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Featured Guest

Steve Ben Israel

For many years Steve Ben Israel was a leading actor with The Living Theatre, touring the United States, Europe, North Africa and Brazil. He’s a poet and a comedian, and he’s a fixture in this town. A 2007 Obie Award winner, Steve recently performed Frederick Rzewski’s Attica at Carnegie Hall.


Steve will be performing his one-man show "nonviolent executions" March 26th -29th at 8pm at Theater Lab, 137 W. 14th Street (bet. 6th & 7th). Smarttix 212-929-2545 or

do you remember

do you remember that morning
when the planes crashed into
the wtc and turned us into dust

do you remember the zerox copies
of the photo's of the lost plastered
all over the walls of the city
with their deadly cry of hope

do you remember the beautiful poetry
that turned up a few days later
along side of the photos of the lost

I remember standing on canal street
watching the towers coming down
the crowd around me breaking into tears
while others to shocked in disbelief

I remember a black man who got out alive
and covered from head to toe in white dust
ask me if I could get him a beer

I remember going to the hardware store
to buy a mask but they were sold out
so I bought an american flag hankerchif
on the corner and wrapped it around my face
like the lone ranger
people walking by said "may I take your

do you remember the cops from atlanta and
and miami parked in the village and everyone
starting conversations and thanking them
for coming up to help with shock talk

do you remember that the attackers were from
saudi arabia and met in afghanistan and
then the usa destroyed the country

do you remember all the flags and flag
buttons on the jackets to show you were
truly american and folks wearing baseball
hats that said nypd, fdny or usa

do you remember the checkpoints on canaL
street and houston, 14th, 23rd and so on
I had to show my id twice when
walking home

do you remember the middle eastern profiling
and the indian man in staten island who was
killed wearing a turban for revenge as the
heat was taken off black people for a

do you remember the cries for revenge and
the bodies keep piling and its still not

do you remember orange alert and what's
in your bag

do you remember union square and all the
great vibes and music, and the 3 black
boys singing beatles tunes and their
father on wash tub bass drowning out
the politicos chanting the chickens
have come home to roost

do you remember walking by the fire houses
with mountains of flowers all around
and going over to firefighters and shaking
their hands and trying to find the right

I remember going to ladder company 39
because my friend keith glasgow had
worked there and I gave out copies of
my poem "warm it up", "they made me coffee
and we talked about what a beautiful
man keith was. i met his parents a week
later and there were tears behind my
my shades and they were so stoic

I remember my great friend tony
rang my bell and I couldn't recognize his
voice but I buzzed him anyway and he
walking up the stairs wearing a firemans
suit and his face full of grey dust
I said may I help you, he said it's me
tony, I said what are you doing in that
outfit he said I been putting out fires
at ground zero as a volunteer.he started
to wash up, I said,how did you get there
he said as soon as I saw the first plane
crash in to tower one I ran over to our
local fire house and told them I am a
vietnam veteran a former life guard
and that I am in pretty good shape and
they said suit him up.
I held those
giant fire hose close to five hours.
tony fish nunziata passed recently and
I wonder if he got that cancer at ground
zero or maybe he got it in vietnam
oh... I miss him so

I remember coming out of the spring street
subway and there were six soldiers with
ak47s and machine guns and I said how you
guys doing and where are you from. I told
the guy from boston that the redsox
would win the world series one day

do you remember the great fear that came
upon us from the terrorists and from the
white house that tried to stop all our
visions of a better world and the paranoia
that still hangs over us

do you remember that there was a big difference
in talking to folks before and after we invaded
the those two countries and its still there

I remember that I had to gather all my love to
keep it working for me and it is so hard


   a toast

to the future
may it come back

out of there

the whistle blows
at the homestead
steel mill
workers begin to leave
the young ones at a trot
the old timers are behind
but they will all meet
at the bar and sip
the iron city beer
and their shoulders
will go down and relax
and they are out of there

in new york city
a half a dozen men and women
dressed in black
with attache cases
with shoulder straps
leave a tall downtown building
and enter the nouveau french cafés
and sip the ten dollar martini
all thinking they are the loneliest
person in the world
and their shoulders go down and relax
and they are out of there

and I am an artist
awake at three a.m.
sipping my herbal tea
getting ready to go to sleep
will be working even
in my dreams


a friend says
you got to stop
saying your trying
just do it
oops I almost said
I'll try

We want service

it was another hot day in the big apple
so upon entering the post on canal street
I took a giant gulp of that sweet cool air
and paid homage to ever invented the air conditioner
I was greeted by this long, long line
there were two windows working and seven closed
and there was this one guy at one of the windows
like what seemed forever and he was getting
a lot of heat from everybody else on the line
ten minutes I was six out of about twenty five, and
everybody on the line was doing their waiting
in line yoga which you learn after a life time of waiting
there were those folks who were rocking back and forth
back and forth and some were taping their feet taping
and some who were sighing looking up high
and those whom were lucky enough to have some reading
material and they were constantly looking at their watches
and for a split second it looked like an
avant- garde theater company doing their
warming up exercises
now the room was cool but it was getting hot
and just as the frustration started to peak
I gently and playfully started to chant
we want service, we want service, we want service
and realized that I was about to make
a complete fool of myself, when all of a sudden
this couple to my left joined in chanting
we want service then these three ladies joined in
we want service and after about ten seconds of this
the entire post office began chanting we ant service
and then all of a sudden these two new windows
shot up in synch and these two new tellers
almost like a doo wop group, said, next in line
well everybody started to crack up and laughed
and gave themselves a round of applause

star wars 1999 (for pamela and baba)

