Because his middle name was Valentine, a V-Day tribute poem to that “boy from Brooklyn,” Mr. Henry Valentine Miller, from my book Arclight.
Some men rattle their chains and wonder, some sing them.
Then there are others who spray paint their chains rainbow siege
and dance a jig like a peacock on fire, and when someone asks
Isn’t it hard to dance around with those chains weighing you down,
the man laughs heartily and responds—What chains, my dear lad,
these are feathers. Listen to the way they jangle and clink when I dance,
have you ever heard feathers that sound like that? Miraculous and unusual, yes?
You, Henry Miller, were one of those men.
You turned wrought-iron links, Brooklyn-made, into loafer’s foam,
into dreamfaring plumage, unabashed in its frisson and vainglory,
smeared bottom’s up in in deep semen envy, angel’s spit, and stolen honey.
Vagabondage was your claim, but not your master.
Though you did have many teachers—bilious clowns, crowded streets,
torn trousers, children’s capered faces, gateless barbarians,
your mother’s frigid ruler (and how you learned the only thing
worth measuring was love, that which belonged to the immeasurable).
A lusty little scamp at heart, eyes unpopping buttons
and sailing seas of skirts in parks, you were literature’s answer to Charlie Chaplin,
with an unzipped mouth and cracked tower of seismic songs to yawp,
the world needed a Henry Miller, because you said so,
and in cement that remained eternally wet, you signed your name
and sang, Whitmanesque, of yourself, again and again and again,
an explodingly insistent echo,
and the sincerest of forgeries,
because, for those dwelling between lines,
a signature verifying an identity—
I am he, he is me, he is he, I am I, etc.,
never does true justice
to the multitudinous at work
in the playing of one’s self as instrument
upon which God’s deep welling nothingness
meets and mates with one’s youthingness,
and from there, bang.
Just bang and wow and let’s make radical inscrutable love,
music, art, whatever.
You, “Henry Miller,” wink-wink,
gave us your pulsing timepiece of whatever,
and you, Henry Miller, as my Brooklyn soul-chum and compatriot,
separated by age but not spirit,
granted me amnesty
and helped me to unlock my own
bang, wow, and whatever