for Michael Rothenberg
All poets write about death… —Bob Rosenthal
So I sit and listen and see you as if you were really there—but you weren’t— living in this invisible city, toying with the idea of an invisible city an international community of poets As if we were sitting on a bench in a park where young people run free— who can’t see the old men just sitting there minds aglow, but their hands cold— the invisible city exists alongside the real, in the lap of the visible—just like you and I looking at our hands but not at each other— but we’re talking
I was just thinking of you— and now I hear I’ll never see you again, I’ve been shielded once more from death. Deaths I didn’t see— the invisible deaths of my parents my mother’s catatonic dementia my father, alone but happy deaths by aneurysm, auto crash kidney disease, black lung pneumonia murder, cancer. If it is true that a successful poet who lives a long life writes more and more about death then you had your turn— But no one has to be successful to die and so I know I’m going to write about death whether I’m good at it or not. And seventy-one is not very old to die, Michael, you had more to give Farewell, Michael, struggling with anger farewell, Michael, cooling arguments on-line farewell, Michael, with your hand gripping my hand farewell, Michael, was somebody there to invite your soul to paradise or another incarnation where this life’s imperfections can be knocked off your human shape and will your remains settle into earth and water go to ground Your soul— if there is such a thing as soul— now enters the wind tunnel to be taken on its way Grief echoes in large houses full of empty rooms in the house where Terri wakes up daily, now alone speaking to no one until she’s ready Which way was your head turned, Michael? Where were your hands? What last words did you hear? Who spoke to you, & did you know when you closed your eyes for the final time who loved you? I don’t think angels exist— but in that final condition you didn’t go unsanctified. Those were your hands—here are mine. Does a dying person remember being born? Did you know you were sanctified? Whatever this agnostic wish can be for you—now—your suffering is over.
©2022 Dennis Formento
All rights reserved
All poets write about death: Bob Rosenthal was poet Allen Ginsberg’s assistant at the time of his death, and reported this observation about Allen’s passing in the documentary, No More to Say and Nothing to Weep For, an Elegy for Allen Ginsberg, Optic Nerve productions, Colin Still, director, 2006 [link].
…lives in Slidell, Louisiana, USA, near his native New Orleans. Books of poetry include Spirit Vessels and Looking for An Out Place (FootHills Publishing, 2018 and 2010.) Cineplex (Paper Press, 2014,) Edited Mesechabe: The Journal of Surregionalism 1990-2001 and fronted the free-jazz/free-verse band, the Frank Zappatistas. St. Tammany Parish organizer of poetry events for 100,000 Poets for Change, a network of poets for peace, sustainability and justice world-wide.