I won't be waiting on line and I don't need any tickets
because star wars is playing everywhere, especially on CNN
the military home shopping channel and every half hour,
James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, says,"this is CNN"
and I won't be picking up any action figures to this" new phanto menace"
because I remember April 29,1975 our sons first birthday,
and he's asleep and he doesn't know it when suddenly
he's awakened by another baby crying 6,000 miles away coming out
of the tv because I'm watching the NBC special "the evacuation of Saigon
the next picture was of the parents of the last American soldier
to die in that Vietnam war and they were both holding back their tears
as the father say's,"my son gave his life for his country"
I held our son even closer and realized how precious that moment was

a few years later a friend of mine says,"have you seen the
new star wars movie yet?" and I said "not me, pops, the last thing
I want to do is see a movie with the word war in it'
but that changed very quickly, when all of a sudden our son said
'daddy, daddy, we have to go see star wars, everybody I know
has seen star wars, we have to see star wars"
so we went to see star wars.
and I actually saw all three of those modern day swashbuckling
intergalactic sagas of good guys verses bad guys
and, actually the movies played for years on our son's floor
I was always avoiding stepping on luke Skywalker, princes laya,
Darth Vader,Han solo, Jaba the hut, chubacka the wookie,Yoda
r2d2 and cp30. I once spent an hour and a half on my knees
trying to find Yoda's cane and screamed out,"I found it, I found it,
I found Yoda's cane"
but know our son is twenty five and I think this time, together
we are going to skip this phantom menace
and go to the peace vigil out the 42nd street library
hoping that we are going to be joined by the liberals
and the conservatives the democrats and republicans
the left and the right because too many parents have cried
in this century for the children they have lost


mass suicide mass – (for jonestown and ourtown)

what is common to us all
a case of the jones
of keeping up with joneses
cult is the tip of the culture

ah this collective guilt
of knowing what is being
done to us
by us

where was their individuality
asked all the waving flags

and our grandfathers
who said, if not me
maybe my son
grandsons still waiting
hiding of clock cloak
of worker
that their 10,000 year old class
will be abolished

slow death
mass suicide mass
for those who couldn't keep
track of themselves
without their main man
in the midst of a
subverted subverted future
which clouds our love

yes there is a crack
in the reality
going to war suicide
going to chemical plant suicide
going to revolutionary suicide
going to build nuke plant suicide
not making a new world suicide
not demystifying suicide

audy murphy, remember him
uncle sam's no.1 son
congressional medal of honor winner
who died alone
because he couldn't find community

sgt york
alvin york
who gary cooper made
us love gun
and sgt york dying of cancer

the same year the new anti war
movement shook d.c.
the i.r.s. danced around alvin's bed
you owe us taxes
from the movie of your life
humphrey bogart would say
"taxes is a protection racket"

dylan don't follow leaders echoes
earlier hip chants
of how in the original moment
the people copped for the king
instead of themselves, the self
suicide the denial of the self
succumbing to the man's plan
and believing it to death
watch out for disciples baby

the guns creep in
the guns creep out
shouts the explorer to the new world
how heavy to fall in the new world
yes dreams have cracks in the
rainbow on the way to becoming human
only forward never dies

hey wait nine months
next time baby
it took 10,000 years
to make you baby

from the bottom tip
of argentina chile death locks
to the top of guyana
not so strange deaths
some will say
it was the howls and screams
from nicaraguan
and brazilian torture dungeons
that made them nuts
conspiracy fact
can wisdom come
from death jones jim
something alive must
life demands it

ode to the moondance diner

the day before the Moondance closed
I was taking a piss in its bathroom
looking up and reading the sign that said
“do not throw paper towels into the toilet”
and as I finish pissing and getting ready to flush
I realize there are already paper towels there,
and something dark underneath and if I flush
I will have to go into the kitchen and get jose
and his mop and clean all that up, but I don’t play
that shit.

so I spy a plunger behind the toilet
and begin working it and I get the right angle
and flush and everything moves right along
then I am washing my hands with very hot water and soap
right up to my elbows and reading another sign that says
all employees must wash their hands before leaving bathroom”
I dry my hands and throw the towels into the basket
then walking down the hall I spy jose bussing
the dishes from brunch, he looks up at me and says
hey stevie was up and i say, everything is moving right along

34th street

34th street can surely
use a miracle
I'm looking for a small one myself
a miracle is something
you meet half way
on the corner there are young rappers
hawking their homemade cd's
telling everybody that their stuff
is real and representing
real and representing
is so elusive these days
a few feet away there are asian women
in yellow tee shirts hawking
meetings with rev. park
to find out how to get a one way
first class ticket to heaven
when we leave the building
and further down the street
the perfume sellers for 5 bucks
working their chanel smells
then all of a sudden the guys
with 150 dollar designer bags say
just 24.95 and soon they scoot
as their lookout guy says the cops
then I spy a large concrete flower pot
with beautiful red flowers and giant leaves
and I get closer and closer to the leaves
blocking out the street like a kid
who goes under the blanket with a flashlight
trying to discover the underground
everyone else is shopping working
and moving fast,wondering where it is
even though they know they came in with it


steve ben israel, NYC, 31 January 09 (R. Ashby photo)

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