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SHJ Issue 11
Winter 2015

Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

by Lennox Raphael

Robert Gover was an inspiring (inspired) worker of the human writing space, and stayed furious & committed creatively, to the end. Bob, as I called him, was a dear*dear friend for over 50 years of close family company in Manhattan, California, and in Trinidad & Tobago, where, before continuing his South American travels for research that would lead to Voodoo Contra, he chaperoned my first son Raphael Raphael from California and was a house guest during the home-birth of another, Sasa; and How We Played in Washington, DC, with Hunter Thompson & Dan Greene (of the then National Observer) and Copenhagen where he & his wife Carolyn spent once a week with me & my wife Helga Gimbel & daughter Papaya. I remember, in 1970, going house-hunting with him in California, and living in LA & Malibu until a mansion was found in Montecito, and, so important to me, he was there in 1969 in Manhattan, accompanied by the producer David Merrick, for the opening night of my play Che!

I miss this member of the writing family, this clear mirror, and wish his spirit safe passage to infinity beyond language and silence; as for myself & his sons Bryant & Damian & their mom J’Nelle Holland.


(A Meditation)

How far down is down in the heart of God?

The prerogative of time is absence.

We shed tears for different reasons.

And it’s not the fear you feel that’s going to get you.

In fact, life is never a compulsive indecency, or merely the history of train wrecks in the making or, for that matter, compulsive innocence.

Life is instead the mother of tonight, rock of angels, and the art of time is from here to there: with everything existing in a solitary metaphor.

Then, where is our suffering?

The mathematics of life is the abacus of holiness.

Driven mad by loneliness, the writer becomes one with time & defeats death’s footsteps by answering the quest of immortality and, yet, every life is its own form of innocence, and this same innocence, looking away from ourselves, is still / remains our best bet against satisfaction.

Memories are the bones & sinews of immortality as rumored compensation for having lived to a ripe rage.

The question is, why this holy game of desire?

O, I feel so lonely. Should I weep no more? ....something to look at very carefully: all these angels coming into my life at a time when I need them most.

Who’s that?—me—me who?—me!!—me what?

Not just a furtive sensibility.

I am attacked by death—from all sides—the laughing grim reaper of desire exhorts us to be always that moment of love & dispersion.

Why then are people so complicated?

Our complications make us alive beyond varieties of death. Pity too is stripped of becoming unbecoming.

The loneliness, of course, takes difficult roads leading often to destinations that stretch our will to breaking point.

Memory (after all is said & gone) is the only that claims immortality; and it is death that takes a stroll down memory lane, and we follow, we fear to continue, and, yet, we follow & burying our memories in the sand, forgetting that what sticks out is tomorrow, large as regrets, infinite too as celebration, and tiny as words promising us, at last, the deserted heart when I am becomes ours and fear transforms to light.

I am thinking of The Death of Virgil, by Hermann Broch. What comes thru clearly in Broch’s novel is the ever-present companionable loneliness of the long distance writer.

But how best do we ward off emotional pain?

We wonder how death thinks of us: or what? A brokenhearted desire—rendezvous with fate as emptiness, voluminous silence of the waves courting neither destiny nor excess, death making all writers homeless; and careful.

No wonder Aristotle, knowing the labyrinth of interesting destinations, and on his last struggle to overcome life, said (when asked to denounce the devil & swear homage to god), “It’s too late to make enemies.”

For myself, living with death restores life to its petulance.

Language itself is a process of transformation, and death too, supremely transformative, never looks back. A spirit walks thru the seaview to a bottomless dream, this supreme curiosity, now a glance, a look of love, knowing life is what we do not have, do not own, only dreams of being otherwise in a human(e) community where it is often death alone that provokes kindness, and kind words, and saying, O, what a great person he/she was, etc, etc—which is cynical in a feigned & innocent sort of way, and injurious to those who will give it promise, caught up as we are in constant blood-letting & playing for the electronic gallery.

Death is never nice; but what else could it be in a paradise of masks & furious wheels that hit&run and so carelessly describe the future.

