Love in the Time of Coriander

Thoughts on food & more.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I Knew a Man

When I checking email in the morning yesterday, I sighed long and deep and said in a deflated voice, "Oh, my God." From downstairs, E asked what had happened. "Robert Creeley has died," I answered.

I knew he was weak, that he had been so for many years. I recalled the only time that I had met him, and it filled me with delicious memories. Coincidentally, it revolved around a cheesecake (and I still have remnants of the recent Mango Cheesecake experiment). I remember the exact day very well, an unusual feat for me. It was Valentine's Day, 1998.

Actually, it was the first time I had tried to bake a cheesecake. I had gotten a recipe for a lowfat Raspberry Cheesecake with Chocolate Cookie Crust and White Chocolate Curls on top. I was going through a lowfat fad at the time, and had lost a considerable amount of weight because of it. (I have since eschewed most diets and have tried to maintain a good balance between decadent and healthy.)

He gave a reading at the auditorium, and a new, very different book, Life and Death, had just come out. It wasn't like the rest of Creeley because it wasn't characterized by the short, piercing lines that brought him recognition. Like in I Know A Man:

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, -- John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

Life and Death, in contrast, was longer-lined, pensive in a different way. This is not to discount how powerfully intimate some of the earlier poems were. My absolute favorite of Creeley's, for instance, was "Something":

I approach with such
a careful tremor, always
I feel the finally foolish

question of how it is,
then, supposed to be felt,
and by whom. I remember

once in a rented room on
27th street, the woman I loved
then, literally, after we

had made love on the large
bed sitting across from
a basin with two faucets, she

had to pee but was nervous,
embarrassed I suppose I
would watch her who had but

a moment ago been completely
open to me, naked, on
the same bed. Squatting, her

head reflected in the mirror,
the hair dark there, the
full of her face, the shoulders,

sat spread-legged, turned on
one faucet and shyly pissed. What
love might learn from such a sight.

Oh! It cuts deeply to the gut.

But on with my story. I had cooked a Valentine's meal for Patrick and me, which was the original occassion for the cheesecake. Afterwards, we had gone to the reading at the university and then to the party. I can't remember now where the party was save for that it was, like all the after-reading parties, at a student or faculty member's abode.

I had carefully wrapped a fat slice of the cake to offer it to Creeley. We arrived on the early side after the reading, but he was already there perched in a chair. Many of my classmates hovered about shyly, hoping to glean something from his divine aura. Like Kevin Killian's homage to Spicer, "Poet Be Like God."

I approached with such a careful tremor and offered my slice of cheesecake. Instead of letting me scurry into a hiding corner like a mouse, Creeley insisted I sit with him while he ate it. I fetched a fork, and he began eating until nothing remained. We talked not of poetry but of global poverty for almost twenty minutes. All the while, fellow students were bringing other gifts--plants, books, etc--but he put them all to the side while he spoke to me. I could see the envy in one particular student's eye, who was to pit herself later as my nemesis. Retribution was to recall that I, not she, had had a special moment with Creeley.

It was not until Thisbe Nissan, another daring student and now accomplished writer, interrupted to talk of something else. She and I were the only ones to have that time with Creeley before he left the party shortly after to retire. My precious time with Creeley was up. It had to have been temporary, just as the cheesecake, the gift he wanted the most, had to be disposable.

In order for the moment, the gesture--not the physicalness of what remains--to be carefully folded into our hearts.


Post a Comment

<< Home