A mark on the calendar – the first anniversary of when his heart failed to allow him another day. His body conspired against his self for a too long lingering while, and then the muscles failed. “Time to leave,” he would say, drawing on a cigarette – “don’t get me wrong” – “the way I see it.” His voice, infectious, inimitable, catches in my throat: “vodka martinis straight up and a plate of unsalted fries.” We’d swap radio bits from childhood: Jean Sheperd late at night (so important) and Mystery Theater, (not important at all) – we agreed. He left finger prints, medical bills, other bills, and the lines that came out of his mouth penned in ink on paper. If the cycle were different, he’d return to us, put on a clean shirt and tie and set his Trilby hat at an angle.
Barry Wallenstein is the author of eight collections of poetry, the most recent being At the Surprise Hotel and Other Poems [Ridgeway Press, 2016] and Drastic Dislocations: New and Selected Poems [New York Quarterly Books, 2012]. His poetry has appeared in over 100 journals, including Ploughshares, The Nation, and American Poetry Review. A special interest is his presentation of poetry readings in collaboration with jazz. He has made nine recordings of his poetry with jazz, the most recent being Lisbon Sunset (2018), What Was, Was (2015) and Lucky These Days (2013). Barry is Emeritus Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the City University of New York and an editor of the journal, American Book Review.