I really don’t want to write like you as beautiful as it is,
too much pain, too much semen and maggots and blood.
I read you like a junkie shooting up, a rush to the brain.
When I was young I was cute with great hair
and the girls loved me, and I didn’t get turned down
for jobs or sex or clubs I wanted to get into.
My skin was clear. I didn’t suffer your crucifixions.
I was tough and mean with very fast fists,
and no one picked on me because I would hurt them
without even thinking. Not proud of that.
It was simply the way it was for a southern boy who
understood the brutal truths very early.
You were the kind of guy I felt sorry for, a pitiful loser,
foreigner, edge-liver, dredger of all that was ugly
and broken in the world, the ragged sax player on the corner
pumping out heart breaking jazz to the bus stop,
the indifferent traffic with windows rolled up in their oh so
precious cars, and bank clerks on the busses who
felt superior to you as the chrome beasts belched smoke.
Your reed was black with their smoke and still you
played on oblivious to their indifference, knowing in your heart
that your notes mattered, and you just didn’t give
a shit whether anyone was listening or not – you played.
I was not born with that courage or tolerance to pain.
I have a confession to make to you, and I hate confessions.
I believed the world about you, critics and small minds,
that you were the dirty old man who wrote about drunken
sex, vulgar roaches, ugly beaches and bars and whores
and everything that would make us awaken vomiting the horror,
and they were right, but they were so terribly wrong.
So terribly wrong. You were so tuned in, so engaged with what
the rest of us weren’t even seeing, feeling it all, like few
ever have and I thank whatever that I didn’t have to live in your
skin, or feel all of that. Feel all of that and shake.
Feel all of that and shake, the boil on your neck and the last beer
and cigar at three in the morning when no place is open.
You lived with a whore for ten years and loved her purely like an
Old Testament prophet, and when she finally died from
too much booze and life, you grieved for her for the rest of your life.
You wrote poems to her thirty years after she was gone,
poems that I read after you were gone, and I could feel her in them.
That is being a real man, even when you saw yourself as
a frightened child cowering in fear from the playground bullies,
those whose faces I would have broken with my hands.
Your love was so deep, so much deeper than my wicked hands,
so much deeper than Mozart, Faulkner or Freud.
You taught me something about loving people I won’t forget,
loving the broken, damaged, unlovable people.
I am bleeding now, my red life dripping onto the keyboard.
The cat bit me and the wound will not stop bleeding.
You loved cats, five as I recall. I don’t know what your cats
were like but mine is a ruthless killer who draws blood.
A friend of mine said, “You have to draw enough blood to
the surface that some of it comes off on the paper” – art.
Maybe that is why you loved the cats. Did they make you bleed?
Did you curse them in the night for the wounds they made?
Did you admire the purity of their cruel bloody fangs and claws?
Did you call them over to drink of your life as it spilled
onto the linoleum floor, the toaster, the sofa stained with beer?
My cat is in the alley right now because she knows I am mad.