N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 1 3 : S p e c i a l E d i t i o n
L o n g P o e m M a s t e r p i e c e s o f t h e P o s t b e a t s
JANINE POMMY VEGA
Reading Your Last Book, Fame & Death
Into the chophouse incinerator we go,
It's a Wednesday night
in a week of rain
I've just come from the hospital
where I had the greatest rest
in years-a real vacation:
frequent naps and three squares a day
I'm back with the same
medicine as you for the failing heart
and watch through your eyes unflinching
the round of events your last days, Fame & Death-
reality jostled by the finite witness, the bundle of
synapses, the no more with this ego
come what may.
To circle and circle your head in the photo
with my fingers, like rubbing your stomach
in the old days, intimacy
not entirely forgotten,
Old lover, you said as you signed my book,
I might say, lover, teacher, friend,
and look toward my own gaze through the fabric
at what was real, what is not, the who I ams
that might not climb again, best the uphill
slope, or swallow without hesitation
the final nothing at the top.
The body slides back,
a memory in the egg of the void;
to be quit of all this-reminded
in the medicines of the need for constancy,
a mothering of the heart-I turn to your last days,
your dream with Peter, your vision
of historic funeral with the lovers talking,
The starry nursery rhymes of a bright old child.
How dapper you look in those clothes-
the shirt from Goodwill, the cashmere scarf:
a well dressed bard.
I love these last words,
this last time with you unencumbered
by futures, a last little human time.
Willow, NY, June 2006
[Reprinted from Napalm Health Spa: Report 2008.]
Janine Pommy Vega (February 5, 1942 – December 23, 2010) was an American poet associated with the Beats and the Postbeats. Vega grew up in Union City, New Jersey. At the age of sixteen, inspired by Jack Kerouac's On the Road, she travelled to Manhattan to become involved in the Beat scene there. In 1962, Vega moved to Europe with her husband, painter Fernando Vega. After his sudden death in Spain in 1965, she returned to New York, and then moved to California. Her first book, Poems to Fernando, was published by City Lights in 1968 as part of their City Lights Pocket Poets Series. During the early-1970s, Vega lived as a hermit on the Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian-Peruvian border. Out of this self-imposed exile came Journal of a Hermit (1974) and Morning Passage (1976). Following her return to the Americas, she published more than a dozen books, including Tracking the Serpent: Journeys to Four Continents (1997), a collection of travel writings. Her last book of poetry was The Green Piano. In the 1970s, Vega began working as an educator in schools through various arts in education programs and in prisons through the Incisions/Arts organization. She also served on the PEN Prison Writing Committee. Pommy Vega was a pioneer of the women's movement in the United States. She worked to improve the lives, conditions, and opportunities for women in prison. Vega traveled throughout the North American and South American continents, all throughout Europe, including Eastern Europe, countries in the Middle East, often alone. By 2006, she was living near Woodstock. The last eleven years of her life were spent with the poet Andy Clausen.