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.
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).