Ken Bolton: poem: Hi John

Ken Bolton: poem: Hi John

     in the lecture The Idea of The City / Modernity /
The Suburban Mall
I plan to quote my favourite poets

but find I am looking out the window
looking up from the cream of the paper —

green leaves, ivy-covered tin
(of the fence some feet away), but mostly

rust, & darker brown: leaves —
unswept, on the brick & at the base of the olive tree — the

ancient plum whose
leaves & arthritic black limbs

frame this, I think. A bird moves maybe
or the sun shines, intermittently,

that little bit brighter.
I look again at various poems that,

as it happens, could be
models for talking of you — though

in each case
I doubt if I could do it,

sustain the particular sort of beauty
possessed in the original.

It’s interesting — or is it,
is it just adventitious? —

that beauty is the desired effect.
Maybe it is fair enough —

a number of your poems
achieved such grace

&, as well,

beauty seems the kind of
balm that should

be offered the lack you felt —
recognition withheld.

                              This seems not
to be that poem. Not beautiful.

But that’s me, as you
might point out, not you. In fact

I did point it out. I do all
the talking here.

I’m alone — as are
others, your friends — in my case

with the curious goad
of many of the poems before me

you loved, I’d guess. ‘Buried At Springs’, ‘Salute’,
Berrigan’s, Frank’s. Whom it is always

weird calling that. Tho
‘the literature’

encourages it. And odd —
when I had not got very used

to referring to you as ‘John’.
You were in my thoughts a lot

in later years. And were John
then, and are — alternately —

both now: the fearsomely good
poet designated by the surname,

& ‘John’ — the pleasure in your
remarks, gratitude for late night

phone calls: a review I’d written,
some idea I’d like  — our concern,

finally, for your own cares.

When I said goodnight to you — ‘composed’
beneath a 40 watt bulb, on a sagging camp bed —

the doctor having told you you might die,
it was hard not to be amused

as well as worried: you wouldn’t die
of course, but would you be well?
                                        (The doctor,

we took it, putting the frighteners
on you.) Anna, twelve,

resembled you
a few weeks ago —

conked-out, the TV going,
a blanket pulled high,

her round, angelic head,
her buried chin. The term

that mediates or bridges
her image & yours

a Guston picture, of a head smoking
(called ‘Smoking’),

its eyes wide, a profile, worried.
And then you died.

I wonder when I will die?
Though if you came back

it would not be to talk about
that, but to admire

some certain turn of phrase,
or — you being you —

the compressed but
pivotal implication

in something you had seen —
something of mine

if you were being generous,
some point purchased

with the concomitant faults
attendant on it —

in my writing at any rate, not
in yours.

            Since I’ve mentioned
Anna you’d ask
after her (she’s going great)

& Gabe & Kim
(them too)
                — as you always did.

Tho I would be impatient
for the literary talk

that (in any case)
I didn’t do well.

It was a calming sort of thing,
to talk about them:

the kids you seemed to find
both an irritant and

hope-giving sign
of things to come:

miraculous youth.
You enjoyed their energy, the

connection of mind to
body, the reflexes, the hormones — the promise.

Then we’d rabbit on.
(Poetry.) Now we must all attempt

to do that for each other, your friends.
You’re gone. I listened

to a tape of you a few days ago.
One I forgot I had.

Spot on.

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