For O'Neill, Who Died

Julia Vinograd

You've grown a dozen extra sharp elbows since you died
that poke me in the ribs and knock my pen to the floor
when I write something stupid. And it's all stupid.
Your swear words and esoteric footnotes in the same sentence.
Bitch-slapping all the minds at a coffeetable
and you make them like it.
Long hair looking like someone else's wig
Frames your face that was always thin as burning bone.
And your clothes hang on you so much
you should've been scareer in the Alexandrian Library
To scare off the books
Flying conversations like divebombing tiger-kites
about to crash in the coffee, and laughter bouncing off
your little finger like a bright red indian rubber ball.
Afterwards we rehearse what we should've said
and what we'll say next time
but there is no next time anymore.
You lost your temper like bouncing a yo-yo
off our collective noses.
You were private as if a raven on your shoulder
croaked "no trespassing".
You were prickly as a hedgehog dancing Swan Lake.
Those invitations to wild parties you collected
for your weird document file, and never went to the parties.
Are you there now, nibbling on bat labia before roasted pig
carried in by naked dancing girls giggling as grease
drips down their breasts till the cops break in?
That's what the flyers promised
and because you never went you could believe it all.
Are you touring those jungle bright hells
madmen stable on telephone poles, badly spelled, capital letters
and explanation points pounding down like the rain of fire?
Can you warm your dead fingers on them even a little?
Or are you still reading books by magical
warm and fuzzy feminists to learn their best arguments
so you can defeat them logically
and you haven't even noticed you're dead?
After all, you don't notice all arguments aren't logical.
And damn few people. And not always you.
Is being dead just something you'll get around to
when you have the time?
Music and that electronic bagpipe you invented
with gears and levers half-visible under plastic,
it looked like something for contacting flying saucers,
OK, small flying saucers. Mathematics.
I've heard tales of you and whisky
but I've only seen you get drunk on numbers.
There are a lot of numbers and they've forgotten you already.
Dead umbrellas. Computers, and obscene items from the internet
you brought in to torture Ted who loudly refuses to believe them
and still glances around for you wistfully
how can you be dead?
And your confrontational crossword puzzle
approach to metaphysics And most other things.
That beige corduroy jacket
and the way you aimed your glasses.
I re-read a book you turned me onto
but you weren't in it.
The dark wind's full of sharp elbows.
Each time you call this stupid
I almost hear your voice.