You know those people who cry and write to People Magazine when a celebrity dies? Yeah, that’s not me. But when someone cool dies, when it seems like another member of Your Team dies, then it’s just a suck. I had that feeling when John Hughes died. I had that feeling big time when Kurt Vonnegut died. Like, well, shit. There goes another one who got it. I’m having that feeling now that Jim Carroll has died.
If you’ve heard of him at all, it was probably because of The Basketball Diaries. Possibly because of the Jim Carroll Band, and in that case only because of “People Who Died,” which is the only song that has always made it onto every mixtape I ever made, no matter who was getting it. I first found him through Void Of Course, a skinny little poetry book that led with 8 Fragments For Kurt Cobain. I didn’t even like Nirvana, not really, not all that much, but that poem was the perfect kind of beautiful bummer that good poetry is supposed to be.
After Void Of Course I picked up Forced Entries, which is still one of my Top 5 Books Of All Time and the absolute reason I started keeping a journal instead of a “hey guess what I kissed a boy!” diary. After that I found Fear Of Dreaming, a heftier poetry volume that contains my favorite poem ever. No one I show it to (or, um, me) can figure out who it’s supposed to be, or if it’s supposed to be anyone at all. That’s why I like it. It speaks to the dark Catholic recesses of my soul. It makes me happy to disdain religion but sad for all the beauty I miss about it. It’s one of those things that made me want to write.
So thank you, Jim Carroll. Thank you for being someone who woke up my brain and made me create things. I hope you and Kurt are sharing a smoke up there. If there is an “up there,” I mean.
Me, Myself, and I
I was born in a pool. They made my mother stand. Gravity was unsure of me from the start; as I slipped from the womb I did not fall, but rose into the sky and over the cities. It was night, and the clouds were restless. I have been this way ever since. When I finally came down…no one left their buildings for weeks. I sought out the streets near the filthiest markets for food, and their pure silence was embedded in me. With the first sound of footsteps, I took the hiding behind the side altars of churches. I worshiped there…not for God, but for silence. It was gone; its pureness broken by the shifting of beads, a candle lit by arthritic fingers. I always moved down deeper, into the storeroom beneath cold marble floors. In the darkness I am the holiest of men. When I sleep, I am awakened by blood from the feet of statues dripping across my eyes.
I am never bored. I entertain myself. I put deadly spiders along my thigh, and they inject me with God. At times, I pretend I am a man in order to laugh.
Past midnight, when the doors have been barricaded for night, I ascend and steal water from the baptismal fount to drink. For nourishment, I eat what moves across the floor in the darkness. I have never seen my food.
What need have I for companionship? Without trying, I have made an alliance with angels: my will and capability are one. And, against my will at first, I was given comrades in Hell. It is why I dance.
The saints know who I am. Because I dance, they have made it clear that they may offer me no aid. Yet, they have vowed their respect for me nonetheless.
At night, to keep my body well, I climb these church walls within. For footholds, I use the reliefs of Christ on his way to Calvary, as he weeps into a veil. Sometimes, as a great feast day approaches, workmen use scaffolds to polish the facades. They ascend all the way to the rotunda ceiling. It is my only sky. I choke on the dead reliquary air of a hundred years. I will be here on this scaffold, like an owl, for a hundred more. Looking down, it is again the day of my birth. And I kiss the painted blue. I touch the painted stars.