Sunday, July 25, 2010

62. Ray Johnson Died Here

The bridge rises in a hump
over the water at Sag Harbor
and the tides move under it,
the tides move under it, and
neither the bridge nor the tides
remember. The man with the bunny
head, the man who drew the
bunny heads, moves, as a memory,
in the water, under the bridge,
and back and forth with the tides.
If you saw, if you had seen, his head
just above the water, in the cold
water, you would look for his ears.

To jump from a bridge and
disappear if you were a poet
might put you on the Golden
Gate Bridge with your keys
in the car, lonesome alone.
The wind might be what you
notice as you jump, might carry
you even as you fall into those
stone blue waters and an end
of some romantic import. In the blue
heat today, the summer boils away,
leaving water for drowning. Sometimes
a person just needs to change his life completely.

Wait for January, Mr Bones, and
the bridge is right for jumping—compact
and delicious, no apple sweeter. Death, fiends,
is boring. We mustn’t say so. As the sea yearns and yearns
for our warm bodies, we mustn’t say so. And then
Henry & weeping, sleepless, will heft
that ax the shape of mourning to bring it
down as his body goes down unto
the urges of Providence, and end
it, Henry’s dazed eyes the color
of marbles or oceans, and just
as cold, even if ’twere
summer when he did it.

If in urgent surging,
I would jump
from a bridge, say,
over the Hudson, 6767 feet long
and hundreds down, so a plummet
might allow for me to hit the water,
hardly flowing, and burst
into every word I’d ever thought,
and cease to be, then would any
one of you even
notice the fireworks
exploding level with your

Into what gulf or emptiness
could fall what poet who wrote
a bridge into being? To fall not bridgeways
down to water, but from a boat,
with goodbyes in a clever satchel
made to float above a death. To catch
a word of
the poem he hadn’t yet written
for the thought he hadn’t yet had
could make the body
heavy enough to sink, to expire
in an inky sea of words.

Everything dies, and
everything’s replaced, at times in double,
so that every death heralds
life. We might
consider whose heart
we might want stop to make another
two hearts start again, or put in check
this morbid desire
to live. What a crowded space
a life takes up, what a waste of
air and water. Give me
death and give
me liberty.

Small and compact, the bridge
carries no sign to say
“Ray Johnson Died Here,” so we are left
to look out over the ocean and imagine
what floating that bald head
had done that day, what thoughts
it left behind in Room 13, what
obsessions all those boxes representing
life when no life found was there, what
sense each recollaged collage
could hold, and we might
remember how stupid it is
to be a poet, to be
filled with words and nothing else

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