Sunday, April 4, 2010

Charles Plymell


Out of Wichita, Kansas . . .


Charles Plymell

Charles Plymell grew up in Wichita on the Kansas plains. He lived in San Francisco in the sixties where he met Neal Cassady – among others. In 1963 Neal and his girl Anne Murphy, and Allen Ginsberg moved in with Plymell in the large apartment he rented at 1403 Gough Street in the Haight area. Later he lived in different locations in America, finally ending up in the state of New York where, with his wife Pam he settled in Cherry Valley, a couple of hours out of New York City. Plymell and Pam started Cherry Valley Editions – publishing - among many others - William Burroughs, Herbert Huncke, Allen Ginsberg, Janine Pommy Vega, Ray Bremser.

◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈

Charles' father Fred Plymell, Oklahoma 1920s

The following poem was based on a dream of his father in 1984.

From Ancient Lands (Vernal Equinox Dream) Washington, D.C. 1984)

They walked the sunrise, soul-burned travelers,
wearing hats tilted like Autumn's landscaped hills.
Rough faced sailors, eyes laden like water rills
scanned the horizon till shorelined stars unfurled.

New wind in the air for those waft on the seas,
new smell of earth dug away to align the leys.
And they came forever wandering, as if set free
from cracks and rifts and vortices, as when some
great stone moves from its natural mortises; they
sailed the wind, a front of chaotic charges ignited,
careless in radiance of patterns of heaven unsighted.

(At 5:30 a.m. I awoke from a dream of Vernal Equinox
like a farmer called early for spring plowing, or a
driver with an early start knowing the aching miles
that stretch across the long heart of the prairie).

In the early days my father left his coffee pot
on the stove in his sod house, and he drove
cattle down to Galveston town, and he saw the
lights beckoning on the port side of the bow,
heading for Italy, brought back a color picture
of the Isle of Capri, and when he returned the
next year, the coffee pot was in the same place.
And the picture for years was the only decor in
the farmhouse room under angry rolling cyclones,
with their terrible pitched-moan to stillness,
silent as trowels through the loess and grass.
Blowing dust through cracks of doors and windows,
sculpted the still waves day and night. The house
took in the wind of the wolves' howl, the song
of the coyote, and the long train whistle dragging
the reptile's whispering scream of time; the pioneer's
pitch of desperation, first loud then soft, and
then distant into the stars where cowboys herded
the dark clouds out of the sky, where sailors lined
the beads like stars while the bodies of wanderers
happily grew again from the earth's bed with gentle flag
and stay; the blossom'd buds in May blew like many
visitors who come when the new wind comes that
keeps me half awake half dreaming... so very many.

My father rode down through the equinox in a perfect
visioned dream as if he had never been away. I
wanted to show him the nation's capital, but he
was here on other business; he wanted to find his
merchant marine papers, why, I don't know, maybe
to show passage through eternity and beyond,
like a journey pulling toward yet another shore.

'Look at the beautiful masonry,' I said to him, 'look at
the Merchant Marine Building with its exquisite work
of brick and tile, and bronze doors, and frontispieces.'
We went down to a little section of the city by the sea.
'Oh,' I said to him, 'this is just like Italy.' The marble
and the little streets and the glassworks and the women
who walked there, the women he joked with, and the sailors,
and the bricklayers, and the carpenters, and the threshers
from Kansas long ago, drifters passed in the street
recognized in memory, composite in chirality, patient
in formality; they, the lined-faced, the rough-hewn
people who walked the narrow streets by outdoor cafes.

He knew where to go, not up to the marbled entrance
but down a side street low, near a building, where,
in the dust of the sea bottom, beneath a small cupola
stood a woman by a counter of endless floating files.

'Draw me a picture of the last scene you remember
as a mariner,' she said. He drew a picture of himself
sitting on a bed, his sailor's hat cocked to one
side, a coffee cup on the table. He asked her jokingly,
'how do you want me, ma'am, hobbled and ironed?' She
helped him look. 'How far back?' He didn't know.
Down in the sea dust of a bottom drawer they found
his papers waterstained brown. He pulled them out
and waved and yelled as if he had found passage
toward the wild fix of stars, or Isle of Capri.


