Friday, July 6, 2012



“No typewriters – ha! ha! – no typewriters –
Alas!
For I have much to open, I know immense
Troubles & wonders to their secret curse.”
&; so he wrote in Op. Posth. no. 6,
“Dream Songs” &; all that
Until he opened the secret curse
&; leapt from a bridge in Minneapolis,
His coat tails flying,
A pair of glasses
Bulging somewhere in his pockets,
Knowing
He did not need to see
the Mississippi River.
                                    2.
On Xmas ’71, he wrote me:
                        “Thank you very much
                        for your booklet which
                        I’ve read with interest
                        and admiration esp. for
                        the tel. poem &; ‘Edges’.
                          May I wish you
                        the good luck we all
                        need and His blessing.
                                   
                                    Yrs
                              John Berryman
Yrs, mine, his nobody’s (Like Henry
He thought God was on the edge of things –
From Op. Posth. No. 5
“Jehovah. Period. Yahweh. Period. God.”

                              Period.

                                3.

It was “Edges” that interested him,
A poem that ends
“My cells are in a boil for death.
Death, like a circle, is self-defined.”
But now his death
Is self-defined,
Another alcoholic
Who couldn’t make love work,
Wandering to the brink
(Bridges are such marvelous inventions)
Memories of his father’s suicide
Welling behind him
Until the flood-gates burst
&; the water shimmied
With coat-tails
Flaming behind him,
His beard like Jehovah’s
His Pulitzer-Prized body
Wobbling
In 100 feet of air,
No minstrel-face
No playing on tambourines,
No polite applause of the moruners,
(How he loved that phrase – End-men)
& now he was his own end-man.
Put on a little soft-shoe,
Do a little black-face, boys,
Harmonize the tributes,
The minstrel show’s begun:
Twang it on your banjos,
Bang it on your knees
(His own final instructions
Were quite clear:
“Bury me in a hole, and give a cheer”).

                                    4.

Bidding Mr. Bones Farewell:

A few seconds in the air,
Arms outstretched
In a panicked crucifix,
His face gone white,
The tie loosened,
Eyes hurting with the pressure
Of the fall.


We’ve all been on that bridge
Until the shyster water close,
History loomed
Upon the buckling of a bone,
He fell: Like that humpbacked king,
Touseled Richard,
Amid a battleground
Of unbridled horses
He cries, “My life, my life,
My Kingdom for my life.”