Interview with the Old Artist Himself, and You and Me and the Dead

What is your disposition?
Just the way I am today.

If it weren’t for your imminent death, who would accept your sincerity?
My dead mother.

Is that her face behind the bush?
I think it’s just a peach.

When you were young, what did you want to do?
Find the center pole, climb it, and talk with the birds.

What did you expect to tell them?
I don’t remember, but if I said it right, it would change everything.

What have you learned?
There is no pole. There is no it. There is no everything.

Is there nothing?
There is, but if I blink, it’s often gone as well.

And the birds?
I like to hear them sing.

Describe your life as a tropical fruit.
I’m easily plucked and sometimes bruised.

What do you say to the young who feel the situation growing hopeless?
Women keep getting more beautiful.

After all these years, who are you in those red shorts?
A man who loves his lunch.

What else is different from what you used to think?
It’s hardly ever true. I’m hardly ever right.

If you pulled a baby from the river, what would you whisper in its ear?
You need to breathe, always.


You and Me and the Dead

Before we were here, they were.
They liked having lunch and their
nails done. They smoked pipes and took
long walks. Some had three wives
as was their custom, some had none, and some shared
husbands or had one and lived in a house made of hides
or mud and hunted with sharp sticks, painted
their skin, talked to the sky or the earth
or invisible animals, chewed coca and staked
hairless enemies to the ground.
Some thought cats were gods, or dogs were, or virgins
and others kept people as pets, grabbed them
and fornicated willy-nilly.
Many were fun and happy and many
miserable and not good company.
When they greeted each other
they bowed to the earth or grabbed each others’ testicles
if they had them, or touched noses
if they didn’t, or breasts. Some
were very important and others weren’t
and were slaughtered
because they lived on the other side of the river
or down in the valley.
Women came with cows, or were available for purchase
if a man had cows, but a lot of men and women
had no cows and they came, too
if they were asked
or whenever they wanted to. Sometimes
they loved –
did I mention that? — like we do. Sitting
late at night they put their chins in their palms
and listened.
They held hands and rested
on each others’ shoulders, whispered
dear in their own dear breath. Now
they’re all dead and this is our clear
light, our poem
and the day aches enough
to last forever. This is your life, too.
We’re both still here.