When I am dead, growing in the ground — assuming the world goes on, assuming they don’t end the world after I’m 80 (or, given my family history, 67) — I want to be: a multiple-choice test option. Think about it! That’s the way to make it. That’s the way to know you matter. Who wouldn’t want to be Archduke Ferdinand? Sure, he’s dead, and sure, his death was…painful. But he is the answer to an important question: “Whose assassination caused the first World War?” He is remembered! The test question, then — that’s important, isn’t it? They say if you don’t ask the right question, you won’t get the right answer. So: “Who is the greatest poet of their age?” That was easy! It just came to me. It’s the way I want to be remembered: not a, but the poet — a poet who moved women to riot and men to tears; who showed desire is way better than thought; the one who gets quoted at weddings and funerals, chiseled on tombstones, printed on birth announcements. The one who freed Literature from the puzzle-makers and the puzzlers. Nobody’s done that yet. Nobody! I’ll be unique! Okay. Calm down. This is the way to go. Take it slow. (I feel so much better now, knowing what I want.) Next...the other test options are important, aren’t they — almost more important than the question. Who do I want surrounding me? Who will share my stage? Another conundrum! So let’s try: A) Sappho B) William Shakespeare C) Walt Whitman D) Greg Beckman That was easy, too. I am good at this! They’ll all select (D), of course — but only after much deliberation. I want them to think, search their souls, argue. You can’t just give silly options, answers easily dismissed like Dylan Thomas or Mitsuhashi Takajo, whose haiku softly hold my whispering heart home, but who Americans confuse with a car; or Thom Gunn, who taught me how to speak honesty but is a cricket-chirp in Catholic schools (that homosexual thing); or Lorraine Hansberry — God! Are they all gay? — the much-taught playwright, right, who didn’t write a stitch of searing raw-nerve I-can’t-get-rid-of-this-thing poetry, right? No. Those options are quickly crossed out. I won’t be a default. I want students to sit at hard-carved desks confounded among the known greats, those who have risen, acceptable contenders — and choose me. Why? Because everybody knows history only enshrines the greats, and that to be remembered — to be studied! — by legions of caring, sensitive schoolchildren and objective, contemplative teachers of story will delight my crusting corpse.
There are more poems. After this romp, I’d try something here.
Or maybe a story….here.