holly in that
plane crash, the four little girls
in that Alabama church, the students
at Orangeburg, the “weather people”
in the town house explosion which I
always figured was a set up, my uncle
Frank and my uncle John, my grandparents,
lots of people, I did cry when I thought
about the deaths of the Kent State and
Jackson State students, when I heard
Ralph Dickey had “taken his life” or
the first time I heard Jackson Browne
do his “Song for Adam” or when Marlon
Brando as Terry finds his brother Charley
(Rod Steiger) hanging dead on the fence
in “On the Waterfront” and before going
to get the murderers says something to
Eva Marie Saint like “And for god’s sake
don’t leave him here alone” or when he
talks to his dead wife in “Last Tango”
or finds Red Buttons and his wife
have committed suicide in “Sayonara”
I’ve cried a lot over movies especially
old ones on TV, I’ve never cried at a
play but I still haven’t seen many, the
only Broadway plays I’ve seen were “My
Fair Lady” and “Bye Bye Birdie,” I
watched my mother die, I’ve paid my dues,
been through the mill, come up from the
streets, done it my way, had that once
in a lifetime thing, had trouble with
my bowels ever since I can remember
then in 72 my body became more relaxed,
I’ve had the clap, crabs, scabies,
syphilis, venereal warts, and unidentified
infections in my cock, my ass, my throat,
all over my body, I’ve been terribly
sunburned and covered with scabs from
fights and accidents, I only had stitches
once at 4 when I had my appendix out,
I’ve been earning money since I was 10,
supporting myself since 13, others since
22, I got “unemployment” once, been
fired several times, never paid to
get laid, I lost money gambling but
quit after I had to give up my high
school ring in a poker game at the Dixie
Hotel in Greenville South Carolina in
1962 waiting for my friend Willy Dorton
to come out from the room where he was
proposing marriage to his favorite
whore who always turned him down after
they lucked and she got most of his
paycheck from him, some of my best
friends were hookers and strippers,
postal clerks and shills, supermarket
managers and factory workers, heavy
revvies and punks, actresses and junkies,
who were and are the most difficult
of friends, art dealers and artists,
musicians and hustlers, dykes and critics,
shit workers and liberals, gringos and fags,
and honkies and bastards, queer and old
and divorced and straight and Italian
and big deals and dipshits, I know at least
six people who think they turned me on
to dope for the first time in 1960 in
New York City, in 1962 in Rantoul Illinois,
in 1964 in Spokane Washington, in 1966 and
67 in Iowa City, in 1969 in Washington
DC, I once was high on opium and didn’t
want to come back, I was a recreational
therapist at Overbrook Hospital in Essex
County New Jersey in 1966 where James Moody
wrote “Last Train From Overbrook” before
he was discharged, in 1960 I had a tremendous
crush on Nina Simone, I always wanted to
name a child Thelonious, I was sure
I was an orphan at 10, I wished I was
an orphan at 18, my father’s alive so
I’m still not an orphan at 32, I know
a lot of orphans, I once had an
orphan for a lover, I suppose my kids
could be orphans some day, I was never
good at planning the future for more
than a couple of days, friends have
told me I always do things the hard way,
my family’s response to tough times or
catastrophes was usually humor, I’m
grateful to them for giving me that,
I find cynics boring although there’s
a lot to cynic in me, I find
depression dull, mine or anyone else’s,
I’m no good at small talk, I feel
an undercurrent of violent tension
in most “straight” bars and on late
night city streets that intimidates
me, I find jealousy useless and
depressing, I know people who find
jealousy exciting and even rewarding,
something to live for, I’d love to
make love all the ways I haven’t yet
or haven’t thought of yet, with all
the people I haven’t yet or haven’t met
yet, although sometimes I could care
less about sex, I write everyday
and listen to music everyday and cant
imagine living without either,
libraries and hospitals intimidate me,
being around people who seem to feel
comfortable anywhere used to make me
feel insecure, I’m getting over that,
I used to feel obliged to apologize
for or defend people whose goals I
shared even though I might not like
them or their tactics, I’m getting
over that too, I’ve learned to love
or at least appreciate a lot of things
I used to despise or ignore, I’ve had
trouble getting it up and trouble
keeping it down, I’m tired of a lot
of things but curious about more, I’m
tired of this but that’s history now.

March 1974 DC

Michael Lally’sMichael Lally landmark reading of “My Life” at CBGB in the seventies has been likened to Ginsberg’s reading of “HOWL” at Gallery Six. His books include “It’s Not Nostalgia”, and “Can’t Be Wrong,” which won Oakland PEN’s Josephine Miles Award. Ted Berrigan has declared Michael Lally “America’s most notorious sexual outlaw and poet.”

Poem and Author’s profile taken from The Outlaw Bible of Amerian Poetry edited by Alan Kaufman and S.A. Griffin.

Much more on Michael Lally can be found via his web site by clicking here… and via PennSound.

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