On The Meeting Of García Lorca And Hart Crane by Philip Levine
Brooklyn, 1929. Of course Crane's been drinking and has no idea who this curious Andalusian is, unable even to speak the language of poetry. The young man who brought them together knows both Spanish and English, but he has a headache from jumping back and forth from one language to another. For a moment's relief he goes to the window to look down on the East River, darkening below as the early light comes on. Something flashes across his sight, a double vision of such horror he has to slap both his hands across his mouth to keep from screaming. Let's not be frivolous, let's not pretend the two poets gave each other wisdom or love or even a good time, let's not invent a dialogue of such eloquence that even the ants in your own house won't forget it. The two greatest poetic geniuses alive meet, and what happens? A vision comes to an ordinary man staring at a filthy river. Have you ever had a vision? Have you ever shaken your head to pieces and jerked back at the image of your young son falling through open space, not from the stern of a ship bound from Vera Cruz to New York but from the roof of the building he works on? Have you risen from bed to pace until dawn to beg a merciless God to take these pictures away? Oh, yes, let's bless the imagination. It gives us the myths we live by. Let's bless the visionary power of the human— the only animal that's got it—, bless the exact image of your father dead and mine dead, bless the images that stalk the corners of our sight and will not let go. The young man was my cousin, Arthur Lieberman, then a language student at Columbia, who told me all this before he died quietly in his sleep in 1983 in a hotel in Perugia. A good man, Arthur, he survived graduate school, later came home to Detroit and sold pianos right through the Depression. He loaned my brother a used one to compose his hideous songs on, which Arthur thought were genius. What an imagination Arthur had!