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« The Latest on the Land of Homer and Plato | Main | Building Bridges: Young American and Russian Poets Share Stage and Verse (by Madge McKeithen) »

October 16, 2012


One word: Beautiful. "There’s only one thing to do: you got to live till you die."

John McCarthy, of blessed memory. Not sure I needed to get quite this sad with an evening's work still ahead of me, but it got my priorities straightened out, anyway. That's a lovely piece of writing, thanks.

What a deeply moving, loving poem. Friends and family are so special and never really leave our thoughts even when they leave this world. Love this. Eileen

Thank you for this, Terence. I have been thinking about Tom Green daily-- another amazingly graceful man. I have always thought it harder to be left than to die, and you have captured that with John's words, and with yours.

Thanks, M.

Do you have any memory of who may have taken that photo in front of the Chateau?

Thanks, Ei. I definitely believe that friendship just goes on forever.

Yes, Tom seemed extraordinary---I wish I had known him better.

Lovely, indeed. I knew McCarthy just slightly through you, Terence and our mutual friend Michael Lally. Lal went on and on about McCarthy toward the end. How peaceful he sounded, how serene, and how sober. Sober's a good thing, I think. I was accused of being sober once. Someone was trying to insult me but I felt perceived.

But to read John's words in your poetic assembly I see he was something else entirely. He was transcendent. Thanks, M. O'K.

MO'K: John spent the last 20 years or so of his life in that well-known recovery program. In fact, when I visited him in his last weeks in his apartment in Chelsea, the place felt like an impromptu AA meeting-block party-family reunion in one, with John presiding over it all.

Oh man, you captured the man and his spirit. And O'Keefe's right, the word is transcendent. And you didn't even mention that near death's doorway, as the old folks used to say, he had a friend with connections get a gurney and a van to take him to a tattoo parlor for his last one, a giant green Celtic cross that went from wrist to elbow. When I walked into his apartment and saw it I was stunned. I said something like, "John, what the hell?" trying to figure out how a bedridden dying man could have such a fancy, large, gorgeous brand new tattoo. John just smiled up at me and said something like: "Michael, we can do anything."

Ah, what is there to say, TPW?


MDL: I had forgotten the tattoo. There are many McCarthy stories, one of my favorites being the time J & I got in trouble for unwittingly drinking and smoking in the vestibule of the ladies' room on an Amtrak train long ago. You can do anything, but sometimes you get caught.

Absolutely what it felt like in the end! Love the sonnet, love John, love you for putting it in words. We visited in hospital while Elizabeth was a little bitty thing and she lit up the ward, sweet ray of sunshine that she was then. It was beautiful to be a part of his life to the end.

Aw crap, that bit in the beginning was in response to your meeting, block party, reunion, etc. comment.

Thanks, Cait. John felt very connected to you & Miles.

Thanks, Terence. This comes at a time when the love and loss of friends is very much in the foreground for me.

I always remember you line about John and your friend (and John's), Willie Farrell: "John sees the lies; Willie sees the truth." You all were such a fabulous trio of Irish American spirits.

I miss John. Your line about him in that wonderful sonnet, "You were a hundred percent excess," resonates for me. Add me to the mix and you have two hundred percent excess, as you well know. John and I were kindred spirits, no doubt about that. I did not get enough of him in my life, and I thank you so very much for bringing him back to us with this post.

I remember that John tried out once for SNL. The fact is that SNL would not have been big enough to contain him. He was, as they say, larger than life. He still is.

sorry about the typo, "you line" for "your line"

Thanks, Doug. And I always remember your line: nothing exceeds like excess. You and John are indeed kindred spirits.

Thank you Terence. I think of him every October. And yes, he does look down on me from above. All I have to do is close my eyes and look for him and there he is confident and reassuring, caring more about the entire damn world than he cared about himself. Never saw anything like it before or since the way he went. Fearless. He was ready to meet his God. He knew what he wanted to say. I'm guessing he has and he did.

He had obvious affection for you, Doug. You were clearly one of his special projects.

Tom---I can safely predict that, had you known him, you would have loved John, who was in all respects a unique and self-invented man. Plus, you'd have that crazy Kingdom of Kerry connection wiring you together.

Terence Winch, Sir, I enjoyed the article very much. Good to see the DC Poetry scene represented here, and especially to see your friend remembered with such a warm tribute. Cheers, Dan Gutstein

A great tribute to an unforgettable old buddy. Nice work brother.

Thanks, Mr. Gutstein, for taking time away from your STOUT obsession.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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