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Ordinary Death in the Time of Plague

RIP Vincent Zangrillo

Vincent Zangrillo

One by one the pillars we lean on crumble into
an equally impossible horizon—
you are gone and the City you loved is far away
the dead command the living now, are afforded
freezer-trucks burning diesel 24/7 to keep fresh
the death-meat we might explore later, bodies
bagged and inventoried, Cause of Death, T.B.D.
when we aren’t fighting what
the very air brings

I’m flailing without you…
My own breath stops sometimes on its way
somewhere else.
We didn’t speak for weeks you were
there, stuck in your haunted regret of a house.
Christmas, I’d flown cross-county
to try and help you clean up
only you went into alcohol withdrawal seizures
and I called 911.
Telling your widow, just now, how I
broke down at your hospital bedside when
you woke with your lorazepam smile.
And she said yes, he was very moved
—but shit, he still couldn’t stay sober
—I have his credit card bills and he was going to
the liquor store every day…

So, it was booze and the regret over missing the
epic shot of us all reading together in some L.A.
Venice Beach Beyond Baroque dream, and your
friend Dave dead in San Diego hospice, unvisited
no goodbyes, flights canceled
—all of us conference ghosts
the Coronavirus pissed on.
As of July15th 2020 those droplets have killed
138,000 and rising—how many others like you
victims indirectly, connected by regret
alone all the same?


Richard Modiano said he dreamed you two
in front of St. Marks Gem Spa—taking in the
Plague Death headlines—closed down for
good, May 7, 2020, same night you died…
and by now maybe I’d be helping you move
cross-country or to Laos or anyplace on the
water, away from Gotham’s plague quiet
…but you were that roiling City’s decades—
we saw it through your eyes, and my actress-
Aunt Dorothy’s eyes, shut now 25 years
and our Mark: wild Rimbaud poet junkie
turned broker turned Venture Capitalist
turned house flipping Orthodox Jew outta
deep Brooklyn, yeah Mark gone too, ten
years now
…add your Dave and my Carol, why not?
And all those others you lost long ago: your
Parents, Cookie Mueller, Rockets Red Glare,
Dinah, and Gregory Corso
gone gone, completely gone
gaté gaté, paragaté

You also liked to say en shallah with talk of
any future plans so you wouldn’t be bound
by a bummer if you could avoid it.

And, en shallah, the years moved steady, you
raising your boy, sacrificing, biding your time
riding the waves of every kind of personal
pain before teaching retirement—yet when
you finally had the time these thirty months
that time couldn’t put such pain into any
context Allah or Jesus or Buddha could help.


So, I’m standing on a beach under the new blue
pandemic California sky, not much surf today
but a lone otter pokes its head up amid the kelp
and I start to remind myself to ask you about
but this surgical mask reminds me how
muffled memories can be
then you are here again, tan, looking
deep past the breakers, towards that something
on the other side of now, that empty place

gone, gone, completely gone
gone beyond even that
Wakened mind

–Peter Marti


2 thoughts on “Ordinary Death in the Time of Plague

  1. Hi, I like your poem. I was a good friend of Dinah and Vinnie. Happened to google his name some weeks ago for the hell of it and I was shocked that he had recently passed.
    May their souls Rest In Peace, Dinah and her Vinnie. Oops, I don’t want to offend anyone. This is ancient history.

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