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Ivan’s writing career spans several decades. Some selected samples of his published works are provided below.
From Alternatives to Silence:
Night Shift

    At the factory gate, a stray black cat, a weeping willow tree and me, spending the whole night guarding some pisshole for $2.35 an hour to make frazzled ends meet.
    Dumb in my head I do my simple duties protecting a pastry factory while time and motion slow to a crawl and the sky is a mystery behind my back.
    Letting in the gentle immigrant workmen through the side door at midnight between the dangerous steaming caldrons, I find myself being gentle too as if the world were rocking in peace…
    The keys to the whole joint are in my pocket.  It’s all locked tight as a drum; tight as the professionally frigid bitch I’m trying to make at this point in time.

    Keep it to myself that I don’t give a fuck about petty pilferage and that it’s nobody’s job to pull the alarm on the wholesale theft of human life…
    I grit my teeth and watch the clock crawl to 5 a.m. –14th hour on duty–bones sticking in my eyes–vacuum-packed bitterness arising from the stupidity of my heart.
    –old pastry trays on ancient frozen wooden racks and streaky green headlights on the grim dirty walls–I enjoy that poor little play of light before splitting for home at dawn–walking through those almost empty dead serious Williamsburg  streets to the subway and the LL line. –I’m the living meatball on the Fellini train.
    –Check out a handsome, flashy-dressed young guy coming off a night on the town at the 14th St. transfer in patent leather kicks and scarlet vinyl jacket…
    — half dead from the double shift the meatball keeps thinkin about time in his meatball way

From Alternatives to Silence:


The crescent moon and Venus
in conjunction
Almost touch and then vanish
in cloud mist
Like the impulse to love
before death;

as a diamond
the size of your fist
when it makes a wish

From Toward Melville:

Melville’s Blues — What Constitutes His Blues — Where May His Demons Be Found?

         There is a very slight two-stanza poem, “Merry Ditty of the Sad Man” in the

miscellaneous grab bag, that in its simple rhymes struck me as offering some clues to the depths of the always concealed and opaque Melville:

    Let us all take to singing

    Who feel the life-thong;

    Let us all take to singing,

    And this be the song—

              Nothing like singing

              When blue devils throng.


    Let us all take to singing

    Who feel the life-thong;

    Let us all take to singing,

    And this be the song—

            Nothing like singing

            When blue devils throng.


         The monsters not slain—hidden, malevolent, undermining to the heart—baleful demons as they were known.  Sailing to England in October 1849, Melville noted “a regular blue devil day” in his journal and two years later wrote to Hawthorne “Graylock—we must go and vagabondize there.  But are ere we start we must dig a deep hole and bury all the Blue Devils, there to abide till the Last Day….”  As late as “Naples In the Time of Bomba” his mouthpiece still recollects his “devils blue” and in the first stanza of “Merry Ditty” above, the subject is figuratively whistling past those terrors of his haunted psyche.  The demons’ presence is accompanied by feelings of despondency, depression of spirits and hypochondriacal melancholy according to expert opinion.  Lowell in 1870 wrote of someone that “He keeps a pet sorrow, a blue devil familiar, that goes with him everywhere.”  And Robert Burns had written nearly a hundred years earlier of “my bitter hours of blue devilism.”  Of melancholy itself, Robert Burton (whose Anatomy of Melancholy Melville admired), defined it as “a perpetual anguish of the soul…a kind of dotage without fever, having for his ordinary companions fear and sadness, without any apparent occasion.”

        The grip of the baleful blue demon

                and the melancholy fear of death.

         The thronging blue devils and the real (no lyin) metaphysical blues—Ishmael and his hypos bringing up the rear of funerals and those Bartleby-like blues that stand for not fitting in, no how, no way, into this contrived universe—a universe in which we can’t find the center because it doesn’t exist—a void in the place from which God has somehow managed to abscond without leaving a trace.  An absent, invisible God and demons readily apparent and nearly palpable to myriad unfortunate visionary recipients.  Were they merely a figure of speech signifying a dejected emotional state to our author, or was there an apparitional element as several of the late poems suggest?

