We published a translation of his poem “Death & Stuff”—some of it no doubt lifted from Whitman—in an issue of Telescope. It was 1983 and we thought we were clear of him. We’d done our part. His cahiers had been recovered from his trunk in the Parima mountains, and the poet, the explorer, the diarist, whatever, was missing. Dead, some thought. Dead, most hoped. In 1994 a child came forth in Bermuda—from the rugged Northern coast, naturally—and we tried to be jolie. We said, “Such a loss” and “the world not quite ready for him.” We offered her a copy of the magazine and made a motion as if playing charades, providing a clue for washing hands.
LePont found me on Face Book. Your translation was all wrong, he said in a pm.
Not hello. Not, hey thanks for that, but…Not, oh well, we can fix it when the book comes out.
You’re an imbecile!
No one had called me an imbecile since the Seventh Grade.
“So you’re alive,” I said.
Stop accusing me, he replied. You have no right to speak for my feelings. My feelings are the only thing I own. Everything else, I rent!
Staring at my wall, reading the endless balloons with ellipses inside them, I felt guilty. Had I done something in the “Me” decade I could never take back?
Give me your magazine, he said. You owe it to me.
“Telescope is gone,” I said. “And the reincarnation—Free State—is not mine to give.”
I’ll be an editor then. Give me interviews. You obviously have no idea how to talk to a writer. “Fine,” I said. “Sail to Miami. Take the Alligator Alley. Go ahead, try to find James Robison. He never talks to anyone. Bonne chance.”
I’ll make him sing like a red-breasted finch!
“See if I care,” I said, typing with both hands.
I expected him to reply but he went silent. In the trunk with his papers had been an unmarked bottle of wine. I’d saved it all these years, thinking I should open it for some special occasion but nothing felt that special anymore. My life had suffered a steadily coasting descent with a few shouts but nothing truly startling. Curious now, I inserted a hypodermic needle into the cork and withdrew three reddish CCs, scenting Madeira.
God, I wish I hadn’t done that.