Neal Cassady and Anne Murphy,
photo by Charles Plymell, 1963


Oh really really Neal
  first love the automobile
  drove a 34 Ford with suicide doors
and a stick shift on the floor

Ego pressing onward
  tight skirt in the night
Popeye Olive Oyl tryin to make it right

Dragging down the avenue
  checking asses in the rearview
Ann-Marie scored pills and didn't want to fight

One hand on the wheel
  the other copping a feel
stole a car in Denver
           Just to hear it peel

Clock on the dash reading 10:18
    past the neon diner
      last stop for Benzedrine
then another scene
  bobby soxer mommas
tarot card teens
   word surfers making a deal
 his addiction only to the wheel
one hand on the gearshift
       fastest word in the west

 Ann Marie was in theatre
but he jumped the parking meter
   flower children all over town
the fatsest word the found
     before he drove his bus further
 he traded her Chevrolet coupe
for an old Pontiac four on the floor
     drove to Bolinas to score
     up the hills around the curves
gear it down pump the brakes
     gone since speeding past the Avalon
Old Mother Ginsberg back seat drivin
        hanging out the window to keep from slidin

Back to Frisco he carried Ann Marie up the stairs
               unpacked his boxes full of tapes of past lives
         from a medium in Palo Alto
he didn't have any dough
     shoe box full of reefer though
and Ann in bed on top of him
             look at her teeth he said
lupine like on blood they fed

He scored a faster car from someone who
          wanted him to be true
   and telephoned from Denver, Cincinnati, Kalamazoo
he came back from seeing Kerouac in a hurry
               patrol cars in his mirrors still blurry
parked in front of Gough Street in a '50 Plymouth Fury
           saw Anne Marie with some pills
    heading out of town
he jumped in the driver's seat and spun that Fury around

His last drive was longer to the Mexican border
               generations passed like a long train
  with boxcars that he used to work on
    new railroad tracks seemed chromed with cocaine

The engineer's whistle was low and sad
  brought up memories of a young dad
     doing hard time for two joints
   given in generosity because he was that kind of guy
to undercover fuzz who gave him a ride and a lie
  not that different from the people he knew
who never came to his rescue

Maybe they thought San Quentin was good for him
           but I thought him better smoking boo
        he was the fastest road warrior
but what he did wrong he never knew
         his eyes looked liked a worried mind
as if he wouldn't arrive on time
   but Black Elk knew that for the wild
death comes always in the wrong season
   the beds of prison will lock down the reason.


           hey charley, did you bring the gloves

◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈

The following are from Plymell’s recently published book Eat Not Thy Mind.


The snow fills the creek beds
loaves form in the night’s wind
where creatures gather seeds
in cauterized moon wounds and
smells of dark green open the solstice

the mind aligns life and death on the street
or in the heavens and on the horizon
where begins a search for lonely places
like the fools who take another drink and
drape their souls on a stool in another bar

still new for a second smile
into the debris of redundancy
wiping the bar of bad dreams
sorry again for the delusions
mistaking those two different
people youth and age
sunrise calling through the
window panes of skeletons
reveals a formula for motion and scale
depleted in morning’s commerce and enterprise

give me your many lips
flashing in presentiment
that I may catch the boat
to that part of space for charity
along an illuminated twilight line
to run out the knots of a shaded hemisphere
in sunset trace beneath the moon spilled wine.


First 80 degree day
After a long slice of silent ice
Stilettoed by the oily bowels of snowmobiles
Numbing their last drunk snowy reaches of the field.

The lawnmowers begin cutting
the commerce of the day
Dork peeled rubber
The small-town carnivals of June
Goonies come out and sit on stoops of river towns.

More asthma, more decay;
The air laden with chemicals
Greying New York faces from Manhattan
Airless days and nights
Old men’s oxygen and morphine
Loose grip on everything
spans the games you
loose your soul in
Meaningless material objects
a lifetime of deals coughing and dying,
either way losses all.
No more colors in the jam.
What are their titles and authories?
General Custer’s Junior G-Men
part jerk, part fuzz, part fink.  

