O Delmore how I miss you

Dreams from his teacher.

Lou Reed
O Delmore how I miss you

O Delmore how I miss you. You inspired me to write. You were the greatest man I ever met. You could capture the deepest emotions in the simplest language. Your titles were more than enough to raise the muse of fire on my neck. You were a genius. Doomed.

The mad stories. O Delmore I was so young. I believed so much. We gathered around you as you read Finnegans Wake. So hilarious but impenetrable without you. You said there were few things better in life than to devote oneself to Joyce. You’d annotated every word in the novels you kept from the library. Every word.

And you said you were writing “The Pig’s Valise.” O Delmore no such thing. They looked, after your final delusion led you to a heart attack in the Hotel Dixie. Unclaimed for three days. You—one of the greatest writers of our era. No valise.

You wore the letter from T.S. Eliot next to your heart. His praise of In Dreams. Would that you could have stopped that wedding. No good will come of this!!! You were right. You begged us—Please don’t let them bury me next to my mother. Have a party to celebrate moving from this world hopefully to a better one. And you Lou—I swear—and you know if anyone could I could—you Lou must never write for money or I will haunt you.

I’d given him a short story. He gave me a B. I was so hurt and ashamed. Why haunt talentless me? I was the walker for “The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me.” To literary cocktails. He hated them. And I was put in charge. Some drinks later—his shirt undone—one tail front right hanging—tie skewed, fly unzipped. O Delmore. You were so beautiful. Named for a silent movie star dancer Frank Delmore. O Delmore—the scar from dueling with Nietzsche.

Reading Yeats and the bell had rung but the poem was not over you hadn’t finished reading—liquid rivulets sprang from your nose but still you would not stop reading. I was transfixed. I cried—the love of the word—the heavy bear.

You told us to break into ______’s estate where your wife was being held prisoner. Your wrists broken by those who were your enemies. The pills jumbling your fine mind.

I met you in the bar where you had just ordered five drinks. You said they were so slow that by the time you had the fifth you should have ordered again. Our scotch classes. Vermouth. The jukebox you hated—the lyrics so pathetic.

You called the White House one night to protest their actions against you. A scholarship to your wife to get her away from you and into the arms of whomever in Europe.

I heard the newsboy crying Europe Europe.

Give me enough hope and I’ll hang myself.

Hamlet came from an old upper class family.

Some thought him drunk but—really—he was a manic-depressive—which is like having brown hair.

You have to take your own shower—an existential act. You could slip in the shower and die alone.

Hamlet starting saying strange things. A woman is like a cantaloupe Horatio—once she’s open she goes rotten.

O Delmore where was the Vaudeville for a Princess. A gift to the princess from the stage star in the dressing room.

The duchess stuck her finger up the duke’s ass and the kingdom vanished.

No good will come of this. Stop this courtship!

Sir you must be quiet or I must eject you.

Delmore understood it all and could write it down impeccably.

Shenandoah Fish*. You were too good to survive. The insights got you. The fame expectations. So you taught.

And I saw you in the last round.

I loved your wit and massive knowledge.

You were and have always been the one.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him think.

I wanted to write. One line as good as yours. My mountain. My inspiration.

You wrote the greatest short story ever written.
In Dreams.


* Character in several Schwartz works

Originally Published: June 1, 2012

COMMENTS (6)

On June 5, 2012 at 1:43pm Surazeus Simon Seamount wrote:
Dreaming forever in nameless hotel,
Delmore scribbles inscrutable dream spells
smudged in splattering rain on window of eyes
but who will play Orphean tragedy
of his life in a move no one writes.

On June 14, 2012 at 3:56pm Ron estes wrote:
STM
He reached for greatness. Some say he didnt have the necessary
discipline, the personality for it. Nor the work ethic. However, if you
measure greatness by influence and by the need, indeed the
passion to love and be loved by him, then he was great! Witness
Saul Bellow.

On June 15, 2012 at 10:15am Robert Becker wrote:
"Delmore, I missed all your funny ways
I missed your jokes and the brilliant things you said"

from "My House"

On June 17, 2012 at 11:52am Sarah Sarai wrote:
We're great in the moment someone says we're great.
Thanks for posting / publishing this.

On August 14, 2013 at 12:23pm Austin Gary wrote:
No love can eclipse that felt for a teacher with a key to
one's mind...and heart.

On October 29, 2013 at 9:50am Lote Tree wrote:
Then the winter across the backs of crickets .... amplifiers run doves like Iranian .... knowledge over the warrior radiant .... like ghosts in the ear of architecture .... droves of metal and slavery and these queer illuminations ....

POST A COMMENT

Poetryfoundation.org welcomes comments that foster dialogue and cultivate an open community on the site. Comments on articles must be approved by the site moderators before they appear on the site. By submitting a comment, you give the Poetry Foundation the right to publish it. Please note: We require comments to include a name and e-mail address. Read more about our privacy policy.

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This prose originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2012

Related

Authors

Biography

Lou Reed is a musician, songwriter, and photographer. He is best known as guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of the Velvet Underground, and for his solo career, spanning several decades. His essay in this issue is the forward to In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories (2012).

Continue reading this biography

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.