RAY BREMSER MEMORIAL
SECTION ELEVEN

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COLUMN SEVENTY-FOUR, AUGUST 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)

MR. RAY


(Photo by Dan Chidester)

[The following first appeared in HUNGER NO. 5 1999 and appears here with the permission of the author]

Whatís to say, Ray?
We have to stop meeting like this
What about our fortieth reunion?
It would have been next year,
since the Seven Arts, since the Village
Bonnie sitting on the floor
you hatchet faced skinny blues walker
keeping high above the cloud cover,
all that smoke through all those years

Your apartment on the Lower East Side
late mornings, was that 1968?
we listened to Coltrane, talked about scoring,
you and Bonnie my prototypes of hip compassion
That bare light bulb in Hoboken slum
before or after your going on the run
and the time of your absences
jail after jail, parole violations
Bonnie always waiting your return  

What's to say?  We go into the corner
of choice when we die
We know the way.  

Your unlikely bucolic arrival in Rosendale
the loudest drunk at The Stourbridge Lion,
at my reading, your voice in the dark called for
Exhortation, my poem for you,
and I opened the book after fifteen years,
and closed it again
I could not read it, it was too far behind me.
How much we take for granted---
≠that there always will be friends who need us,
that there always will be voices in the dark
requesting poems  

Out on a pilgrimage, spring 1988,
going everywhere I knew love would be present,
from Cherry Valley I arrived at your door
in Utica, second floor rooms over after-hours
liquor store, wrong side of the tracks
I read you my talismanic letting go of love poem,
you in the one good chair like Buddha, center of
the empty room, backdrop of bottles stacked like soldiers
and overflowing ashtrays, the big dictionary
like a personal friend beside the radiator
 

"Sis toe lee, dee ass toe lee," you said,
re-pronouncing my "sis-tole.  Die as stole."
"Naw," I said.  "It'll throw the rhythm off."
"See for yourself," you said,
hatchet faced Buddha in cadaverous chair,
and you were right  

"Are you happy, Ray?"
You nod at the ashtray, the army of bottles,
ďI have emphysema, cirrhosis of the liver,
I'm trying to cut back-.." your gravelly voice,
New Jersey accent, "but I'm content."  

What to say, older brother,
what to say?
We've been through this before,
we know the way.  

Last week setting out for western New York
I stop for gas, the woman at the counter
speaks in loose cheek hollow vowel sound
in her everyday talk
As I pull away, I play it back
Where have I heard that sound before?  

Itís you, sblibbity-bopping word machinator
spilling 'em out like marbles
from your hollow mouth sound, your thorax axe  

What to say, Mr. Ray,
what to say?
We've been through this before.

Goodbye, Ray.

 

Naples, NY, November 98  ##

 

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