To the Lighthouse, With
No Direction Home

I didn't get here
on purpose, only an accident that I found
you at all, a donated paperback
from some UNC student syllabus, dog-
eared and discarded,
twenty-five cents at the Cannon Library, crammed in
a 1971 Census and a Book of the Month Club edition
of The View from Pompey's Head, either
of which had to intrigue
me more, for long before, back in grad school (U of M, '59),
I sailed
right past the thing without
reading a line, thinking it wasn't you, but Brother
Thomas I needed, you know what I mean,
all that stuff about
him and Aline, the losers, the lost, the wind-
Caspers, the cost
of land in Altamont, the whole lupanarian vision (I thought)
of a world I can scarcely even
recall nowadays except the vague longing
and hunger
it gave rise to, the nightmares that all came true, the broken
affairs and misconstrued
promises, wandering the streets of Dinky Town
and thinking (Breughel) (yes, Dostoevski) give me something
bold, some Paul Bunyan dilemma
to get me through this Minnesota winter, thinking (Saul
Bellow, yes) Bellow, who'd just set loose
his Rain King
and scared the shit
out of us all, and was teaching at the U that fall, a kind
of Howling Wolfe in his own
right, down on his hands and knees, we could imagine, whining
like a jackal when he wasn't teaching,
broke and divorced (and divorced, divorced) and grading
papers that we
ourselves had written,
smitten with lectures that really addressed themselves
to the spirit, to the writer trying to survive, to Henderson, to us, yes,
even we, ravenous monks coming off
a two-day drunk at two 
in the morning on Hennepin, and gasping, yes, that we
might do something too, that Allen Tate
was wrong,
was himself madder than any hatter, 
not to recognize us as brothers, not even to let us in his senile
fucking Seminar in Creative Writing because 
(and his wife, an almost young Yale Younger Poet, agreed):
because, he said, our work was obscene, and all
that, and so much more was
going on, and the thing is, you were there the whole time,
on the shelf behind the dusty glass
at that creaking bookstore on the other side of University Avenue,
and no one I knew
even read you at all, except for those stringy
longhairs that drove rusty
VW's and wouldn't go hear Dylan at the Triangle Bar because
well, it smelled like puke most of the time
and if you parked too close to the building next
door the city
would have your MGA hauled away and impounded
and by the time you got it back again
the hood wold be bashed in
and sometimes they would steal the seats or whatever else wasn't
tied down, 
so what I'm saying is we just couldn't
get serious about somebody like you, who probably
wouldn't have gone
to the Triangle either, would you, but that's okay, because look
what happened to Dylan, who
fell down on his knees and started praying and whining
like some Methodist at a Vegas convention, so what I'm saying
is nothing is constant, esp. when
it comes
to Art, to finding an audience that will listen, to bark
up the wrong tree if you want to
and not give a fuck, truly, if they haul off your car and run the sucker
through a compactor
before they hand it back, and that's 
what I mean, I think I can see, finally, what you were trying to accomplish,
the whole shebang, that's all, just the whole
terrible lie we live by, on TV and everywhere else, and I realize,  yes,
that you never owned
a TV in your life, probably, but that doesn't negate
my essential argument, which is that I can't get over it that you're
a woman, because
that wasn't the way we were taught, not in the fifties, not
even in the sixties, because back
then (and most of the time, even now) it was Joyce,
Joyce, and Brecht, Brecht, 
Brecht, because the only writers that knew the slightest thing about women (we vowed)
were guys, yeah, like Bellow, who even
if he didn't scratch his balls in public could still hit
a home run with his Henderson
and juggle all those characters (esp. the women) like nobody that ever
came out of Chicago unless it was Nelson
Algren (and who wanted to read his stuff after Frank Sinatra
decided he was the one 
to play the man with the Golden Arm), but maybe
you think this is beginning to sound like one of those idiots who used to
go around reading
Allan Ginsberg out loud, esp. Howl, and wouldn't
shut up until you got them so drunk
they would pass out in your bathtub and everybody that came in
would piss on them
for spite because people like that were so fucking abnormal what else
could you even do to them that they would
fucking understand, but it's a thing I think about when I think about
what I've just gone through
with this incredible heroine of yours, Mrs. Ramsey, and Jesus, no sooner
did I fall in love with her than you up
and killed her off, Christ, and we thought Bellow could write?  When
did he do a thing 
like this in his whole life, give us somebody that wonderful
and understanding, give us her every thought, and not tell us, the whole
time, that what you were really planning
to do was take her away, take them all away, dammit, how
could you ever have anticipated that we'd put up with a gag like that, 
did you just assume
we were all as crazy as you, did you, or is it really
like I told Mary Lou, that I don't care
what anybody says, you aren't much of a woman ("Can they write?  Can they paint?")
not in my book, you're just
too goddamn fine, so you're either a man and kept
it a secret from everybody, or else
you're the meanest cherry dyke I ever came across in my entire experience
and that includes James
too, like a virgin (you say) fierce
in his Chastity, like that war (you say) which has revived our interest

                                               in poetry

but if you ever feel tempted 
to give it a fling, I'd truly be honored to have you play

                                  in my big
                                                crass dreams
and if we should
one day sail together, God willing, to meet the old Keeper and his Son, I will gladly
carry your brown paper parcels,
and let somebody else worry where to draw the line 
as we hand over our stockings and tobacco

and get ready
to steal the fuckers blind

James Lineberger