Morgan Lucas Schuldt passed away on January 30 due to complications from cystic fibrosis. I wanted to sketch a portrait of Morgan for this blog, wanted to write about not only his extraordinary life, but the love supreme that his poetry embodied. His death, though, is still too close, and it will take me just a little more time.
I attended his memorial services in Tucson, where he lived for much of the last decade of his life. Like William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg before him, Morgan was a thoroughly Jersey boy, but he found a home in Tucson. He found Mark Horosky and Adam Chiles. He found Stephanie Balzer and Barbara Cully. He found Boyer Rickel.
The climate change from Vermont to Arizona—I mean going from unseasonable April warmth in New England to anomalous frosty weather in the Southwest—the mourning at various memorials those few days—as well as the bourbon that occasionally accompanies said grief—fused with passing a year earlier of Paul Violi—another friend and mentor—all this left me tattered. I returned to work at The Bookstore physically twitchy, emotionally worse.
After catching up with Matt on what I’d missed—including a poetry reading by Clampitt House fellow Bruce Snider—I was presented with a stiff manila envelope. Scrawled on the front was a signed note from the poet Barry Sternlieb: “For / Michael Schiavo / a few from the zen master. / (one just a proof, / the other a signed + / numbered edition— / primitive, but still / packing a punch!)”
I slowly unsealed the envelope. After removing one of the cardboard flats, I gently untaped the fine paper therein to reveal broadsides of Michael Gizzi’s “Extreme Elegy” and “Second Extreme Elegy” that Barry had printed in the mid-’80s. At one point, after a few months of employment at The Bookstore, Matt had informed me that I was only the second poet he’s ever hired. The first was Michael Gizzi.
Barry is a wonderful guy. We would talk whenever he’d stop by the store, and I know we talked about Michael Gizzi, but I can’t remember as I ever told him just how much I loved his work, how much it had, at one point, intimidated me, and then later enthused me with its familiarity. I’m sure I never told him that one of my favorite Gizzi books is Continental Harmony. And I’m positive I never told him that “Extreme Elegy” is one of my favorite poems not just in that book, not just of Gizzi’s, but of all time.
What I wonder is if Barry will ever fully understand what he did for me this past spring, even when he reads this. In that one moment, through that unassuming act, those poetic powers that I felt closest to, that I felt were forsaking me through the deaths of those whom I most loved and respected (M. Gizzi himself passed away in 2010), all at once, those powers announced their presence.
Not out of grief, no, but filled—and not of a sudden—with the consolation of the universe.
The Last Rites, man
3 helpings! Extreme
Triadic Unction a -bury
a -port a -ton, troughwater
deathward we glide, our viscera
slung The pitch
of New England the mind of an ear
shockt into blooming a -shire
a -vale a –wick oaken
lid going to sleep
ness of my life—America,
of foliage in voice
beside an axe
Canvas in moonlight an oversight
comin’ up backstream But only
a rheumy cache
of russet spittle
like oaken funk, New England, a tonic