Jacket 16 — March 2002   |   # 16  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |    


Joe Brainard feature

Tom Carey: Joe B.


Photo of Joe Brainard


There was a party at Robert Leacock’s,
Christmas of 1978.
I came with two E’s: Eileen and Elio.
Two hundred people
crowded into a third-floor loft,
standing on polished wooden floors,
drinking from an open bar.
Joe was wearing his signature
open shirt and a jacket, cowboy boots.
I went to California
the next day. But later that winter
we had dinner, sex, rode in a cab
in the cold,
passed a recently-burned
building on Broadway.
Water from
the fire hoses had frozen in great
hard drips making the burned building
an ice palace.

A year or so later, deep into heroin.
I slept at Joe’s loft on Greene St.
He made us breakfast: scrambled eggs and orange juice,
told me he wanted to give me a miniature edition
of Shakespeare,
boxed,
printed sometime during the previous century.
I knew I’d sell it, wouldn’t take it.
A last gesture.

He loved to send me
vintage American pornography,
especially after I became a religious, a thing
he never understood
and which I couldn’t really explain:
How my life became this life.
The last time I saw him I appeared
unannounced
at his hospital room. I should have called.
It wasn’t a good time to visit:
He wasn’t feeling good,
someone was coming.
I said oops,
sorry.
I wanted to bathe his feet with my tears
and dry them with my hair.
His was grey.

The dates are hanging
in air bags off the palms.
A boy falls, running
up a grassy hill, two women
speak under a magnolia.
When Joe started getting sick
he said to Duncan:

“At least I won’t have to go
to any more poetry readings.

You will, though.”


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