(for Allen Ginsburg) You died quietly in your bed friends gathered around the cars and buses of the city clattering out a Kaddish to a God you had long ago dismissed as irrelevant. We would have expected your to howl, to decry the unfairness of it all, but you merely said it is time, and slipped away. Who gave you the right to depart without leaving us one last remonstration against the insanity that surrounds us, one last censure of the fools who we have so blindly chosen to lead a generation into a hell of our creation. You had your peace but what of us left behind, what can we look forward to in your absence save the words we know so well, can recite by heart that no longer beats in your breast.
First appeared in Living Poets Vol. 2, No. 1, (U.K) 2001 and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum vol .30, Nos 1-2, 2006
When it’s time, i suppose I’d like to go like my dog and cat, slipping away as they were gently stroked. It could be like that, there’s a chance but I can’t count on it, no one can. I never did try skydiving, too late, now and so a failed or fouled chute won’t be my fate and the closest I came to auto racing was a weekend at Bondurant and my skill limited my career to local road rallying in college, and few die in under-powered Opels. Maybe I’ll know my end is near, and maybe not but it won’t be in a blaze of glory and my ashes will sit on some mantle because only those of the famous, like Richie Havens, get spread from the plane over Woodstock. But, then again, none of that will be my problem, so screw it.
I have never visited the grave of my mother, either of them, which seems most odd primarily to me. The mother I never knew until it was too late to know her is buried in Charleston, West Virginia a place i intend to visit, grave site included in the coming months, to see where my mitochondrial DNA was planted and grew into the odd shape that greets me in the morning mirror. The mother i knew so well, who could always find ways to frustrate me when I was certain she exhausted every possibility is buried next to my sister, placed there by my brother who couldn’t quite get the funeral together, at least not the one she would have appreciated, with the near famous all pump, never the right circumstances so into the ground she went. I will visit there too, someday perhaps, but helical gravity will always pull me to the Mountain State.
You never know how the news will arrive you are just certain of its arrival. You know it on some level, even as the event is happening, but that doesn’t blunt the piercing tip of the blade that finds the soft spot in you and cuts deeply. You hoped for a miracle for her, for her son, her husband, for those who knew her gentle smile, warm compassion, cutting wit, when the situation demanded. She was a friend who would appear when needed most and slip away when the need began to dissipate. The news came today, the hole is fresh and you can only attempt to fill it with memories, knowing even as it seems again full as do so many others as you age, when you step into it you will plunge back into the well of loss and again struggled to find the sun hiding in a too often darkening sky.
What I want to tell her is this: it’s fitting, perfectly, that you who so assiduously hid the past from me, your past and mine, now bars your entry, refusing you even the briefest glimpse. You want so to grab onto it to have it carry you to a place removed from here by time and distance, where it is warm and most of the time, cozy. It is also fitting that you call out his name, as though he was in the yard pruning a tree, delaying dinner, the same he you cursed glad to have him out of your life and out of your house, you wished him dead so that you might call yourself a widow and share condolences with the other black draped women. You never mentioned the six months of foster care or the little sister who came and went so quickly when he had the audacity to drop dead on you one morning. This is what I would say to her, this is the curse I would place upon her but she no longer recognizes me, I am no more than a well dressed orderly come to remove her lunch tray.