a poet died

last week, an old poet
named Herschel
(aged 79)
died in our town
he was
a man who’d faced
mighty demons
and
3 vindictive lovers
and at least 9
unforgiving employers
and no less than 23
relentless creditors
not to mention
long nights
“alone”
(for nearly 17 years)
at a bar called
the Timberline
surrounded by serious fans
who gathered nightly
to hear him read
his latest
cocktail napkin
concoction
and to applaud
his readings
and to tell him
that his words
had moved them

FAR

more than
Deepak Chopra
or the Dali Lama
…words
that must be surely
bottled and sold
shaken and stirred
and strained gently
over crushed ice
and blended
so very carefully
until their consistency
is consistent
with Kentucky bourbon…

…fine words…
…words that give comfort
to the fucked up needy
when the night
presses in hard
and the corporate benefits
are extinguished
and the wife has vanished
and the old friend
the last one that
you had on earth
is buried
and the dog is lost
and the boat has sunk
and the Visa card has
been cancelled,
the electricity cut off
and the property
condemned…

You think of him then
on a cold night
Herschel…
…damned old poet
you envy him
on his last night on earth
he just waved at the stars
and walked away

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You wonder

sometimes you wake up
in the morning
and you think
about everyone who didn’t

you think
about that kid you knew
in the 8th grade who
died a couple of years ago
at age 58
from a massive coronary
on a golf course in Gulfport
and you think
about that girl from
Duluth…

…the one who wore
that very tiny
green dress
to the prom
and you wonder
how she’d look
today
if she hadn’t
drank a 4th
Tom Collins
at the North Star
that night…

…AND

(you think of)
the girl from
East Hennepin who was lost
and presumed dead
on Lake Erie
in a storm
about 23 years ago
(accompanied by)
her husband,
…the sailor

and you seriously
think about
the priest
who married you to
your first wife,
and how he must have felt

when he died in an avalanche

in Yosemite
three years ago
and you wonder why

As you are staring
at that face in the mirror
with the whiskers
tinged grey
and
you wonder
if you’d look like
Hemingway
if you grew it out
or

if the damned thing
would just get the best
of you too