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The poet Scott Wannberg left us this week and I’m truly at a loss. He wasn’t a close friend but he was a connection to my past that holds a special place in my heart. I understood his language. Some native Angeleno’s might remember him from Dutton’s Bookstore in Brentwood as he was an important fixture there for many years.

I heard him read last year at some hipster bookstore on Vermont Blvd and then at the goofy Beyond Baroque. Beyond Baroque is a Venice institution, a literary arts center stuck in time, and I’m glad for its preservation. It smelled like an old book store and held people who really have a love of word play.

Scott had a musical quality in his words that always made me think of dancing a jig, something dark and impish but with profound hope and romance. Before he read his work out loud he sang his favorite John Prine song…now how many men do you know that would do that? How many men do you know that wear their heart on their sleeves, and wear it proudly?

I sat at the back of the room feeling utterly out-of-place, almost as though I had snuck into a secret meeting of Elks or Masons. By the time I left my heart was uplifted and I wanted to write again, I was re-energized as an artist. Not a lot of people have that effect on me: Scott did.

I was looking forward to hearing him read again next month but his body gave out and he decided to fly. I hope his lungs are open and full, and that he is dancing on a star somewhere.

I’m re-posting my favorite poem of his and hope you will read it. When I think of Scott I think of Lee Child, Whit Bissell, westerns, love, and scat, not rap, scat.

Recently I told him about our mutual friend who had brought me Mr. Mump’s (Ouija Madness Press) back in 1982. In high school my friend was ahead of his time; was sipping espresso and listening to Coltrane as a teenager. Without him I would never have met Scott.

Scott’s reply: “Listening to Coltrane means never having to say you are sorry.”

Doorstop Of Love

By Scott Wannberg/ Strange Movie Full Of Death

Put the cold wind in your back pocket

it wont be necessary for our little chat

humorous men and women are disappearing with alacrity

the parking tickets keep going up

the next dance supposedly was ours

but the bandleader gave us a very odd look

the doorstop of love allows the sun to enter

inhale that fresh air if it doesn’t make you sick

the cold mornings come and inevitably go

two strangers sharing body heat beneath the floodlights

what little it takes to upend the applecart

down here in the street everyone claims to be casanova

the way you enter a room

the way you sing those awful songs you bought into

makes my cantankerous ears actually listen

does anyone truly ever know anyone else?

every home is a potential missing persons office

the homeless orchestra sees us coming they pull their instruments out of the gutter

and begin to cut loose

in the deaf new morning of still one more day

that may or may not be kind to us

don’t hurt me, you say, i don’t want any more hurt

i’m no doctor, i say, but i will go slow

the statute of liberties eventually runs out

bring me your wounded and torn

the hearts pumping in the pawnshop windows

they will be redeemed soon

a lucid-enough idea man once claimed

the human race was an amphorous mess

we row our leaky canoe back and forth

across the life-sustaining water

there’s an island with our name on it

somewhere hidden in this fog

we’re damaged goods

in some kind of hootenanny rehab

when i touch you

the locked gate blows wide open

when you touch me

i remember how to move

the city is crowded with emergency rooms

full of lovers who slipped over each other’s feet

the nurses begin to sing our names

they must have been in on the rehearsal

put the war back in its box

it won’t need to sit in

we are nothing more than imperfect human beings

searching for the not-alone

it takes a long time sometimes to get there

sometimes alone is very persuasive

pour a shot of good single malt scotch

toast all infections leaving office

the king and queen of hope

will be coming downstairs soon

in this bed-and-breakfast of the soul

it’s table stakes from here on end.

Thank you Scott.

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