Athens & Jerusalem: the last time we talked

for Ben Hollander


the day you died

after talking to Steve

& Jack & Duncan &

Norma & Levi &

who knows who else

like some slice of life

sit-com caricature

I decided to get a

piece of cheesecake

at the Greek diner

across the street—

the last time I had

one we were on

the phone for a long

time cracking up

over something even

though you were dying—

I mean, I was too, we

all are—but you were

heading there at a

highly accelerated

pace: still, you savored

each day with loved

ones & friends, with

rage & courage, love

& wonder, even the

careerist poet you

wrote up who, after a

squabble & you excusing

yourself for typos

because you had brain

cancer, wrote that “it

would be better to stop


the mysterious man at the

Times who commissioned

the piece, a brief & tenuous

link to a world I, for one

had been dis-invited from

long ago—you kept bugging

me, asking: “should I tell him

I’m dying? Maybe he’ll give

me more stuff to review?” But

this is about the cheesecake—

you had to get off the phone, or

I did, I can’t remember now, &

I went in &, as usual, watched

the guy remove the cheesecake

from the display cooler, like he

was handling a Torah scroll or

something, & carefully carry it

to the back where the knife,

soaking in water, was stationed.

& then he sliced it, as if

performing a circumcision or

some other precise ritual,

before packing the slice up

& walking the cake back to its

Ark. I immediately called you

back because I knew how much

you would have dug the scene,

even vicariously, but

there was no answer.