Thank you, Leonard, for showing up last night.
His house is big, tiered, with a wide front door. It’s remote, at the end of a long winding drive.
He’d left notes, a letter, pictures, that were also mine. Perhaps he was sorry.
His young lover lets me read the letter. She didn’t understand the salutation: Dear Strawberry, (or Rosebud, or something red.)
Later, when he arrives, he laughs when I ask about it. “Oh, it’s a reference to that game we played.”
But she hadn’t remembered the game.
All I can do is cry. He sits beside me – he might be reading or writing – while I cry and try to write. Once again, I want him to know what he is to me, what he inspired, how deeply he touched my young life. But after a few awkward stabs at poetry, I simply weep. First, slumped to the left, away from him to conceal my inability to express any part of what churns inside, and then into his warm body. He doesn’t ask why I’m crying. Maybe he doesn’t even know that I am.
He is kind and generous. This time, he isn’t drunk. He is simply dead…
He and his lover are going back to his house. Perhaps it’s too cold here in my room, or maybe they forgot something. I fall asleep waiting for his return.
When I wake up, all the papers and pictures are scattered through the living room, under the table, on the rug. The letter, “Dear Strawberry,” written in his own beautiful script, is shredded, chewed by some dog enticed by its tastiness. I try to assemble the pieces, but it’s futile.
Through the window I see that where his wide front door had been there is now only a heavy flap, and I know they aren’t coming back.
Earlier, I had joked with him – called him Lenny. Could have been before I started bawling. When he gave me a questioning look, I reminded him of an untitled poem in The Energy of Slaves he’d written maybe 50 years ago:
I have no talent left/I can’t write a poem anymore /You can call me Len or Lennie now like you always wanted/I guess I should pack it up but habits persist/and women keep driving me back into it/Before you accuse me of boring you(your ultimate triumph and relief)/remember that neither you or me/is fucking right now and once again you have enjoyed/the company of my soul.
The reference didn’t seem to amuse him, but he smiled a kind, generous smile.
He was a kind, generous man.
Thank you, Lenny, for holding a mirror to my dreams.
A poem in part about my real-life meeting with this remarkable man: