NOTE: Linda and I wept when we saw BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY over the loss of our best friend Philip Magdaleny in 1981 to AIDS, one of its first victims. I met Philip in London in 1973 when his comedy SECTION 9 was done at the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was the hit of the season. Philip, I believe was the best comic playwright of our generation. He also was my writing partner at for PBS radio. We were scheduled to write SATURDAY NITE LIVE, one show a week a la London lunchtime theater on Broadway when he passed away. These two poems are from the New& Selected poems. The book is being re-printed by the new Story Line Press, making it available again.
At the Jefferson Memorial this Spring,
Cherry trees flamboyantly display their lesions.
Tulips announce in white and scarlet black
That they, like you, will only last a season.
You picnic barefoot with your dying friend
On macrobiotic citruses and grains.
You watch a mother with her noisy son
Flying styrofoam airplanes at surprising angles.
You wonder if this small domestic scene
That you derided wasn't what you always wanted.
Jefferson stands noble, safe, and bronze,
One of the celebrated dead you envy.
What would he wonder looking down at you
This afternoon before the Middle Ages,
Helpless where a corrupted body politics
Matches a tragically infected people?
You gather up your detritus of peels,
Plastic containers, careful not to litter,
And look back at what you might have been:
The boy and his mother curving their plans
Into never-again-seen Euclidian loops.
Time says the virus in your bloodstream,
Time to go.
JOURNAL of the PLAGUE YEAR
At other times, a small domestic scene —
The aftermath of dinner in our country house:
My son cuddling my wife in a religious haze,
The table between us strewn with steak,
Half-drunk glasses of burgundy, a china bowl
Flecked with corn, its Vermeer spoon
Reflecting light from a Revere chandelier.
Meandering I sketch this in words
— Like an Impressionist.
Slowly our precious, apparent Easter egg
Daylight purples, then succumbs to black,
And the cracked, primordial universe reveals itself.
Still, back in the kitchen, The Jefferson Starship
Lustily sing "Homeward Bound" on the radio
And a trinity of deer tiptoe
Through the apple orchard.
They watch me in my artificial light,
Confident I will let them eat their fill.
© 2019 Frederick Feirstein
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