Barry Wallenstein

Nick Johnson – A Remembrance

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 ten collections of poetry, the most recent being Tony’s Blues Éditions Pourquoi viens-tu si tard ? 02/20, Time on the Move Xanadu Press 02.20, At the Surprise Hotel and Other Poems; Ridgeway Press, 2016. His poetry has appeared in over 150 journals, including Ploughshares, The Nation, Centennial Review, and American Poetry Review.

A special interest is his presentation of poetry readings in collaboration with jazz. He has made eight recordings of his poetry with jazz, the most recent being titled Lisbon Sunset (Sintoma Records 2017).

Barry is Emeritus Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the City University of New York and a former editor of BigCityLit and current editor at the journal, American Book Review.