Stuart Krimko - Forword: How To Write A Poem In Cambridge, Massachusetts <|>

The Will Oldham album Joya came out in the fall of 1997. I was living in Tivoli, New York then, but I bought the record at Kim’s Underground on a trip into the city to see the Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at the Guggenheim. At that time I had two sets of speakers hooked up to my stereo, one in my room and one in the living room. The living room had old, wide floorboards with rough nails; the floor slanted. From the window Dave and I would watch the sun set over the Catskills; in the fall, at about 4:00, the light was radiant. That winter mice moved into Dave’s room and ruled the roost. I dreaded finding dead ones on the stairs. The first time I listened to Joya I was in the living room, I think.

In 1999 I was living in Tivoli but in a different house. From my bedroom I could still watch the sun set over the Catskills through a huge square window. At that time I was riding my bike a lot, and walking through the woods to attend classes at Bard College, where Will Oldham played in November of 1999. I bought I See A Darkness, just released, from the man at the merchandise table at the show, and I listened to it for the first time the next day in my room after the sun had gone down. I listened to it in the dark, stoned.
Maya copied the subsequent Will Oldham record, Ease Down The Road (2001), onto a cassette tape for me. It was spring. By then I had left Tivoli and was living at my parents’ house in Great Neck. Maya was in New York visiting from Israel and gave me the tape over breakfast at a diner near Hunter College. I can’t recall the first time I listened to Ease Down The Road but I do remember going for runs in the morning and listening to it on a walkman. I’d run from my parents’ house south on East Shore Road, which turns into Station Road, which I’d follow to Allenwood Park, emerging on the other side of the park onto a street whose name I can’t remember, a street that eventually crosses Hicks Lane, where I’d meet up with Remsen Road, which snakes around to meet East Shore Road at a corner where my parents’ house is. I read a lot that spring: The Castle twice, Paradise Lost, the A.R. Ammons book-length poem Sphere, and The Loser, my first encounter with Thomas Bernhard.
Next came Master and Everyone in January of 2003. I bought it from the merchandise table at a show Will Oldham played at Irving Plaza. The night after the concert I listened to it, stoned, on big ear-covering headphones in my apartment in Long Island City, lying on my bed, admiring the forlorn view of the 59th Street Bridge. I shared the apartment, a slender railroad-style affair on 47th Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets, with Jane. Shortly after the record was released I moved to my current loft in Bushwick. I remember listening to it in the empty loft in the severe winter light and during a blizzard.
March of 2004 saw the release of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music. The record was released on Mira’s birthday. She’d recently returned from a cross-country adventure and month long stint in a cabin in Leavenworth, Washington. I listened to the record as I prepared my apartment for her birthday party; she was out with her friend Kim shopping for snacks and booze. Midway through my listen Kim called: they’d been in an accident, no one was hurt, but Mira’s car was totaled. They hit a car at the intersection of North 5th Street and Bedford Avenue, a few feet from Earwax, where I’d bought Greatest Palace Music just hours before. We listened to the record a few times at the party.
Superwolf, a collaboration between Will Oldham and Matt Sweeney, was released less than a year later in January of 2005. I downloaded one of the songs, ‘Lift Us Up’, before the album was actually released, and Mira and I listened to it over dinner one cold night with Aaron. Not long after this, Mira and I ended our relationship. She started seeing Max, a mutual friend. I bought Superwolf on vinyl and listened to it in my fragile state. Sometime during this period my mother and I had a particularly intense two-hour phone conversation, and after I hung up I sat on the floor in front of the speakers and listened to Superwolf.
A mid-September Tuesday in 2006 brought The Letting Go, credited solely to Will Oldham. That afternoon I’d driven from Cornwallville, New York, where I was living at Eli’s and Briana’s arboretum, to Cambridge to visit Leila. After I arrived we went for a walk to a shoe store, where we each bought a pair of shoes, and then to Newbury Comics, where I bought The Letting Go. When we got back to Leila’s we smoked a joint and listened to the record. I stayed with Leila for a few days, hanging out and writing poems in her apartment when she was at class or work. Here’s one of the poems:

A Krimko Man They Call St

I looked at Boston in the distanc
e and believed that it would be the on
e. It had pearls on, a presence lik
e a nightmare you neck wit
h. On Wednesday (that’s
tomorrow) a tune will rise from th
e high rises and run the ris
k of killing the softest ears.

Babies’ softest ears, silk-padded
and too young to be personalize

This deep ward of annoying
presence, this cunning
world of happiness I loathe.

A legend, that’s what I want to b
A broken man if I have t
A tunesmith reversed, a sheep to go b
a bridesmaid to all Hawai
A Krimko man they call St

And still that’s not enough!
My complacency I rebuff.
Boston in the distance dances
with my weary eyes––that’s what
you get when you’re high all day,
all night (the night before)
and the morning before,
when you’re too busy making
your own music and others’ food,
a face of determination skiing
across your skull.
Are you
scared to admit your faith?
I don’t know,
are you?

One night while Leila was working at the bar I went to Fenway Park and watched David Ortiz break the single-season record for home runs by a member of the Red Sox, formerly held by Ted Williams.
Will Oldham’s next work, Lie Down In The Light, was a spring 2008 release. Though I’d bought it a few days earlier, I hadn’t had a chance to give it a good listen until I was on my way home from Chris’s house late one night. Chris and I had drank a couple of bottles of wine, gotten stoned, and listened to Steve Reich. I listened to Lie Down In The Light, on headphones, during my walk from Chris’s place to the G train stop on Fulton, and I continued to listen to it while waiting for the train, while riding the train, during the short walk from the Morgan Avenue L stop to my apartment, and over the course of the next week, on the train and on my walks to and from the train. Around this time I started seeing Charles again after a three-year hiatus. I often talk to Charles about music--; he is a great jazz aficionado who prefers Sonny Rollins to John Coltrane. We recently spent a session discussing the Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderly collaboration. Sometimes he suggests medication but I refuse.
This brings us to the present. Beware, whose cover strongly resembles Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night and features a stylized likeness of Will Oldham’s cranium, came out last week. I listened to it for the first time after Peter and I ate pizza, drank tequila, and discussed this issue of Vector at my apartment. When Peter left I lit a joint, grabbed my new “Jesus Hates It When You Smoke” ashtray, turned out the lights, put the CD in the player, and pushed play.