                                                        Collage by Charles Plymell


Hitch a ride from the gray area
Take a bend in the road going south
out of South Bend somewhere imagined
To the Delta dirt where the cotton is pure
and the polka dot shirt flies in the wind

Where blues are bad and words are dreams
And the random bells are always ringing
Like quantum operators in the binge of time bring
Echoes at night as sweet as first Phoebe Snow

But a blizzard rages up north
winds blow broken songs from a chain of paper doll line
the horizon each censored for emptiness and force

Black ice is on the asphalt and the street lights make it shine
The heart is always first to know the future before the body
And the brain bring the problems of a homeless mind
They say 23% of the universe is dark matter and
73% is dark energy and for all the rest, open your eyes


Black ice is on the asphalt
and the street lights make it shine
Blue Iris is beginning to fall
and the night lights fakes its lines
The heart is always first to know the future
last to hold the problems of a homeless mind
We used to work together for the ancestral heart
My sister, Betty hitchhiked into Pocatello
where those who rode the rails left their signs
above their camps of embers
the last beans cooked in the cans
A century later a bird somehow knew
I was a soft touch and followed me for seeds
Its eyelids had not formed open and it fell prey
I named it Betty Broken Song
Only the wisdom of luck can follow the
tangled infinite numbers of paradise
that glisten and dance along Westbound rails
under the stars lay its darksome dins of clay.


A member of the eternal road crew waves traffic
The guy in a dump truck eats a banana
the wind in the grass waves away the years
of minions finding a way home
some synchronicity in tiny desecrate units
Max Plank waved in the 20th century
Max Ernst had a screaming headache
a Scarab tapped gently on Jung’s window wanting sex
Coca Cola still contained the leaf.
Organic trends of the next century
upscale restaurants serve olive oil
Herodotus wrote that the Romans preferred oil to
the barbarians to the south who made butter
the green bandana waving out the Blue jay’s chipper song
and its lonely in the shadows when they close the open road
to dwell on ‘self’ will lead to peanut butter and colas
a Banana Republic emerged from and enlightened
Constitution, pre-emptive strikes and a mercenary army
it’s all over kids, compulsory education didn’t work
freedom didn’t survive illusion and greed & fat and corn syrup.


The theory of wounded dust like
A psychic fire-final transformation,
A virus after a brand new host to the final party,
Cyanic voices and gray faces of didactic melancholy
Sappho without her cell phone popping a pill under the olive tree
Cleopatra among hot dwarfs and superstars, her
Eyelids inflamed by the disease of sunset on the orphan’d planet
Where seas tumble, trees are blown by broken hearts.
I’d rather be in Kansas where everything is dead and gone
Except the smell inside a 1948 Mercury with the soft green
Lights on the dash memories that await the children of a ruined world.


Get all those demons out of the white space, white noise
exorcize the white house Oh Nicola the Tesla coil
at the click of your mouse electricity will annihilate space
Orwellian conspiracies so subtle down the turnpike of
nothingness where power grids go black in virtual death

Until one day there is a message and it
is not on the phone, nor on the computer
It comes from signals deep down in the body
where the fortune teller lives, foot in one shoe
dangling off the bed of American future fucked
in the truck stop of nowhere down the chaos road.
Bend down America and kiss the asphalt, you voted for it.

The crusaders are robbing the peasants again
There is evil in their agenda, demons in their house
If you are born twice you can work in deadly Dick’s Iraq
and make seven thousand a week electrifying the showers.
don’t say there’s no future, son, for good criminals
hysterical religion in faces behind the candidates of guns
those slaughtered buffalo greedy eyes
eyes of agenda to lionize those lyin eyes
stolen eyes, waiting for the westbound train draggin home to
Toledo and Chicago on clacking Amtrak rails that flash past
cattle cars with hysterical death ribbed vision of strobe shuttered
savage rails over an historical mountain over there name Vinyl that
will be climbed a hundred years from now by Ronald rotten clown
ghost on endless telegraph poles of Custer the loser,
demon Dick’s propaganda, hype and hypocrites
in the last gasp of Democracy.