         I think of my very own blue demons that I didn’t even know were mine until they appeared on the wall of my crib on the Lower East Side a lifetime ago.  Just when I thought my little trip was over and done, there they were, large as life, disporting themselves as they pleased, in absolutely no hurry to leave and disinclined to be shoved under the rug.  Denizens of consciousness, they were millions of years in the making. They seem to have pressed down rather hard on Melville, riddled him and held him at bay periodically throughout his life.  We can call it, as they say, an intimate acquaintance with the blues.

         The nexus of Melville’s blues—

                The blues built in & the blues

         acquired along the way—the great

   mysterious allegory that is the world


               daddy’s blues & momma’s blues,

    Sunday go to meeting, death of 

 God, death of love blues & the demon

         eye mortality blues all wrapped 

               into one.

       Just now I sweat out the pure naked

  single lightbulb, end of time

         honest injun blues for the two of us

From The Hat and Other Poems and Prose:

Ikkyu & His Skeletons *

(* Based on Ikkyu’s Skeletons, trans. John Stevens from Wild Ways, White Pine Press, Buffalo, NY)

            Ikkyu, aka Crazy Cloud, aka Blind Ass, the much beloved Zen iconoclast of 15th century Japan, who tore to shreds his certificate of enlightenment at the very time it was bestowed and hit the road, knew the high and low of things.


            Knew the contempt with which mendicants were doled out their scraps at the back doors of the wealthy, knew the cold wind that blew through a lonely hermit’s hut in the mountains. – Finally, knew the pomp of an Abbot’s purple robes as well.


            A drinker, a womanizer and an artist, he tried in his old age to set the record straight on certain spiritual matters in a lengthy haibun titled “Skeletons.”


            It begins with a traditional set-up of the Eternal Quest:

            “Filled with disgust and longing to liberate myself from the realm of continual birth and death, I abandoned home and set off on a journey.”


            The wanderer finds himself near a deserted little temple at the base of a mountain before which is an endless field of graves. Out of this field a pitiful skeleton arises to hip him to the Essential Doctrine of Emptiness:

                        “All things become naught by returning

                                to their origin.”

            In an uncanny dream, a second skeleton separates himself from his crowd to address Ikkyu.  He reiterates the Doctrine and the monk immediately counts him as a friend.  – The poor spectral fellow “saw things clearly, just the way they are.”


            After dark, the skeleton gang disports itself among the gravestones

                        while the autumn moonlight dances across the poet’s mortal face.


            Under the influence of his new pals, waking and sleeping, his eyes are wide open.  He perceives the basis of philosophy, the structure of the Buddha’s thought, the ten realms of existence, taken together, truly understood, to be no more than dust.


            He further makes the bold claim

      that death itself is an illusion.

   An additional mirage is the belief that when the body dies,

              the soul endures.


            “A grave error,” says Ikkyu,

   not at all inclined to kid the public along.


Then he gets down to serious dharma business:

         the Buddha preaching for 50 years and the smile of his follower Kashyapa at his sermon that consisted of the display of a flower.


            The silent transmission of mind between them that is the bedrock of what is called the Mahayana (Great Vehicle).


            With this, Ikkyu declares that he has boiled all the sutras down to their irreducible essence and that this essence will bestow bliss.


            He has a second thought, thinks better of all that:

                  “’Writing something

                        to leave behind

                    Is yet another kind of dream.

            When I awake I know that

              there will be no one to read it.”


            You can’t blame him for hedging his bets on existence and non-existence. – On making any kind of wager but on the sure thing of stone silence.


And yet


            There are the poems to Lady Mori, the blind minstrel, the great love of his last years, who could bring his old prick to life like no other.  – The memory of her superlative touch that he must have clung to even as he adeptly let go of all else in the empty universe.