The Sickness Suite, a little big book of poems by Tim Staley

I’m a sucker for handmade poetry books and magazines. Cheap little things with words on them. Gimme books. Libritos made with a special kind of love. It’s an addiction from growing up into the poetry world in the 1950s and 1960s. In the mid-60s Paul Malanga and I made six issues of a little magazine, FROM A WINDOW using mimeographed pages, whitener, manual typewriters. The results were always miraculous. So I get juiced when something like poet Tim Staley’s The Sickness Suite shows up in the mailbox. It’s 3-3/8ths by 5”. Goofy drawings on the cover and inside. The publisher is Grandma Moses Press. I’d never heard of them. Goes with being an old man. So I googled them. Happily, Grandma Moses Press is googlable. They specialize in little books like Tim’s which are guaranteed not to make money. Hot damn!

But Tim’s little book is not a breezy little book written to make us happy. It’s wonderfully crafted poetry—in a haphazard way—that documents chronologically when Sylvia, the Staley baby, got terribly sick. Her liver was shutting down. Suzanne and Tim were terrified. Their baby little girl would die if she did not get a liver transplant. Period.  

Here’s a little poem from the book (most are longer). The setting is El Paso (eventually, they went to Houston). Tim had chased the ambulance down from Las Cruces where they live. Suzanne must have been in the ambulance. The time of this poem is when the waiting begins and the questions start spinning in the brain. All sorts of questions about life and death, morality, yes and no, sorrow, modern life and medicine, the gut questions of parenthood—


At Kinley’s House Coffee & Tea,
a girl in flirty flats slides in next to me,
her liver functioning perfectly, her blood
clotting like batter in a waffle iron. A family
strolls in, mom and three kids, their
gallbladders all draining, filling and tipping
bile as they should except dad forgot his
wallet. Has to walk all the way back to the
Hummer, the capillaries in his liver robust,
nothing like my daughter’s liver, a jellyfish
skewered on a cactus spine. She’s with my
wife nearby wrestling infection in the
nosocomial claw of the hospital, where my
baby’s veins are gateways to super germs
who’ve united, who’ve built up resistance
to antibacterial disinfectants and I wish
I had that gall, that crass resilience.

Suzanne, Sylvia & Tim
What, 2 years later?


Ed Baker said...

very cool ! and
my heart jumped and leaped into my mind/memories
when i saw the name Malanga...
and the the Malanga that I knew ... up in The City and he
came down to here in the 60's and 70's was/is not Paul but


these guys brothers ?

I'll have to check my "stash" but
as I recall
I have some pieces in several mags circa early 70's with also Gerard has too...

in like Cold Spring Journal, FLUTE or/& Athanor ?

also thinking to get out my staple gun
and bind some ..... "stuff" .... no need to be Perfect Bound...

a staple will do, eh ?

Bobby said...

Thanks, Ed. Glad you still check in. I'm don't do these things as much as I should. But Tim's little book inspired me. I think we'll do a little book to offer along with my new book of poems next March--. I'll send you both.

Bobby said...

Thanks, Ed. Glad you still check in. I'm don't do these things as much as I should. But Tim's little book inspired me. I think we'll do a little book to offer along with my new book of poems next March--. I'll send you both.

Ed Baker said...

well now and by-golly...
since we are exchanging
I'll send you my Stone Girl E-pic

you see John's review of it ?



you still at that Cinco Puntos, El Paso address ?

why not.... the place is probably mortgage-free by now ?

be sure to 'check out' Jerry Rothenberg's post today re: Santos' "The Poetics of Shamanism"

I wonder (yes I do, sometimes Wonder) if he has that INCANTATIONS "thing" y'all did ? It is one of my
Sacred Treasures.....

OH HELLS-BELLS just read the blurb on the back cover ! where the hell have I BEEN for the past 50 years .....

Jeremy Seligson was just hewer visiting.... of course we were goin' down to eat at that neat cafeteria in the American Indian Museum
it was closed due to our never-ending political bull-shit !

Anonymous said...


Thanks for this. I was touched by your post here and have since ordered two of Tim's poetry books. They both came with nice letters from the poet. I never would have known about Tim, and, I guess, more importantly, Sylvia and the life story of the Staley family the we can all benefit from. Is benefit the right word? I think I've learned a bit more about life by reading Tim's poetry. It provides context that testifies that my life is one (little?) type of life, and there's this (much bigger) experience. Whatever the case, thank you so much for posting the blog about Tim's poetry & Grandma Moses Press. All the best to you!

Laura Stamps, Book Ghostwriter, Copywriter, Editor said...

What a wonderful post!!! I just discovered your blog and I'm already in love with it. I'm a HUGE fan of little chapbooks and thrilled to hear about Grandma Moses Press. I bookmarked their site on my iPad and plan to go back later today and order some of their books. What fun!

Btw, I found your blog through your CP press site because I finally got a chance to review Harvey Goldner's awesome poetry book on Amazon last night. I emailed a copy of my review to your son because he's the one who sent it to me to review. But my 5 star review went up a few minutes after that so you can see it on Amazon now. Thanks again for publishing that book. Like Harvey, it totally ROCKS!! ~bighug~