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For Rene Ricard

"La Traviata"

I want to see you game boys
I want to see you brave and manly
I also want to see you gentle and tender

We love you, Rene!
Or at least, I do. I love you.
Your tattered limbs stare at us,
arch the city’s long-forgotten stance.
Each (word) shifts each and already
it’s time to get off (Houston St.).
People can’t stand joy — it wrecks their day.
I stand on the corner of 5th and 11th.
Rene is nearby, ensconced in a comfortable
conversation. A woman is giving
money to a mendicant.
She asks him how his leg is doing. It’s
Elaine Equi! We talk in front
of noble iron churchyard gating.

I saw a man deftly roll a gas tank,
Chinese woman working a laundry,
and in Brooklyn Museum returned
to stairway window to observe
brightest orange sliver over trees
dimming now, winter’s presence
as I ascend to contemporary.

I had a dream with Rene in it.
Then the mind goes blank, day’s occurrences,
Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday.
You’re in a vise between what happened
and what will: the new painting,
the museum, the new space, tomorrow’s opera.

Rene believes in eternity.
He told me so. I don’t.
And now I’m told he’s
moved to the Arts Club.

The conversation the two coffee servers
are having at the temple of Dendur —
“There was something on it in the Times today”
“Where did you meet her, in a bar?” —
is suddenly much more interesting
than the overblown exhibition you have come to see:
fashion displacing art, sound system
and projections defiling temple
silence. The exhibition, in fact,
is the parade of film crews, while
objects on display are mere documentation.
I take pleasure in the suffering of these fools
with Betacam-SPs, lights, extension cords,
portable audio. They are working so hard.
Don’t they know that art should appear effortless?

- New York City, September 1996