The jumbo laugh of a dying empire with so much bad karma
electromagnetic torrents of toxic sunsets more beautifully
seen in the morality of the dead eyes scanning for security in
the crimson sky like old day glo tinctures in the summer of love
Pete’s lost plaint I ain’t gonna study war no more
in dead afternoons beyond banging winds of Interstate
of no escape on poisoned exit ramp
Johnny Cash in his coffin all dressed in black
westbound trains roll on
Eat not thy mind young father in the trailer park over there under
the power lines contemplating suicide, mother on pills, baby crawling
toward the television’s arts program of grandmothers’ quilting party.

Brother kept driving on speed to make a dime addicted to the wheel
sister scream bid in a shear wind cold voice at her lost house deal
streetwise Jones found dancing in crack whore bones mute and blue
and may you sleep tonight with jazz in your grave, Claude Pelieu.

Hard luck and hard looker, mean hooker, deep heart, dark mind
commercialized vagina Cum Laude from tattooed neon school
faded mascara in glamorous midnights, too
slow jazz and melancholy words of last love for you
Albany news sexual battery beating homeless murder robbery.
Bend down America and kiss the asphalt, you voted for it.

They are murdering the flowers again
destroying the poppies in Afghanistan
machetes drawn, ATVs pulling iron harrows
full battle camouflage narc state uniform
real colors blood reds and dark greens
crushed into landscapes and set aflame
beauty tangled in charred grey faces
hip hag muppets in red and pink crepe
while the young farm girl cries at her
favorite red and gold shawl burning
her mother leans against the trees
her eyes turning toward the heavens crying.

If we can’t destroy the enemy we can damn sure
destroy their flowers in photo ops the goonfaced
joker criminal of high order looks from helicopter
view and thinks to himself that it’s one less
shipment for the cargo planes to smuggle away.

Less risk for the contractors to handle it, anyway
less hands to pay in coffins like from Vietnam
while campaign ads about who is sleeping safely
blurs the visual numb realities in capitol scandals.

But remember we can always smash your flowers!
like spraying weed with toxins and chopping them
down in Central America, defoliation in Vietnam.
kids who kicked the can on down the road have gone
to war again in the latent gene the paranoid dream
of every town, camouflaged to capture the weed and win

Leaning on their rusted pickups they change like
transformer toys from Bud to bullets when the call is out
imprison the most helpless and forsaken strays among us
ready to destroy again for whatever the authorities preach


It began as a visit to San Francisco after many years. We checked into a famous hotel. I can remember its name because I was having a dream that typified Alzheimer’s. I realized in a dream fashion how horrible it is.

Somehow I ended up in a district where my sister died on the street. I can only describe as a combination of Portrero Hill and the Marina only it resembled how I remembered the Filmore over thirty years ago: Dark, burned out, vacant, and crumbling.

I began walking and walking seeing only shadows of old Mini rails and cars. The streets were black noir as if it had been raining many nights. Occasionally a fleeting figure would pass and I would ask it where the hotel was but I couldn’t remember its name. I would ask to please help and I went through the names of famous hotels I could remember, but none of them sounded right.

I climbed a hill of burned-out tar rooftops still smoldering and heard a voice in the distance comment that it was the kids who set them afire. I found a path down the mound and was exhausted when I saw some figures standing in front of some dim neon clubs. A taxi seemed to be approaching when one of the women outside the club hailed it at the same time. I asked her to please let me take it because I was so tired I could go no farther and I had to get back to the hotel. She said they were tired too and needed the taxi.

