Cynthia Norwich: “The Secret Sharer”

bb4bec3a-226f-40ed-9b84-59b47a2e3a3a_kindlephoto-261765469“Cynthia Norwich. Photo for the ‘Domestique’ Sunday color supplement of the Sidbury Times, Sidbury, Connecticut, September 4, 1966. The story noted her election as President of the prestigious North Maple Home and Garden Club.

But she also had another life. She was a special confidante of Mary Pinchot — “the secret sharer,” Mary called her — from their student days at Manhattan’s exclusive Brearley School.

Pinchot, a journalist, later married Cord Meyer, originally a leading left-wing pacifist who morphed into a dedicated anti-Communist operative for the CIA. In the 1950s, the Meyers became good friends with their next-door neighbors in Washington: John and Jackie Kennedy. Mary became more involved with her painting, and with exploring various avenues of expanding and altering the consciousness (she was a close friend of Timothy Leary, for example), even as she continued to move in the highest social circles in Washington. Her sister married Ben Bradlee, later editor of the Washington Post during Watergate. A few years after her divorce from Cord, she and Jack Kennedy, now president, became lovers.

By all accounts, she was the most serious of Kennedy’s extramarital partners, an intellectual sparring partner who influenced him with her still-fervent pacifist views and her ideas of altering consciousness for the betterment of the world. Her affair with JFK was tracked by the CIA and other agencies. She had, perhaps foolishly, let several people know she kept a diary of her relationship with Kennedy. Several months after his assassination, Mary Pinchot Meyer was shot dead while taking a walk along the canal in Georgetown. Bradlee, informed of her death by CIA friends, hastened to her house to retrieve her diary, only to find James Jesus Angelton, CIA chief of counterintelligence, already there, jimmying the door. Together, they found the diary and burned it — which Bradlee admitted 30 years later in his autobiography. An African American man, Ray Crump, was picked up a quarter mile from the scene and charged with her murder, but was acquitted due to a total lack of evidence. The murder remains officially unsolved.

Throughout these years, Cynthia Norwich had made frequent visits to Mary, especially after the divorce, enjoying the bohemian side of Mary’s life, then returning to staid Sidbury. In September 1964, she received a package in the post: a set of photocopied papers and a note from Mary: ‘A little secret for the sharer.’ When she heard of Mary’s death a month later, Cynthia buried the photocopy of the diary in one of the beautiful flower beds that adorned her award-winning garden. She never spoke of it as long as she lived. She died in 2014 at the age of 86. The papers are still buried where she left them.” Pencil sketch, digital paint.

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Joseph Hart: ‘These Blues are Just Like Love’

bluesman“Joseph ‘Slow Dog’ Hart, Knoxville blues singer (1897-1955). He spent most of his years as a street singer, with occasional gigs at house parties and bars. But in 1947 he had an unexpected success from a one-time recording session with Alan Lomax. It was a song of his own composition, ‘These Blues are Just Like Love.’ He scored a regional hit with his version, then it was recorded as a country-and-western number by Tex Ritter, and became a national smash. With the royalties, Hart, who had often lived on the streets where he played, was able to live out his last years in comfort, before his death from liver cancer. ‘These blues are just like love/They keep me thinking of/Your beauty and your body and your touch/These blues are just like love/They got me cooing like a dove/You’re long gone but I still want you oh so much.’ Pencil sketch, digital paint.

art and text ©2019 by Chris Floyd
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Dry Martini with a Heartbreak Chaser

heartbreakchaser

“Dry martini with a heartbreak chaser. St. Valentine’s Day, 1954. Geno’s Place, Hoboken, New Jersey.” Pencil sketch.

art and text by ©2019 by Chris Floyd
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How quickly Greenland is disappearing

exp poet

“Johnny Marsanne, performance poet focused largely on ‘found poetry’ from various media. The poem below is from his most recent outing, at the ‘Alternative Currents’ poetry slam night at Grover’s Pub, Allentown, New Jersey.”

How quickly Greenland is disappearing

water expands as it warms
thermal expansion
melting
the planet warms

large chunks of glacial ice calve into the sea
vast plains of southwestern ice
the meltwater flowing to the ocean

a threshold has been reached
a point of amazing sensitivity
warming in the future
warming in the last century
losses
considerable losses

we have passed, or soon will pass

(Found poem carved from the New York Times, 22 January 2018)

art and text by ©2019 by Chris Floyd
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14 Seconds for the Soul to Burn: The Additional Thing

Additional things

“‘The Additional Thing’ (below) was the final poem written by American poet John Turner Wiley before his death at age 66 in a 2007 car crash in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Pencil sketch.

The Additional Thing

It takes 14 seconds for the soul to burn.
The process begins with a synaptic firing,
igniting a network of celestial complexity,
meshing, near instantaneously, with hormonal flows
and multiple streams of sensory data
from the interface of the nervous system
with the world beyond.

The world within, comprised of these operations,
and the additional thing that creates
continuity of self, resonance of memory,
and the conscious and unconscious weaving of context
from which meaning and reality are composed,
is in 14 seconds overcome by the fire
and dissolves in a heap of unconsecrated ash.

Art & text ©2019 by Chris Floyd
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Anthony Alexander: like Petrograd in fevered flow

antony

“Anthony Alexander, American poet and essayist (1925-1987). Like his friend and contemporary James Baldwin, Alexander spent many years in Paris, where his work was published in influential literary and political journals. His books include Not This One, Ricorso, and Homage to Juliette Greco, which included the poem below.” Pencil sketch.

 

 

 

It’s not divination
or superstition.
It’s not a weary traveller
opening up the Gideon
and finding magic salve
where the eyes first fall.

(Last time I tried this,
the universe answered with
the slaughter of the Amalekites,
man, woman, child and kine.)

No; it’s the vision of the lion
in rapprochement.
It’s the shadow waving goodbye.
It’s the fusion of many suns.
It’s the damage of imprecise images,
and what could be made of them.
It’s the chanteuse deplaning in the night,
to the leers of the malcontented.
It’s the burning ships under
centuries of stars,
breathing the air of reprise.
It’s the abatement of laws,
the nocturnal tirades,
like Petrograd in fevered flow.

It’s dancing on the water,
borne up by the reflections.

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Film noir moments: “Backstreet Frenzy”

final desk

“‘Ain’t you cops got nothin’ better to do? Haulin’ us in for what? Smoochin’ under a streetlight?’ The arrest of ex-working girl Wanda and her n’er-do-well boyfriend Clovis sets the pair hurtling down a dark spiral that leads to robbery, violence, a confrontation with the mob — and a million-to-one shot at redemption. From the 1956 B-movie thriller, ‘Backstreet Frenzy.'” Pencil sketch.

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