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Poem for Gregory Corso’s Ashes in the English Cemetery in Rome

Dear Gregory, as long as I knew you
They were throwing you out of places
I watched Bob Levy
Normally a kind man
Give you the bum’s rush out of City Lights
Yelling, “We want your books here
But not you!”
(There was a rumor you’d broken in one night
And rifled the cash register
For the royalties they forgot to pay you
But you couldn’t prove it
By me.)
I saw your name in concrete outside Vesuvio’s
Meaning you were permanently eighty-sixed
For going up to a cute woman and
Telling her, with an impish grin
“I’d like to eat your cunt!”
One night at Dante’s Bar
(how ironic)
When you’d gotten a little rambunctious
They again threatened to toss you out
And you told them that if they did
You’d come back with “a pistola …
A Roscoe,” and teach them a lesson
The barkeep threatened back,
“We got plenty of pistole of our own”
And you told him, “You dummy,
I’m not talking about a real gun,
I’m talking about the hot lead
In my mind!”
Now I hear they’re about to evict
Your ashes
From the English Cemetery in Rome
Where I sat on your marble tombstone
And played with the feral cats
Who came by all day long to
Pay homage
To your catlike grace
They say you’re not paying
Your rental bill
For the cemetery plot
On time
But who’s paying the bill
For Keats and Shelley
Who rest beside you?
Ah, Gregory, I hope those
Small-time thugs who
Shake down the dead
Wake up some night
With the hot lead of your mind
Scalding their dreams
Giving them endless nightmares
And teaching them the biggest lesson of all
that only the truly
and forever dead
would dream of
digging up
someone who is still alive

–Gerald Nicosia


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