I walked farther to a food stand and ordered a dish of something with a side of something. It came out turned over resembling a slice of pizza upside down. Though it wasn’t what I ordered, I decided to take it anyway and got out my billfold to pay. Photos that I didn’t know I had began falling on the ground along with my credit cards. I tried to pick them up to look at them as more fell out. I saw what looked like a wallet lying at the corner of the counter. A heavy woman moved in front of me just as I was able to recover my pile of contents to place on top of the billfold on the counter, thinking I would cop the whole pile and the left wallet. Then someone copped the whole pile and ran. I asked an old black man standing nearby if he saw who took it. He motioned to a doorway across the street and said he thought the person went in there. I went to the door to look in. It was another club, and I asked the black man at the door if someone just came in. He asked me to describe him, which I did. Then he said no one of that description had come in and that there was no need to assume the person I was describing was black. I said of course not and he shut the door in my face.

One of the women didn’t take the cab, so I started walking with her hoping she was going in my direction because I couldn’t keep going without help. I pleaded with her to let me walk with her. She asked where I was going and I told her I couldn’t remember the name of the hotel. Then I thought of Glenn’s address at 1403 Gough Street but realized he hadn’t lived there in years. We walked toward her place. I hugged her and told her I needed help. Her body became like an empty bag. I hugged her more and asked to go home with her and kissed her. Her mouth was hollow.

Image of unknown origin in an email
from Bob Branaman to Charles Plymell.

◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈

The young Charles - Wichita, mid 1950s

◈ ◈ ◈

Charles' mother Audrey Plymell, Oklahoma 1920s.
Her great-grandmother was on The Trail Of Tears
when the Cherokee were driven out of the Southeast,
she later married a white man in Arkansas.

◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈

Charles Plymell was born on the high plains in Finney County, Kansas in 1935 . His father was a cowboy born in the Oklahoma Territory, his mother of Plains Indian descent. After working in most all the western states at many types of laboring jobs, he drifted between Los Angeles and Kansas City during his hipster years, steeped in jazz, race music, and country. Later he settled in Upstate New York with his wife and children teaching and tutoring courses in institutions where he could apply his knowledge and experiences. Many of them were courses in prisons until their population, increasingly victimized, due to the unconstitutional mandatory sentencing and the terrorizing political war on drugs made the experience too overwhelmingly emotive.

His master's thesis at Hopkins was quickly published by City Lights titled Last of the Moccasins and then by Europa Verlag in Austria. After it went out of print, it was reissued with the Los Angeles' artist Robert Williams' painting on the cover (now available as an ebook). Williams went against his own policy of never doing covers only because Plymell was the first printer of Robert Crumb's Zap Comix. A few copies remain in print and are available from Water Row Books in Sudbury, MA, which has published a Plymell Reader titled Hand on the Doorknob. Many books, among them the Scarecrow Press book, Forever Wider, edited and introduced by Robert Peters.

Plymell was cited by Governor Finney of Kansas for his contribution to the people as well as the World Book for being the most promising poet of 1976. He opposes the National Endowment for the Arts and has criticized it in print. He claims it became a politicized unjust system feeding on its own mediocrity and self-contradiction. His views were mentioned in the New York Times in " Notes on People" and again in "Washington Talk". He was subsequently blacklisted and has never received any funding from any federal, state, or academic agency to pursue his creativity.



Eat Not Thy Mind published by Glass Eye Books / Ecstatic Peace Library, 2010. Cover illustration a collage by Claude Pelieu. Available from

Charles Plymell has 12 books of poetry published.

The following are only a few of the sites where Plymell’s work can be found; from these sites there are many connections - including interviews with Plymell.


re the photo of Neal laughing in the bus:
 "I took a pair of gloves to Neal for his bus drive. He was joking about his hands on the old steering wheel made of carbon black. He introduced me to Tom Wolfe. I had already met Kesey with Neal at parties, but they were all getting ready to drive trip etc." Charles.

◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈

five bullet hit of the week ●●● ●    ●

◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈ ◈


Old Fitzroy - - Dreaming blues, karlos? said...

lovely stuff Charles - -
and this in a mail from Charles "I took a pair of gloves to Neal for his bus drive. He was joking about his hands of the old steering wheel made of carbon black. He introduced me to Tom Wolfe. I had already met Kesey with Neal at parties, but they were all getting ready to drive trip etc. cp "

snodgrass said...

