Richard Howard

Lithograph and monotype, multiple images 32"x23"
More images and price on request

Among the Missing
Know me? I am the ghost of Gransveroot Pier.
Out of the trucks, beside the garbage scow
Where rotten pilings for a sort of prow,
I loom, your practiced shadow, waiting here
for celebrants who cease to come my way,
though mine are limbs as versatile as theirs
and eyes as vagrant. Odd that no one cares
to ogle me now where I, as ever, lay
myself out, all my assets and then some,
weather permitting. Is my voice so faint?
Can't you hear me over the river's complaint?
Too dark to see me? Have you all become
Ghosts? What earthly good is that? I want
Incarnate lovers hungry for my parts,
longing hands and long-since lonely hearts!
It is your living bodies I must haunt,
And while the Hudson hauls its burdens past,
having no hosts to welcome or repel
disclosures of the kind I do so well,
I with the other ghosts am laid at last.

Richard was a friend of James Merrill, and a willing recruit for collaboration. They arrived in New York about the same time, grew up together artistically and emotionally. Richard came from the Mid-West. Once, on a tour with James, reading to a large mid-west audience, James made a remark to Richard.  I remembered it as, “ Well, Richard, this is where the Great Plains meet the Great Gays.”

 Richard remembered differently. He sent me this: “ the notable line was uttered by James and was in fact, ‘You see, Richard.  This is what happens when the Great Plains meet the Great Fancies.’  He said this as we were leaving a conference of otherwise regional poets.  We both felt we might possibly be tarred and feathered for being formalist and erudite.”

Richard’s apartment on Waverly Place in New York is stunningly full of books, his bathroom walls covered in photographs and postcard of famous writers, from floor to ceiling books and the literary life with just enough room for him to live there too. He sits at his desk facing the window and translates, either French into English, or life into poems. He has been a great mentor for many aspiring writers, myself included. He is fulfilling his wish to outlive all others of his generation, although John Ashbery is still alive. Perhaps, they’ll keep each other going, not leave us soon.

 He chose Among the Missing, explaining it was about a gay gathering place on the West side, Gansveroot Pier, after the beginning of the epidemic. I was free to interpret this various ways: the bollard became the main image. A bollard is a short post that sits on a wharf that ships tie up to, or a bollard could represent a wounded sex.


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