Walter Blue | Dennis Formento

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
Michael Rothenberg and Dennis Formento
June 2015, Salerno, Italy
Photo collage ©2022 Michael Dickel
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]. 

Dennis Formento…

…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.


Be inspired… Be creative… Be peace… Be

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