• Address 720 East Locust Street | Milwaukee, WI 53212
  • Phone 414.263.5001
  • Hours Tue-Fri 11-8pm | Sat-Sun 12-5pm | Closed Mon
  • Hours Tue-Fri 11-8pm, Sat-Sun 12-5pm, Closed Mon
Event Calendar
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readings & workshops
November 21

Offsite Talk: Native American Identity & the Politics of the Poetic Image 

readings & workshops
December 3

Ultimate Truth Poetry Reading and Book Release

readings & workshops
December 6

Heddy Keith author of Through it All

readings & workshops
December 9

Poetry Reading: Tonya M. Foster & Samiya Bashir

performances
December 10

Alternating Currents Live presents Nicole Mitchell Quartet

special events
January 27 -28

24th Annual Poetry Marathon & Benefit

Lewis Ellingham

Lewis Ellingham has worked, variously, as a writer, editor and genealogist. His books include The Birds and Other Poems (Ithuriel's Spear, 2009) and, with Kevin Killian, the Spicer biography Poet Be Like God. He was born in 1933 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and moved to San Francisco at age 21, eventually becoming involved in the circle of poets around Jack Spicer.

Selected Poems

horses of the night

A thumping drum a block away at Mission Dolores was my first notice that something was happening down the street, then some Mexican music — in time I saw the two saxophone players, but not at first, buried in the small throng of black-clad, silent walkers — a procession lurched by stages southward along Dolores Street, a police escort of two patrolmen and a squad car an anomaly as the haloed saint in a burst of tall bright flowers made his way slowly toward us on a bier carried by half a dozen middle-aged bearers led by priests. The ensemble moved about two parked car lengths before settling to gather a collective breath.

                                                                                                O lente, lente currite noctis equi!
 
                                                             O, run slowly, slowly, horses of the night!


Martin de Porres was used to dealing with animals, famously once bargaining with the mice consuming his monastery's garden that he would save them from extermination, and feed them, but that they would have to move to a part of the garden not wanted by the abbey's superiors. A successful arrangement. America's first saint of color, an early Dominican in Peru, a mulatto brother who is patron of almost everything because so much benefited by his existence. While his youngish face and long black cape toddled a bit as his carriers hesitated forward, actually he might have expedited the walk by exercising some of his ascribed powers,

                    "Among the many miracles attributed to him were those of levitation, bilocation, miraculous knowledge,          

                     instantaneous cures, and an ability to communicate with animals."

 

November 3rd, a Sunday in this year 2013 anno domini, a mild afternoon, a café afternoon, stretching my legs, my coffee in hand, I watched the tiny parade commemorating St. Martin de Porres' death through the windows created by the gestures of other café patrons, all young, all arresting their intense interactions with others at their tables slowly, awkwardly, as this medieval, this Mexican event, intruded into their self-absorbed lives, capping the two previous days, November 1st Día de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents") or Día de los Angelitos ("Day of the Little Angels") and November 2nd as Día de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead").

 

                                                                                               O, run slowly, slowly, horses of the night!

For the quite young pair next to me I felt unsure; I'd seen them here before, in fact we were at the same tables I'd several times seen them. They sat almost side by side, either holding hands, or with one or the other letting a hand drape onto the other's body, a thigh, a knee. His talk was articulate, intellectual, "high English" and his subjects — fragments I sometimes caught — were usually spoken as he stared midlevel across the table, not directly at her, though he would from time to time look closely at her face. They had the habit of occasionally turning toward each other, in moments of silence, so closely their noses all but touched and once I noticed did in fact. For her this seemed especially odd because her light eyes in a rounded serious face, often lovely, glittered almost to a glaze, perhaps a consequence of contact lenses. So that she seemed to be a car, lights on bright. Then again, he sometimes dropped his head onto her lap. They kissed too, briefly. She made comments — I never heard their content — and he would nod his handsome, young face, Mediterranean features, and launch more comment, in language of the day, the flavor of those perhaps age twenty, well educated, likely both still in schools. As St. Martin's bier advanced, as both street and sidewalk grew more crowded in the drum-paced dirge, the couple turned to watch. Accepting, passive, a collision of the ancient and the newborn. Mild. Expressions did not change. The surge would turn at 17th Street and return northward along Dolores, across the wide divider planted with palms, some quite old. A parade, one block one way, one block back. St. Martin held a rosary, wore a long black cape.

                                                            O, run slowly, slowly, horses of the night!

A next distant group of two tables seemed more challenged as this somber, funereal cortege jolted forward in its progress. A laughing couple occupied one table, and a laughing, talkative youth in open footwear and torn T-shirt the table adjacent, pulled together; the pair giggling — some kind of friendship game was playing out in waves of light eros between them all — gestures almost touching, heads and laughter in a dance. The girl's amusement so consumed her she used her hands to cover mouth and belly, as if gagging helplessly, rocking back and forth. She stimulated the youth talking; he almost leaped to make a new point, a frenzy of mirth following all around. The slightly older pair, rocking in laughter, seemed vassals to their merry prince, coursing his estate, the wonder of his hapless pleasing favor. Only actual collision with passing walkers into their chairs and tables finally drew the three to silent witness as the drum and saxophones paced this very foreign scene, the paired wind instruments varying melodies probably familiar from street bands in any Mexican town. All in black except the priests, who were quite colorfully disposed.

                                                                                                O lente, lente currite noctis equi!

                                                           O, run slowly, slowly, horses of the night!


An American voice, throaty, "Are they turning here?" an overweight policeman called to the patrolled car, from which came, "yeah, turning around."

Monday morning and the church is closed. Some kids waiting in the street for someone to open the school door, absorbed in their electronic pastimes. The sun shining brightly, a perfect day. The penetrating roar of a passing garbage truck. A few pedestrians, high school students by appearance. Even the tour buses have not yet arrived, Mission Dolores a centerpiece of the visiting experience. German, French, Spanish, American couples, cameras? Still to be, apparently; becoming, in the high-priced hotels downtown. St. Martin de Porres has disappeared into the Middle Ages, a dog whines at Maxfield's Café, its owner inside at his Apple I-pad. Two women speaking Russian waiting for the street crossing light to change. The horses have slowed. Only the present is known.