Academic journal article Chicago Review

Diamond Jack

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Diamond Jack

Article excerpt

Defiance was Jack's last mode. Editing his collected poems, Presences of Mind (out there in your bookstores, published by Gnomen Press) I wonder was I wrong to leave out sections of the unfinished Working Stiffs? In it Jack invented a line, sharp, street-smart, and as he says,"with all the action on the screen."

A cartoon Joe Palooka was to be the hero of this book, and through him we catch Sharpless listening to night rhythms-dudes out for a lark-a tale told by a randy but musical loser (they all have a story)things we ordinary homebodies don't ever hear. Jack would assault a celebrity like singer Tom Waits, ordering from a Chinese Take-out, with the same abandon he would a bronze toothless Carny with a good spiel on a barstool. All, for talk.

Remember, as an employed waiter, Jack was a Union member, lined up sometimes at dawn, in San Francisco's Tenderloin district, rent due, for a job ticket. He listened, he listened. I knew him to live in a spartan room or two, even when he was Major-domo to a fabled Pacific Heights residence, or served tables at San Francisco's Bohemian Club where everybody who was anybody came to lunch. Jack was fascinated by that kind of privilege and power, in all its circumstance, while he was content to call home a bed, packing-crate to hold a lamp, perhaps a fresh cut purple iris in the window to catch the dawn-and always a bookshelf, pen, notepad. …

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