Listen to the poem by pressing the play button above.
Gerry & Lenny
have the same vocal tic
an explosion of air from the nose
with the tongue in the back of the throat
each time it sounds like laughter,
a commentary on their own speech
then back or not back to the matter at hand
“I’m waiting for a Jew to turn Catholic!
Can you imagine a Jew submitting
to the goddamned pope? Jesus Christ!”
Like Lenny, Gerry stops in the middle —
in mitn drinen, they would say —
to tell stories and to follow tangents
Like Gerry, Lenny draws water from
a desert oasis and pours that water
into molds of his own design
“The Catholic Church has given the pope
permission to become a nun.
Just on Fridays, though.”
Gerry was born in Pittsburgh:
grew up with bituminous in his mouth,
ate the ash-gray snow
Lenny was born in Mineola:
within weeks, Sally was back on stage
and Lenny drifted from house to house
Gerry has been a poet laureate
and has won awards and prizes
and taught at prestigious universities
Lenny died on the bathroom floor,
syringe near his arm,
camera lens in his face
Love this poem! I would have never made the connection with the two of them. Sheer brillance!
Thanks so much, Don!
… & the FBI looking over his shoulder…
Too true. If I had to make a list of heroes, Lenny would be at the top. Even over Trane and alongside my grandfather. Ever since I first heard him at a college radio station in 1991, I’ve been, um, obsessed.