Ninth Circle's basement

 By Winthrop Smith

(Art by Larry Stanton)

Ninth Circle's basement,
The Beast buttoned tight,
I do this,
I do that,
     -Takes in turpentine
     -Cigarette faceoff,
     -Finds a seat,
     -A measure;

Touring Mineshaft by
Cigarette pinprick,
I watch this,
I watch that,
     -Chicken hawk cruising
     -Circle boys molting,
     -I pluck this,
     -I pluck that;
Attendant, the hands,
The ears, faced out when
Laundry, darks,
Sorted, lights,
     -Circulating blond
     -Boy drinking arts poured,
     -Vintage, sipped
     -Nouveau, slurped;

Double helix with
Howard entangled,
I twist here,
He twists there,
     -Young man loaned among
     -Older collectors,
     -Unwrapped here,
     -Unwrapped there;

Suburban cushioned,
Pop up, pulled out, planned,
Won't ask, so
Don't spell out,
     -Rural eruption,
     -Back end, breech birth, 'Breathe!'
     -Long gloves slick
     -With life, loss;

Excavation of
Raw life from life dreamed,
I walk to,
I walk from,
     -Blur the face, dull the
     -Voice, bury body,
     -Pulled under,
     -Lost under;

Cerebral laurels
Plied, thicket beckoned,
Probing skin
Deep, pool side,
     -Touchstones, library
     -Thumbed illustrations,
     -Techniques to
     -Copy, own;

Rectangular, squared,
Oval, circular,
What peers out:
Who are you?
     -Left behind, with tip
     -Piled, chipped coffee cup
     -Chair slid scrape,
     -Seat pad warmth;

Andy, Melinda,
David, and Arnaud,
I sat here,
I sat there,
     -Arthur, Henry, with
     -David, and Alice,
     -We went here,
     -We went there

Dissertation, porn
Reviews, and stories,
Words etched on
White paper,
     -Faces float out as
     -Muted Greek chorus,
     -Late night talk,
     -Canvas, paint,

Separation, an
Absence memory,
Falling, drugged,
Falling, dragged,
     -Addressee moved, no
     -Forwarding address...

Oil on model tear
Sheet stretched to canvas,
Wrinkles smoothed,
Shirt untucked,...

Winthrop Smith lives in Maine and writes poetry. Two volumes with his work are out on Amazon.


  1. Winthrop, I think, is a really good poet!

  2. Nice. Stylized. Baroque in a Maxfield Parrish way.

  3. Gawd, does this bring back memories! I remember when the 9th Circle was originally a steakhouse (and a really good one). I was taken there for my 22nd birthday by an "older" man I had met on Fire Island; he said to me, "Now you just have to fall asleep until you're 30, when everything great happens." He was wrong. That year Stonewall happened, and I joined the Gay Liberation Front and the movement we now call the LGBT Movement exploded. When the steakhouse folded, and it became a bar and disco, it changed. I had a lot of wonderful memories there, although the cigarette smoke almost killed me. You needed a gas mask in the basement. I remember Candy Darling and her friend Jeremiah Newton at the bar; my friend Jim Fouratt saying one night after the bar closed and everyone was leaving: "Next time bring presents!" And going out one night into a fresh snow storm, after being cooped up in the very crowded bar, and just rolling around in the snow. It was a great place to meet guys back when guys knew how to meet in person—the manly art of seduction was in full swing then. I wrote a book about that later, The Manly Art of Seduction, that has been banned on Facebook. But certain feelings are impossible to contain. We know that.


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