Happy birthday, Ted Berrigan. I liked everything better when you were alive. I would have brought you a book & a pill today. You would look at me. You liked women, you liked poets, you liked life, but not enough. Instead today I sneezed & napped & studied Norwegian. It is what it is. As you said, whatever is going to happen is already happening.
For Ted Berrigan
We were afraid of everything except kindness. We made a cult of generosity. We slapped them silly who weren't witty or lovely. We wanted better boots, better polish, better hair. We thought about country diarists without leaving our rooms on 23rd Street. We bought one expensive handcream that someone else paid for. We knocked down screens to see a woman wash her back. We ate Krishna feast. We found soft wool undershirts on the street & said they were Patti Smith's. We called her Patti. We said Bob, & people were supposed to know we meant Dylan. We won prizes & forgot to pick them up. Our teeth broke. We checked into the hospital to rest. No one we voted for won. We were Black Jacobins. We recognized beauty & nothing else. Nothing else mattered.
I’d only had a copy for so long that I’d forgotten what this wonderful shade, painted by Tim Milk, really looked like. It was nice to feel Ted in the room & of course nice to see Johnny with his big laugh, enjoying himself with Joe Carey & his girlfriend Stacy (who shares my birthday AND has many other wonderful qualities).
Nick Sturm sent me this page from a notebook of Ted's in his archives at Emory University. Where'd he get the picture? (He snatched it, for sure: no way he asked for it.) Where was it taken? (Rockaways or Florida.) Did he know I'd be perplexed 35 years later? Probably! That man was a mixer, that's for sure—someone who stirs things up! I bet he grabbed it one time when he came over to help me find some pills I'd hidden so well they were lost for a long time. If Ted Berrigan can't find pills, you know they're well hidden! (Ask me where they finally turned up.)
Now I'm remembering once trading baseball cards with Anselm, who was about 6 at the time, & Ted made us trade back because he thought I was taking all the good cards & leaving Anselm with the duds. I probably was, although I was more interested in cute than stats, & Ans didn't care. I wanted Jim Palmer, the Orioles' handsome Hall of Fame-bound pitcher who later on posed in his underwear. A dreamboat!
I often send these lines to people who are grieving: Read More
We threw out a lot too.
It's full-length, down to the ballet slippers he is wearing, & signed: Ted Berrigan, 1981
I hope you appreciate how much blood & sweat not to mention magical eliadic mind-power over matter bulk it took to compress 425 lbs of beautifully-aged crispy-sweet jelly-pork major-poet self-taught American mortal-coil flesh (meat!) into this dingbat-suit Oscar De La Renta whipped up personally for me to wish you HAPPY BIRTHDAY in, Stanton!