NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD

Jack Foley


FOR JULIA


For The Marvelous, Lauded Street Poet Of Telegraph Avenue



Julia,

Of the bright and dark

Streets of this West,

This Berkeley,

I think of you this night

Of the phantom full moon

And the skulls and heads

And black clothes

That make you look

Like a perpetual Halloween.

Julia,

Of the bubbles, the quick wit,

The half smile,

The way with a phrase,

"This was a lady

Trying to be

A machine,"

Of the famous limp,

The resilience,

The courage,

The ability to turn fools,

Skewered, into a line of verse,

The deep, light laughter,

The slight touch of gray showing beneath the hat,

The seller of your own

Vast Volumes,

The laughing eyes—

You fill my mind this night of your sickness

This night when your studied, careful independence

Is no longer possible,

And I think of the many poets

Who have entered hospitals

Who have been tended, not read,

Placed in the care of hands

That do not open books

But close

And suture

The wounds life visits upon us all

As we sit in this café of many entrances

But only one exit

And sip our lattes, our cappuccinos, our espressos, our macchiatos

And talk and dream—

And smoke—


On a street that dreams

It is not a street

But Life.


*


I visited Julia tonight. She was lying on the bed in her room. "Hi, Jack." Without her Julia costume—particularly without her hat—she didn't look like the Julia I think of. But the moment she smiled, Julia was back. That smile—warm, with sometimes just a trace of irony—is definitively Julia. There were a couple of moments where she was just a little vague, but for the most part, as Jan Steckel says, "she's still her." I brought her a funny toy: a black cat with some orange clothes—her colors—that chattered when you pushed it and said, "Happy Halloween." "That's the silliest thing I've ever seen," she said, smiling. I agreed with her. I told her how and what I've been doing. She listened with interest and made pleased comments when I showed her photographs of Sangye and me. I told her of my deep grief for Adelle and how I had wanted to die—and how Sangye had changed so much of that. She said, twice, "I understand that." She told me that the doctors didn't tell her much about her condition and that the food was "hospital food." She put her thumb down. I asked her whether she were writing and she answered somewhat enigmatically, "It's different." I think she meant that the conditions were different. I told her I would bring her a big pad and some pens. She said, emphatically, "That would help!" She pointed out the paintings Debbie had done which decorated her room. I mentioned that Debbie had painted Julia often. Julia nodded and said, "Yes, she has." I added that I thought Debbie's portrait of her on the cover of the new book, Between the Cracks, was particularly fine. She was pleased by that. I also told her how much I liked the new book. She said, sincerely not "politely," "That's good to hear." I told her about the radio show I was planning and mentioned that David Gollub had written a very nice poem about her. She answered quietly, "He would." I promised that I would bring her some pens and a big pad of paper—but she had to promise to write something in the pad. Julia's unfailing elegance of manner and her quiet good humor manifested even in these difficult circumstances. It was a very nice visit. I told her how old I was. She said, "You have a few years on me, not many." I explained that I lived quite close by and had a car. If she needed something, I could probably supply it. I went off to try a nearby Chinese restaurant, Ark. One of the dishes I had was superb: wonderful, juicy pork dumplings. I got two extra orders of them, one for Sangye and one for Julia. When I finished my meal, I went to Walgreens and bought a big pad of paper and some pens. I went back to Park Bridge Nursing Home with my treasures. Julia seemed happy to see me and graciously accepted the gifts. When I told her I was giving her the wonderful pork dumplings as an antidote to hospital food, she smiled and gave me a thumbs up. (Yes, I know she's Jewish.) Then the nurse came in to administer a shot of insulin. I said goodbye for now and drove home. Julia is still very much alive.


11/3/18


*


FOR JULIA VINOGRAD (12/11/43-12/5/18)


Can a street mourn?

Can a street shed tears?

How many of them gone now?

Julia shedding her street persona

Shedding everything—body, friends, paraphernalia of life

Gone now with Jack Micheline, Gene Ruggles, poets

Hawking their wares on the streets of Berkeley and everywhere,

Leaving their words here, there, everywhere.

(In the nursing home) "I miss your hat."

"So do I." (Gesturing) "It's behind me."

Deep with the first dead lies Berkeley's daughter

Another woman gone

To the deep grains of our hearts.


12/5/18


*


AFTER THE MEMORIAL


Like everyone else, I found the memorial a wonderful, moving event. "Perfect," as Jan Steckel put it. As with the event honoring Al Young, we demonstrated that for all our divisions, dislikes, snobbery, etc., we were also a community, people that can come together in a way that honors our own. Julia could, I suppose, be difficult and divisive, but I never experienced such things with her. I always felt respect and affection on both our sides. I was always glad to see her—and to hear her. She was an elegant presence in what was sometimes a crazy scene—a scene she loved for its very madness. She said of my work, early on, when not everyone understood it at all, "You're the only person I know who does Esoteric Vaudeville." I loved the comment and loved that she loved vaudeville—which was probably another name for the places she haunted, the Café Babar most of all. We'll all miss her, but I can't imagine poetry in this area without her. Goodbye, you elegant, ironic, talented lady. I'll miss your poetry—and I'll miss your hats!


*


MEMORIAL


Julia wore death

every day of her life

She wore death

until death came

to claim her

Jerusalem

opening herself

to the father god

Julia wore black

until blackness

surrounded her

and we came to sing her praises

and to weep

and laugh

we sang blackness

back to the father,

sang her death

in the big room

in Oakland,

California

where Julia was not

because she had already

abandoned the earth

so many people!

so many stories!

I stayed,

Jerusalem,

until tears came

and I could not stay

more

and I saw your image

radiant

in the dark rain

of that rainy day


1/6/19



Jack Foley is a poet, critic, and host of KPFA FM's "Cover to Cover" book show. His most recent books are Riverrun, poetry, and The Tiger and Other Tales, fiction. He is a Poetry Flash contributing editor.


— posted January 2019
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