“O Delmore how I miss you. You inspired me to write. You were the greatest man I ever met. You could capture the deepest emotions in the simplest language. Your titles were more than good enough to raise the muse of fire on my neck. You were a genius. Doomed.”
Lou Reed met Delmore Schwartz in the 60’s at the University of Syracuse, where Schwartz taught literature.
“I’d given him a short story. He gave me a B. I was so hurt and ashamed. Why haunt talentless me? I was the walker for THE HONEY BEAR THAT WALKS WITH ME. To literary cocktails. He hated them. And I was put in charge. Some drinks later—his shirt undone—one tail from right hanging—tie askew—fly unzipped. Oh Delmore. You were so beautiful...”
The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me
“the withness of the body”
honey to smear his face,
Clumsy and lumbering here and there,
The central ton of every place,
The hungry beating brutish one
In love with candy, anger, and sleep,
Crazy factotum, dishevelling all,
Climbs the building, kicks the football,
Boxes his brother in the hate-ridden city.
Breathing at my side, that heavy animal,
That heavy bear who sleeps with me,
Howls in his sleep for a world of sugar,
A sweetness intimate as the water’s clasp,
Howls in his sleep because the tight-rope
Trembles and shows the darkness beneath.
—The strutting show-off is terrified,
Dressed in his dress-suit, bulging his pants,
Trembles to think that his quivering meat
Must finally wince to nothing at all.
That inescapable animal walks with me,
Has followed me since the black womb held,
Moves where I move, distorting my gesture,
A caricature, a swollen shadow,
A stupid clown of the spirit’s motive,
Perplexes and affronts with his own darkness,
The secret life of belly and bone,
Opaque, too near, my private, yet unknown,
Stretches to embrace the very dear
With whom I would walk without him near,
Touches her grossly, although a word
Would bare my heart and make me clear,
Stumbles, flounders, and strives to be fed
Dragging me with him in his mouthing care,
Amid the hundred million of his kind,
The scrimmage of appetite everywhere.
“Reading Yeats and the bell had rung but the poem was not over you hadn’t finished reading—liquid rivulets sprang from your nose but still you would not stop reading. I was transfixed. I cried—the love of the word—THE HONEY BEAR.”
Schwartz was in mental institutions. He never had money. He was the poetry editor of the Partisan Review. He was widely anthologized. His first book, “In dreams Begin Responisbilities” was published in 1938, when he was 24 years old.
“I wanted to write. One line as good as yours. My mountain. My inspiration/You wrote the greatest short story every written/IN DREAMS”
T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Robert Lowell and Vladimir Nabokov praised him. At 52, he died alone, in a hotel room. His body wasn’t found until two days later.
“A heart attack in the hotel Dixie. You--one of the greatest writers of our era. No Valise”
The Ballad of the Children of the Czar
of the Czar
Played with a bouncing ball
In the May
morning, in the Czar's garden,
Tossing it back and forth.
It fell among
Or fled to the north gate.
moon hung up
In the Western sky, bald white.
face, said Sister,
Hurling the white ball forth.
While I ate a
Six thousand miles apart,
Aged two, irrational.
Was an Arrow Collar ad.
My grandfather coughed in your army,
Hid in a
For three days in Bucharest
Then left for
To become a king himself.
I am my
You are your children's guilt.
pity and terror
The child is Aeneas again;
Troy is in the
The rocking horse is on fire.
The child must carry
His fathers on his back.
that so much is past
And that history has no ruth
Who drinks tea, who catches cold,
Let anger be
I hate an abstract thing.
The bounding, unbroken ball,
sun fell down
Like swords upon their play,
eastward among the stars
Toward February and October.
But the Maywind brushed their cheeks
Like a mother watching sleep,
And if for a
moment they fight
Over the bouncing ball
And brother kicks her shins,
heart of man is known:
It is a cactus bloom.
The ground on
which the ball bounces
Is another bouncing ball.
Makes no will glad.
its spotlight darkness,
It is too big for their hands.
Arbitrary and unspent,
Made for no
play, for no children,
But chasing only itself.
They are not innocent.
They are their
The past is inevitable.
Of this tragic star,
I see my second
I eat my baked potato.
It is my
But, poked by my unlearned hand,
It falls from
the highchair down
And I begin to howl.
And I see the
ball roll under
The iron gate which is locked.
screaming, brother is howling,
The ball has evaded their will.
And is under
the garden wall.
I am overtaken by terror
Thinking of my
And of my own will.
This post is a prayer. A prayer for Lou, for Delmore, and for one other Schwartz.
My grand aunt lived in Staten Island. I had been to visit her once or twice as a child. We had spoken on the phone a number of times after that. I remember her car. It was full of crumbled sheets of paper, broken books, pens, jelly doughnuts.…you could hardly breath in the backseat.
When she died I was summoned to court. I had been left some money. I travelled on the ferry to Staten Island, and found myself alone in the courtroom with a bunch of lawyers discussing her estate. The Public Administrator- a charismatic man who could have jumped right out of the movie “Glen Garry Glen Ross” leaned over and whispered in my ear:
“Did you read her book?”
“She wrote a book. Under a pseudonym.”
“Where can I find it?”
He slipped me a card. Weeks later, I called and went to his office. I held her 425 page novel in my arms: “The Decision,” by M.T. Sands. The dedication reads: “This book is dedicated to my parents Abe Schwartz and Sabina Schwartz.” It was shocking to see my great grandparents’ names there. In that instant, I realized this really was her book. No one in my family knew about it.
It starts with a poem:
A gun shoots fast into the night
Women of shade, shadows of women
Children who cry, who live, who die.
A gun shot breaks
into the night--
Fate failed, I begged deaf ears--
No tears, or eyes.
A gun shot sings into the night--
The hours die to tell the tale
Of years darker than all days.
A gun shot cries, the night, the night…
And ends with an About the Author:
Michele Sands was born into the turbulence of the Holocaust years. One of Belgium’s hidden-children, she survived to eventually migrate to America with her parents and sister. An active environmentalist, Ms. Sands is an artist and poet and resides in New York State.
Listen to Lou Reed Read "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities (slow to load).
LISTEN TO LOU REED IN HEBREW, BY SHIRA YASUR AND SAAR YACHIN: