Sunday, May 14, 2006

Marginal Notes by Jay Thiemeyer, review

Jay Thiemeyer could have died invisibly, laid out on some abandoned rail-yard or doorway for some security guard to find dead and bloated from the years of hard living, like thousands of people do each year in America – but he didn’t.

Jay knows about going down the road feeling bad, and he reflects upon his life in his just-released first collection of poetry,"Marginal Notes." Jay’s relentless pursuit of knowledge, and living on the edge of a broken down system, has given us a rare, and creative look inside the insanity of living on the streets while grasping the realization of the Reagan Revolution during the fall of America’s great industrial era.

The poetry in "Marginal Notes" takes us on adventures and hardships – living in alleys, doorways and "weed patches" in urban and rural Dixie — to the streets of Eugene and Portland where he would continue to battle his demons in the form of 100 proof Vodka, and an unjust system that dealt out the realities in which Jay lived.

For some progressives, Jay’s life seems more like a Charles Bukowski rant than that of an honest and dedicated human being fighting poverty with every breath. But Jay has never been afraid to speak truth to power to those on the left, and right, who often times can’t grasp that with poverty comes, "All she had come up with was: ‘Niggas ain’t actin like colored people’," told in the poem, "Morning Woman."

But that’s exactly who Jay is, and his poetry reflects this in "Dangling Time" about two people on the streets who hung themselves together off the Steel Bridge in Portland, "Two young people died by hanging from a black steel bridge/ monument to its monument/moment to moment; late/ summer day, autumn bridge plus/ young frozen blood."

"Marginal Notes" also contains two prose pieces that reflect Jay’s experiences. "Looking for Dave at Blanchet House," and "ID" that walk you through what it’s like to bounce around like a pinball from service to service to get an ID:

"We don’t do IDs on Monday, he explains. You need to come back tomorrow at 1. p.m. Next day I come back at 1 p.m. They take five people. There was a line, but it was short. I get to the counter and say I want the ID He counts five people ahead of me. He points to my pinhead and says, ‘You’re no. 6. You don’t get no ID You gotta come back tomorrow at 1.’And out the door I go. Missed by a nose. But I know what to do now. I’m getting close in to that wise blood now. Tomorrow is gonna be the one. That tomorrow is gonna get it, sure enough."

Somewhere between a Rambling Jack Elliot ballad and an Upton Sinclair piece, you find Marginal Notes, carrying the torch from those who have walked down those unimaginable streets before. You won’t find a more raw, creative, and unique observation of the streets than this — a clear view of what it’s like to truly live on the road and deal with the realities of taking life several steps too far.


i supposed i could feel
my soul at that hour
outside the Rescue Mission
cramped warehouse of us, dregs,
we'd been informed
in detail just the night before
while we waited for our meal
and rest.
Dregs and hindrances. We stood out
of the oppressive staleness and steam
of the shelter, where the burnt out
scamps and rogues, deranged, decayed,
the dying among us went to die.
in spite of what you might read,
the shelter does not adjust one
for a new life.
It acquaints the unwary
with a foretaste of death,
the smell of it, the bleating
sound of it, the seemingly endless
night of it, the noise.
leaving each morning
crowding the sidewalk,
we went to be away awhile.
for protection from the past perhaps
or just the night before.
the moaning of burning souls in mind,
the mercy of the gods.

-- Jay Thiemeyer


Heathman Hotel--$22.00
for all-night parking

on the wet pavement
i stoop down
2c for the taking

-- Jay Thiemeyer

"Marginal Notes" is available online at
  • rainy nights press

  • or by mail at:
    rainy nights press
    P.O.Box 12004,
    Portland, Ore. 97212

    or at these locations:

    Reading Frenzy
    921 SW Oak St. 

    Black Rose Collective Bookstore
    4038 N. Mississippi

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