The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 14 no. 2


Baron Wormser

A Visitation (1968)


Dude—tall, vegetarian thin,
Hasn’t had a steak ever,
Clear, watery blue eyes
That don’t look through you
Because you can’t believe they’re
Seeing anything they’re so pale—
Dude shows up in the evening—
Before midnight—
Says he knows so-and-so who knows
And he’s got
In any case
Some Mary Jane and he’s willing
To offer a sample
And we’re not looking around
Too many corners because we’ve
Figured the universe is quaking
Plasma anyway
So our opinions,
Outlooks and forecasts
Are the jive
The ego tells itself
To high-five
The anxious dark
Which is to say
That to tutored eyes
He doesn’t look like a narc.

He fires up a fat spliff,
Passes it around and I get
That earnest doper vibe from this cat,
One of those for whom the herb
Is the First Church of the Metaphysical Thirst.

He has on a sort of white linen
Sailor blouse and I told you about the eyes
And he looks a little otherworldly
Even before I inhaled what turned out
To be some quality weed—
You know, two hits and you’re floating
Over whatever walls your mind has erected—
The glum shit of your past,
Your parents, your body—
You’re transcending, which is why
The whole thing is against the law.

When I ask the guy his name, he says
In a light, high voice as though he’s been
Doing nitrous since the fifth grade,
“Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley”
And I say that’s an old-fashioned name
Because that’s all the thinking I’m capable of
And he smiles and leans back on the ratty couch
And says he heard about us and wanted
To check it out—the Dead on the stereo,
“The unfettered breasts” (his phrase),
The shimmering kiss of the Day-Glo anima.

“You know,” he says, “here is here.
You might as well dig it”—and similar
Dope wisdom, which is cool because we’re all
Spacing out real sweetly and he’s with the flow—
No need to pull poetry out of his back pocket
And wow us with words, no need to get between
The mind and its sensory gift-wrapping.

When, toward dawn, he split,
He left a phone number that I called
Some days later, looking to score and hang out,
But what I got was a Chinese restaurant
Offering two-for-one chow mein.

Had we been prone to wondering, we might
Have searched further but we weren’t and didn’t.
Spirits fell from the sky regularly.
Each lost day exhumed eternity.