My friend Gerard, (who is alive), looks like an Arabian slave-boy, though swarthier and longer of hair than Tony Curtis; an olive –skinned Mowgli, ape boy of Kipling’s “Jungle Book”, although I have never seen Gerard swinging through any trees, nor eating any insects, nor even kissing a sultan’s foot. But looks can be deceiving, or receiving, with the proper pen, the zen pen of a poet, this proper poet who lives upstairs with his multitude of books piled on the floors, walking on Whitman, sitting on Shakespeare; tripping over Ginsberg, sleeping on Sartre; not a single shelf for this Jung man.
“A place for everything, and for everything it’s place”, he stands and stares out of a window overlooking the jungle of five-foot high weeds that serves as our backyard and wonders aloud “whither Oregon?”; questions our alleged enlightened sense of awareness, his disposition toward liberalness in a world gone madder than usual. Have I convinced him yet, my naïve, trusting neighbor? Yes, he realizes with a sigh that it is so, now that he has finally succumbed and bought a thirteen inch, black & white television of his own, now he can see with his own brown eyes in his own living room, far off wars, instant coffee & instant karma, depersonalized tragedies, faceless fatalities, insidious soap operas and humorless sitcoms, adverse advertisements, Howard Stern; “whither sanity?” we both cry and laugh out loud at this mediocre media, the global sewage, the Marshall McClueless, me and Gerard Rizza, my friend who is alive.
Gerard, (who is healthy), is gay, yet straighter than most men, and has been complaining quite a bit about the ferry service lately; contemplating a move off of Staten Island, and leaving his sporadic substitute teaching gig at a nearby high school, a mere six block walk from our house atop Winter Hill, where he is trying to convince me, a wide-eyed cynic, that a blank, white, unused canvas, surrounded by a wooden picture frame hung upon his wall is indeed a work of art; the job is very convenient, but again the ******* about the ferry, not the boat ride per se, but the incongruities of the ****** schedule, which anybody who has ever just missed a three a.m. boat and had to wait for an hour in the Hierynomous Bosch triptych known as the Whitehall Ferry terminal ,will definitely attest to; and Gerard has this thing about Staten Islanders, like the homophobes at a recent anti-peace rally in New Dorp, supporting the carpet bombing of an oil rich yet still poor third-world country, throwing beer cans at him and his companions while shouting “we know where you live, *******!”. Rizz came home that evening, visibly shaken and pale, (not his usual olive-skinned self), knocked on my door and pleaded “whither ******?”. I went upstairs, sat on his couch and rolled a joint. Gerard puts on the new 10,000 Maniacs tape and tries, once again, to bait me in a conversation about his “work of art”, my work of naught; he speaks of the horrific details of his day. “Isn’t this picture of Doc Gooden on my refrigerator door proof enough of my manhood, my patriotic intent, for those *******? The ******’ Mets, fuh chrissakes!” We sit out on his porch, watching the sun set over our backyard jungle as Natalie sings wireless Verdi cries, and I pass the burning joint to Gerard, my friend who is still healthy.
My friend Gerard, who is *** positive, was quite possibly a cat in a former life, probably a Siamese, thin, dark and aloof; yes, I can see ol’ Rizz now, sprawled out on an old tapestry rug, getting his belly scratched by his owner, perhaps Emily Dickinson or Georgia O’Keefe, Rizz purring like the engine of an old bi-winged barnstormer; abruptly rolls over, gets on all fours, tail waving *****, slinks over to lap water out of a bowl marked “Gerard”. He’d sleep all day on books and original manuscripts, and play all night amongst oil & acrylic, knocking over an occasional blank canvas, which he, in a future incarnation, will try to convince me, in his feline manner, is art. Sitting and staring from his usual spot on the windowsill, his cat eyes blink slowly as he wonders, “whither dinner?”; and begins to clean himself with tongue and paw, this cat who might be Gerard, my friend who is *** positive.
Gerard, who is sick, recently moved to Manhattan, Chelsea, to be precise, in with his best friend; and has stopped ******* about the Staten Island ferry, having far more pressing matters to ***** about, i.e. the ever-rising cost of homeopathic medicine and the lack of coverage for holistic and alternative care; any number of political and social concerns (Gerard was never the silent type); the lateness of his first published book of poems, entitled “Regard for Junction”; his rapidly deteriorating health, etc., etc.; and is now a true city dweller, a zen denizen, a proper poet with high regard for junction. That’s all that remains when it’s all over anyway, this junction, that junction, petticoat junction, petticoat junction – “I always wanted to **** the brunette sister”, I’d once told him; “I prefer uncle Joe!”, he laughingly replied; dejection, rejection, reclamation, defamation, cremation, conjecture, conjunction, all junctions happening at the same time, at now, a single place, a single moment, this forever junction with Gerard, my friend who is dying.
My friend Gerard, who is dead, officially passed from this life on a Saturday morning in early April, a mere two weeks before his junction with publication, although Gerard my friend passed away much earlier, leaving a sick and emaciated body behind to play host to his bedside guests, to help bear the pain of his family and friends; so doped-up on morphine, no longer able to remember any names, he called me “*****” when I entered the hospital room, where this barely physical manifestation of what had once been Gerard Rizza was being kept alive like the barest glimmer of hope, and displayed like some recently fallen leader, lying in state; “whither Gerard withers” I thought, saying goodbye to this Rizza impersonator, this imposter, this visitor from a shadow world, an abstraction of a friend, whom the nurses told us, his disbelieving visitors, was our friend Gerard, who though technically still alive, was already dead.
My friend Gerard, who is laughing
My friend Gerard, who is singing
My friend Gerard, who is coughing
My friend Gerard, who is sleeping
My friend Gerard, who is holy
My friend Gerard, who is missed.
(c) 1994 PreMortem Publishing