Poet Anne Ardolino, a.k.a. Anntelope, dies at 69

Anne Ardolino.   Photo by Clayton Patterson
Anne Ardolino. Photo by Clayton Patterson

BY JEROME POYNTON  |  Anne Ardolino was a poet. She was also a former user of ancient illegal drugs, a former sex worker and an extraordinarily kind human being. Her life was memorialized at the Marble Cemetery, at 41 ½ Second Ave., on Sat., Oct. 11.

Ardolino spent 30 years, give or take, walking the streets of New York. Her former patrons ranged from rabbis to police.

One rocky word in a sentence stream could prompt her to tell a story about real life on the mean streets, so often glamorized in contemporary culture.

“Police. You know how many free blow jobs I had to give to police?” she said once in polite conversation around a small dinner table.

Ardolino died on Sept. 11, 2014 — one month shy of her 70th birthday — at the hospice of Beth Israel Medical Center, recently reunited in love with her daughter, Stephanie Ardolino, and embraced and protected by her partner of 34 years, Daniel Joseph Zellman, who kept her safe throughout her last happy years.

Adopted, Ardolino never knew who her birth parents were.

“They talk about the rights of the birth parents,” she said. “They don’t talk about rights of the child; the right of the adopted child to know where they come from.”

Anne Ardolino was not only somebody and something. She was a magnetic force that tugged one in a slightly different direction from where one thought one was going. A new direction. A slow steady magnetic pull, usually toward a more spiritual and forgiving understanding of the world.

Negativity Seeks Its Own Level
(poem to LD)

by Anne Ardolino (also known
as Anntelope)

having “walked at midnight”
but not on the wild side

she could fool herself into believing

she understands

when she should be thanking

her lucky stars

she’s never felt the pull

like when the tides obey the moon

so does the blood of the night people

they are ruled

by the monster

in the corner

of everyone’s eye

we’ve all seen it

although it winks at some

in a more familiar way

than others

I can smell its perfume

each evening

just as soon as the lightless air

becomes moist enough

to carry the odor

of shadows

the message is sent

that’s when they all heed bats

nocturnal insects

creatures with red eyes

and night vision

they are compelled

to obey the rules of their environment

it’s the same with the night people

children of the dark

it’s not a choice they make

it’s not a sin they commit

it’s how they find themselves to be

I mean, think about it

did you decide

or did it just happen

that you love your favorite color?

Ardolino was easy to love. She was compassionate, caring and helpful to the neediest of her neighbors. She would spend hours with a wounded pigeon on street waiting for the pigeon rescue people.

She viewed her former work on the street as value added social work.

Honesty was her stock and trade.

“Don’t you know how low you are?” a client once asked her.

“And just think,” she replied, “as low as I might be, you have to pay me to spend time in your company.”

She included this vignette in a poem titled “The Perfect Squelch.” It could also have been titled “The Perfect Sales Pitch,” as this customer went on to became a regular client.

Her partner saw a Catholic priest in the hospice’s hallway making Monday rounds as Anne Ardolino lay dying. The priest was able to give her the Seventh Sacrament.

This would be important to Ardolino and give her much peace and joy.  Anne Ardolino was as Catholic as Dorothy Day — or N.Y.C. gangsterette Linda Twigg (who Ardolino was once hired to bodyguard).

Ardolino was among the underground artists honored at this summer’s second annual Acker Awards.

Ardolino is survived by her daughter, her partner Dan Zellman and many others.

For more of Anne Ardolino’s poetry visit eastvillagepoetry.com/OldPages/Anne.htm .