Dedicated to those that knew and went…
He stumbled to the bathroom
to fetch his gun
Walking out, sputtering like a jangling plate,
his robe flung open to reveal his impotent politeness
and with a voice like a trophy broken against a bit of bone
he informed me that he has misplaced his leather gloves
“I don’t want any mess on my hands
“they are quite delicate”
I poured him a drink and sat back in my designated chair
uncluttered by the New York Times editions from the early 80’s
So, this is what the great dramatist has come to
another recipient of the Tennessee Williams stability award
who just to be an asshole asks me to recite some Esenin
knowing full well that I haven’t picked up a book in weeks
and haven’t remembered a stanza in all the years since they used to preach
something I naively thought was sacrosanct
all mouths agape waiting for a soul to scrub
since I’ve last stopped watching slovenly blood clog the chamber.
He put the revolver on the table next to him
it was silver and lighter than I expected
Now wanting to begin a new subject, I ask
“Have you written anything lately?”
“I’m just revising the same apology over and over
“But I know that you know what that’s like.”
I did and I agreed.
You should always agree with a man of no violence
sitting next to a revolver
and watch for an unpleasant smile
a loneliness newly treated as force majeure
unflushed toilets and shaving tools browning by the sink
arrhythmia and dizzy spells
the skin that no longer seems to fit.
He interrupts my thoughts again
“I feel bad for ‘ya, kid – you haven’t even gotten here yet and you’re cracking up…
“Writing poetry so sad and simple
“about a dish that used you up in the Bill Withers sense.
“I’ve had so many of those. Documented. But as you see, you’re the only one left to grant me conversation. They never last. But they are always wonderful. Treat them as such. Figure them out sooner. Use them for the writing, not for salvation – they have their own ways to pay for theatre tickets, so don’t offer to write them a new role.”
He lights a cigarette and pretends to inhale
then hands it off to me as though offended by its taste.
I have to insist that I won’t end up like Cassidy
and he tells me that Kerouac wasn’t much of a writer, anyway
more of a sycophantic student eager to emulate.
I liked parts of The Dharma Bums so I remain of no retort.
He tells me to aspire for higher.
But what future does he have me look to, as a harbinger of shit and dull.
We decide to watch a few films with Veronica Lake
that I brought over from the one library I’m allowed in;
he liked her face
and I liked him referring to her as “miss Peek-a-boo” with dwindling aplomb.
While we watch he falls in and out of sleep
and I think to take the gun
think whether to put it back into the toilet tank
next to the wall that smelled slightly like gangrene
or just excuse myself and leave him here again
with his endless penitence and mounting regrets.
It never seems like time to jest a joke,
never the time to take a stroll through the park wrapped in warm nostalgia
and remind him about the stories he had written
the people he decided had a right to live
the people that turned out to be him getting ready for the parody
a party he had already scripted that he didn’t want an invite to.
I walk over and touch his cheek
remind him of my envy
and wish him a new day
wiping his ass with the New Yorker with a chuckle.
His frail hand drapes my arm
and I see undeserved gratitude,
I’m the one to thank him