God, if there is a God, and that is something He could never decide, has thrown him away. A dumb thing to do, you say? With so much juice Still to be squeezed, with all that doom could do To force new bloom from the pollardings Of late middle age? He might have suffered much more. Or he might, let us admit it, have got himself A golden tan under the sunlamps of success, Written his memoirs, and made friends with Leviathan. This way he dies unreconciled, and we are left With his books buzzing on our stained-pine shelves, Their sting and sweetness frozen by the flashcube Of his timely exit. Finis, he wrote, then wadded Up the paper and swallowed it though literally That is exactly what he did not do. A suicide Only by omission: he forgot to take the pill His heart required, informing God, if He exists, That He would have to keep it ticking by Himself. I scarely knew the man and have no right To trim his obsequys with my romances. There will be flowers from the studio that did Its level best to level his best book (But with, it should be understood, his blessing); A special wreath, perhaps, from Harrison Ford, Who (I'm told) be thought had meant to murder him: Hollywood's latest, greatest star his murderer! Lord, he had no need of my romancings! And yet I'm sure he would have wanted them, For he loved, as much as any five-year-old, to hear His story told-how little Philip all alone Set off along the darkling road and won the love Of Linda Ronstadt, or would have if she'd known Him as we knew him, who loved him and still do, Though only in the useless way we love The newly dead. No, don't fret. Your story Isn't over. We won't turn the lights off, yet. What other things did Philip do? Were there Giants that he slew? Dungeons where in chains He languished? Were there witches and enchanters? Did he dance on California's golden lawns? Did his words assault the mighty, like the words Of John the Baptist in Strauss's Salome? There were. He did. But his words of prophecy, Alas, were drowned by braying brassed, Unheard by all our Herods and Herodiases. Yet, as every poet knows, melodies are Sweeter so. They are the honey ravens bring To feast the poet in the desert of his heart Might-have-beens, imaginings, false starts. For a while their wings will hover overhead; Then, still unperceived, depart. Art, In a word: art as the uniter of lobe To lobe, of sic to non, of hick to city Slicker; art as our reason for being writers. Well, Philip, have I said it yet? The bitter, Insufficient truth? I love you. It's not a love To ease your feet from the concrete shoes Of your completed oeuvre, nor yet a love To warm you flesh or even earn you Royalties. But let me say, for all you fans, I love you, nad I know that you'll return, Our divo redivivus, each time your voice Is summoned from the earth to tell its tale.