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Bad Boy by Bill Kushner

If you don’t want a house guest to walk around naked, never invite Bill Kushner. The man lives nude whenever possible; always trying to get back to the beginning, an Eden perhaps. Bill had some problems in his apartment and stayed with me for awhile. The first thing he did, once he was settled in, was find my signed copy of Alice Notley’s A Culture of One and keep it as his own, reading it and reading it over and over. Bill was great inspiration always writing in his little notebooks. Bill wrote and wrote.

One poem, Bad Boy, I was to hear later when Bill read it at the Poetry Project’s New Year’s Day marathon at Saint Mark’s Church. It struck me immediately as a poem similar to Rimbaud’s Les Chercheuses de Poux. I might write about that later, but right now, enjoy the poem, a homeless poem, that doesn’t have a book to live in yet.


I was a bad boy. I left home
at birth to explore the earth,
and when I returned I was sad.
“Why are you so sad?” Mother asks.
“I walked and I walked and I stopped
but no one gave me water. I held
my hands out but no one gave me money.”
Mother shrugged and said, “You do smell
just a bit. And your feet are very dirty.
Come with me.” She led me to the bathroom
where a tub waited full of water as
warm as toast. So I took off my torn
old clothes and I stepped in the tub,
and the water felt so good that I wanted
to cry. “You can cry,” Mother said, as
she began to scrub me gently with soap.
So I began to cry and cry and cry. “The
earth!” I cried “the earth!” as Mother
gently washed me. “My son!” Mother
cried, as she washed me ever so gently,
“My son! Oh, my son! My son!”

Bill’s last book, Walking After Midnight, if you’d like, check it out at Spuyten Duyvil:


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