Elegy

Grandfather’s bred brother
Was a black leather Bible:
Each day to heaven
Was begun and ended
Between onion skin leaves.

He boldly led
A life of Sundays
Of rollicking sermons
And week-long revivals loud
With trombones and banjos:
A leaping preacher
Was his carnival:
A joker who knocked them down,
One to a ball.

(Never a night
Fewer than a hundred
Rolled down the aisles
To the altar.)

But now let the congregation
Remove its hats.
The steadfast preacher has preached his last.
Hum the chorus once more while we wait;
Won’t anyone else come here and kneel?

The stone in the ground
Is no tribute to the man.
He was one to shout glory
To the rafters and railings
Each day the door was open.
Never was he so still as the granite
At his head saying:
      Rest in Peace
Forever.

New York, 1962


Here’s the poem as I first found in his files, date unknown. I subsequently found the electronic version posted above.

Elegy

Plea

My love, I know that I have been a clown,
And, bending with a rose in hand, no claim
To formal loving should I have again;
I know, who never knew before, the sound
That rain makes kissing the dark before
It tumbles to the earth and breaks in crowns,
That you are painting beauty where it’s found
Seizing images I saw but never tore from objects.
You fold the word beneath your tongue
And taste the essence of an elm: reflect and lend
And air of legend to my life. Recall
And take the bloody thorns from my hand.

Greenwich Village 1961