Gerald Nicosia

by David Meltzer


The Poet as Proteus
         for David Meltzer

Every time I see him he's someone different
Sometimes he's a merry red-faced
George Burns with a cane
Sometimes an aging cowpoke
In faded jeans and ten-gallon hat
Sometimes a minor movie star
Eyes hidden behind shades
Nothing visible but huge moustache
And sly smile
Not giving a damn about Academy Awards night
He'd rather spend the night
Alone writing another poem in
Those endless small cheap notebooks
He's been filling for over fifty years
With his humorously disguised
Stiletto intelligence
I remember him as the minister
At Jack Hirschman's wedding
Giving a sermon about "Alpha and Omega"
That no one could understand
Least of all frowning Hirschman
Waiting to grab and kiss his new wife
He's also been my serious and optimistic
Literary advisor on numerous occasions
He always turns up like
An angel or
The bearer of a mitzvah
Just when I most need him
Like the ABA in L.A. in '93
When my big book on veterans
Had been orphaned and he
Pointed me toward the next publisher
I've always loved the fact that
He scorns anyone making
Poetry for money
But he gives a kind nudge
Not a slap when he
Sees me or anyone else
Slipping a bit off
The altruistic path
No one funnier to listen to
Even at almost 70
No poet sexier to the ladies
He carries his greatness
Lightly like a shawl
Of memories, joys, and
Always with him
But hardly noticeable
Until he takes it off
And asks you to
Hold it for him
And you feel its enormous weight
And wonder how
He has worn it so long
With that perpetual
Soft easygoing cheerfulness
That will be the mark
He leaves on all of us
Whether we
Read his poetry or not
And he doesn't care
If we read it or not
The joy is
In the making
And he doesn't sell
That secret
Like most great writers
But gives it
Not even for the asking
But just along with
The grace of
His company
To those
Lucky enough
To find it.


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