John was one of the students who seemed to begin to think
the year he spent in my class. He called me in New York
when John Lennon was killed; I’d presented lyrics by the Beatles
for analysis as poems, and he thought I’d have something
wise to say.
I didn’t, but a few weeks later
he came to our house for the weekend.
He told me of the old crowd: one never left his room
in his parents’ house, others took drugs and had dropped out
of college. John himself was getting his head together
and worked in a factory—selling drugs had gotten too dangerous;
now he could stop carrying a gun.
He wanted to thank me sincerely for opening up the world
to him and his friends. Sure, I said to myself, who knows
where they’d be without me?
John didn’t seem to sleep;
he stayed up with books and Southern Comfort. On Sunday
he took the New York bus and encountered one of the city’s
mythic figures: you probably remember him, the blind musician
in Viking hat and cloak who sat by the CBS building.
John knew the encounter was important. He paid 25 cents
for the man’s poems and asked what he should do with his life.
The man gave him a card for a bar on 45th Street and advised him
to pay one of the girls 10 dollars for a blow job.
One way or another, the world gets opened up for us.