I like Charles' stuff. He has a healthy, humourous disrespect for the english language combined with a larrikin play on words. He plymells you with images and feelings. Good stuff!

Hidden Sculpture said...

Wow! Holy Garbanzo beans that was one helluva post on one of my favorite authors and persons, Charles Plymell! I am really digging your blog so very much. I was thrilled to read such a stellar article on CP. I just received my copy of CP's recent book and I have had it tied it to my lap with a chain linking it to my glasses ever since it arrived in my post box! Been reading non-stop!! EXCELLENT!!!
Cheers! Ginger Eades

Hidden Sculpture said...

Not sure if my very-long comment came through so here's the low-down from the visually loquacious version I wrote a moment ago. I am enjoying your blog very much and the piece on Plymell is EXCELLENT, absolutely FABULOUS!! He is a favorite author of mine as well as one of the greatest persons I have ever known. Truly a hipster through and through!! Charles Plymell's latest book is a must-read! I should know because I must have read it at least four times since it came in the mail last week! Both of you fellas keep up the good work,k?!

Old Fitzroy - - Dreaming blues, karlos? said...

th photo of neal laughing,
charles gave him driving gloves to protect his hands.

good stuff Catfish.
some feedback from Charles in mails:
Karl, That is beautiful work right down to the Roadmaster Buicks. It works so well with Catfish piece. You have a good eye for magazine like I used to do the Coldspring. Cp [charles Plymell, Ed.]

That's a great job. I need to find one of those! I can't go out the door in this stupid fucking country. As Burroughs said, The public is gonna take the place apart. It's only a matter of time. I saw the fine presentation Karl did staring with the '52 Buick and the Southern Pacific train. [Catfish]love your poetry. I wrote him about it but I'm to stupid to work comment in there. Yeah. I'll keep track of your blog.Another poetry one. Milk wants something. I don't have poetry. I've been wanting to write some essays. cp

April 6, 2010 3:01 AM

Old Fitzroy - - Dreaming blues, karlos? said...

karlos said: serendipity is magical - is it not!

Catfish thanks for the knockdown (introduction) to charles plymell
he really liked your posting and really liked the combination follow on from you; the connection with car photos (you guys know about motorcars - me was only ever a passenger, but loved to be in a car). part of the whole idea of follow-on was always the idea, and linking all kinds of writing/writers; inlcuding melbourne (and other locals sydney et al) yeah, it is looking good hey. But you know what really changed things for me was kris hemenlsey's blog via dave ellison and th late sixties uphealvals and tranformation - and destruction, after all we are in the thick of th Kali Yuga nightmare

April 6, 2010 7:12 PM

DSW said...

Great stuff! Most of it was new to me.

Old Fitzroy - - Dreaming blues, karlos? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Old Fitzroy - - Dreaming blues, karlos? said...

Ginger;and Korean Rum Diary - - thanks for yr comments - appreciated, karl.

Old Fitzroy - - Dreaming blues, karlos? said...

in an Email from charles plymell

"Hey Yeah! Those years around turn of century were great years. Jack Black left K,C. and wrote his underground biography YOU CAN'T WIN which was Burroughs's first read. I followed his roads in my Buick that LAST OF MOCS is about. The '49 Caddy in painting on cover is like one that Fats Domino drove up from New Orleans to Wichita with bass on top! He played joints behind the R.R. tracks for a dollar admission! I smoked & drank with him. I had '49 Caddy then, too. Big cube flathead V8 that would runs as smooth as a new electric car. It weighed as much as a big truck, Detroit steel, but still got over 25 miles to gallon, so all the oil has been conspiracy. Those were bebop years in Kansas City where Charley Parker was born and in Wichita pill head petty gangsters of 1950's. He said Wichita was nowhere man, but there were a lot of jazz combo sax guys from K.C. I had to sell the hubcaps on that Buick trying to get to Bird's gig even though gas was only 25 cents a gallon! He wasn't able to make the gig anyway! cp"

jerin05692 said...

Hey admin,
this is very good idea any person visit this site and collect more and more information.