H e a r t S o n s & H e a r t D a u g h t e r s of A l l e n G i n s b e r g
N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 1 4 : A r c h i v e s E d i t i o n
Near Death Experience
End of August. New York City. I wake up. In a sweat. Hot as hell. Turn back over. Lift my head.
See the clock. Ten past nine. Late for work. Throw on clothes. Grab my purse. Slam the door.
Take the stairs. Hit the street. Hit a wall. Why the crowd? God it’s hot. Can’t push through.
“What the deal?” “Check it out.” I look up. See a man. On the roof. “Says he’ll jump.” “Oh my
God.” Here come cops. One goes in. One stays back. Barks out, “Move.” No one moves. Just the
man. On the roof. He looks down. Then he waves. Some wave back. He looks pleased. Steps
toward us. We step back. Cop yells “Stop!” Man stands still. Then he laughs. Starts to dance.
Near the edge. Struts his stuff. Back and forth. Flaps his arms. Like a bird. “What’s he on?”
“Don’t ask me.” “Will he jump?” “Hard to tell.” “What’s his name?” “No one knows.” My neck
hurts. Sweat pours down. Dress is soaked. Late for work. Could get canned. What do to? There’s
a man. On the roof. He steps back. Out of sight. Is he gone? No, he’s back. On the roof. Near the
edge. Whips off shirt. Twirls it twice. Swings his hips. Shakes his butt. Crowd goes wild. “Hey,
Big Spender.” “Take it off.” “Go, go, go.” Man drops shirt. Man drops pants. Clasps his hands.
Holds them high. Like a champ. Turns full circle. In slow motion. Big beer belly. Big white ass.
Big dumb grin. Where’s that cop? There’s a man. With no clothes. On the roof. Near the edge.
Now a woman. Two flights down. In the window. Gives a shriek. “Earl, you fool.” “Shut up,
bitch.” “You shut up.” “Go to hell.” Slams down window. Earl’s face drops. Hangs his head.
What to do? Now a chant. From the crowd. “We want Earl! We want Earl!” Earl looks up. Lifts
his foot. Puts it down. On the edge. Of the roof. Starts to sway. Spreads his arms. Will he fall?
Will he fly? What to do? There’s a man. On the roof. With no clothes. Near the edge. There’s a
crowd. On the street. “We want Earl! We want Earl!” I feel faint. Turn to leave. Bump a man. In
a suit. “Hey, watch out.” Scowls at me. Then he smiles. At his pal. In a suit. Both hands full.
“Here’s your coffee.” “Thanks a lot. What’d I miss?” “Not a thing.” “Still up there?” “Big as
life.” “Wish he’d hurry.” “Move it, Earl.” “Let’s go, buddy.” “Come on, jump!” Earl looks out.
At the crowd. Steps right up. To the edge. Curls his toes. Bends his knees. Arms out straight.
Chin to chest. Will he jump? Will he dive? Where’s his wife? Where’s the cop? What to do?
There’s a man. On the roof. With no clothes. On the edge. I can’t look. Close my eyes. Pray like
hell. Hope to God.
[Originally published in NHS 2011, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs11/.]