Big Al

I saw him once
before I knew what he meant
before understanding the breadth and width of his accomplishments
prior to generations of best minds howling out prayers of proper devotion to the dead
… the word for that escapes me…
I saw him read at my school.

Some hyper pretentious TA knew him
– he knew the guy from That Championship Season, too –
and brought them to our school
for Show & Tell
to talk about art
or Art
or do a little dance
or sing a little song.

He sang a little song
– not the guy from Championship Season
(who was also in the Exorcist
{another thing I knew nothing about
when I got to meet the guy}
back in the day).
He was nice
but he didn’t sing anything –
based on William Blake’s
“Tyger, Tyger,” which isn’t really called that at all
but rather “The Tyger,”
which isn’t spelt right anyway.

He was trying to show us,
I think,
how visceral poetry could be,
and we knew even then
he was a big important guy
but I don’t think we really understood
his place in the firmament.
I’d been on a couple of roads at that point
but it’s not like I’d been on the road,
if you catch my drift,
nor framed any’s fearful symmetry
(he’s pronounced it like try, by and by.
Don’t ask me why).
The context of his greatness
was a little bit lost.

I lived in the greatest city on earth
with this amazing word warrior at my table
happy to teach all the young nubile minds like mine.
I could have learned so much
but I did nothing
and the opportunity was simple squandered
just taken out of my hands
like a magic scepter
I’ll never have another chance to manhandle.

I’ve had to learn how to mangle the language
as best I can
with whatever other resources I could eventually muster.

About Jonathan Berger

I used to write quite a bit more.
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