When my back was turned, Corso slipped away somewhere in Wisconsin silently, without protest carried off by Charon across a gasoline river. There was no bomb to announce his departure, no Queens orphanage stopped frozen in a silent moment. In the small park at the north end of Salt Lake City no one lifted a jug of bad wine to toast him, the magic bus just rolled by. In the City Lights bookstore Ferlinghetti shed a tear that dried on the old wood floor and from above a brief howl pierced the morning calm. Outside the small temple on a back street in Tokyo a Buddhist monk bowed before the statue, read the wooden prayer card and whispered Toodle-oo.
My grandmother speaks to me from time to time, in a voice that sounds remarkably like my own, but the dead borrow voices, it is so much easier than exercising their own, and there is so little need for words once they leave. She hasn’t changed all that much, still opinionated, still ready to have at it with my mother, who strangely doesn’t visit, doesn’t speak now in any voice, but that may be because the more recently departed assume we remember what they needed to say, and said repeatedly before they died. My grandmother still tells me to carefully consider my actions, to never confuse right and simple, to remember her and never, ever give another thought to Jack, the bastard third husband and the only one she ever dumped.
Pangu* came by for a visit the other night. He tends to drop by uninvited. “Hate to call ahead,” he says, “it ruins the surprise.” He’s aged a bit since the last visit, and I told him he looked different.
“It’s just a look. It’s the same old me, but I tend to scare people. So I’m traveling under the name of Adam now,” and showed me a drivers license to confirm it.
I asked what he was doing for a last name, how he got the license without one.
“They tried to force it,” he said, “but when I told them you get that from your father, and I had none, they let it go.” He headed for the door.
I told him to take care of himself because we both knew that when he dies, a new universe will be born and it’s crowded enough around here already.
* Pangu is the first living being and the creator of all in Chinese mythology.
The student may comment, “Hillel was asked to sum up all of the teaching while standing on one foot and did so.” If this student asks the teacher to provide the essential nature of Dharma in one sitting, what choice does the teacher have but to rise and leave the room. The teacher may comment, “Can you see the treasure I have left for you, and what will you do with it?” Hillel, hearing this, bows to the teacher and both smile over a cup of tea.
That one summer I worked in the plant I could hear them whisper in the break room, with its always empty Coke machine. They’d get real quiet when I came in some would nod a hello and quickly leave. At first I thought it was because I was only there for the summer, but once, standing silently outside the break room door, I heard them talking about the weirdo who read fag poems when no one was looking, how he was probably some sort of queer closet pinko. I tucked my copy of “Gasoline” in my back pocket and wandered back to my workstation, wondering if Corso put up with this bullshit.
“Describe yourself,” she said “that I might capture you if only for this moment a footprint left once you have departed this place and time.” I am, I should think, biologically plausible though straining the bounds of reason once and again. I tend to philosophic androgyny hovering on the fulcrum of paradox. I am the cynic, hurling great brick bats at God, relying on her forgiving nature. I am the imprisoned child who can see through unclouded, smiling eyes beauties and joys just beyond reach. This is the impression my foot will leave, until the first wave erases it from memory.