Yet, try as we may, we cannot wish away the past.

And loneliness is certainly not the last word: merely the only one where death speaks through knife&folk, and long distance writers listen with their ears to the grind.

Bless you, Robert Gover; and let’s hold on to what we have, and celebrate the future in now.

Death closes the front door and opens the sky whose breasts feed the loneliness and reduces silence to a shock of recognition.

The mask is dismantled & it is time to say goodbye to all that fuss buried in the heart of being privileged to be reborn as the spirit of a memory deferred.

Death between the lines too sprinkles memories as guideposts, fruit of innocence devouring echoes, language bewildered by no ordinary love burning, opening & closing spinning into a stillness whose choicelessness performs the marriage of desire and astonishment as a possibility no longer provoked by loneliness, the good we keep for ourselves, the many, the few, the less we know the difficult road of being removed painlessly from the SHOUT of life.

Let it not be said then that breath at the end of the knife did not part the way between teardrops as the writer, lonely no more, swallows the very words that are shouted no longer from the rooftops of exclamation points, and we know he was here once, and returns this moment as a mirror no longer challenged by reflections, and resolute as reflections which know our names & sign warily the guestbook whose secrets & signatures, never for swift responses, are forever beyond the race: or something like that: & we will never know how words become silence & silence angels bestowing wishbones on hesitation, the salesman’s journey neither destination nor pluperfection, only hush in the temple as death tiptoes through memories & leaves us gasping for holiness: as nothing matters anymore, and so the world becoming imagination & loneliness, a copy of the cat with more than 9 lives, we are stripped of memory & the insolence of time on balconies waving past these armfuls of gods signaling a new revelation/compassion rising earnestly from lines between the teeth as we chew on this, that life is never enough for the lonely writer & crossroads leave us without choice: only amen at that, and more to come, the dream a million us, all the love in the world taking us away from the sufferance of expectations, as with pleasure, precious time not wasted on any true sadness of the soul and no longer to be taken for granted & corrupted as a victim of smiles & longing, words now become fences to be scaled by kisses. Fete done, back to a new reality, a breathless mirror resisting perfumes of applause, the way of the work undone, the spirit torn & reassembled, the gill ashed by life’s cook*out & the bird, driven by the restless wind, flying away, and friendship, no longer a purchase of guilt, settling into arms of the treetop as, lifted beyond the world we have refused always to know intimately as the heart’s loneliness, time de-evaporates into beauty.

The tale is told always, but little understood, thank God (so to speak), the race not for the swiftest, or even turtle & gazelle: silence is gold, and memory immortal; and, after those millions of words, one last breath of homecoming in the deserted heart as the said grim reaper, denuded & unmasked, harvests its crop of memories & scatters them on the pharmacy of being; and we who are here, and still now, can salute a life & wish away the loneliness of one more long distance writer freed from being trumped by celebration, regret, or despair. And so be the beginning of a new ending.


We were trusting friends. He believed in me, as writer & person, and I believed in him likewise; and still do. I just can’t believe I will never see him again in the flesh & share in his classic warmth & astrological evanescence.


SHJ Issue 11
Winter 2015

Lennox Raphael

is at work on Naipaul’s Country, a novel of human transformation. His first play, Che!, ran in New York for thirteen months, followed by Blue Soap, a musical. A former staff writer for Manhattan’s East Village Other (EVO), he has been published in Evergreen Review and Harper’s Magazine (a cover-story interview with Ralph Ellison). His essay on the Haitian earthquake [“Sex, Haiti & Pure Writing,” SHJ Issue 1] was nominated as one of the best online essays in the U.S. (2010-2011).

Raphael is the author of five books of poetry and co-author of Garden of Hope, a memoir. In Copenhagen, he is associated with Des Arts, 2020 Visions DK, Artmoney, and Copenhagen Art Club, where he is art critic. With New York composer Carman Moore, he is in the early stages of developing Waiting for Obama, a musical; and one of his essays appears in Winter Tales: Men Write About Aging (Serving House Books, 2011), with works by Robert Gover, Norman Mailer, Mario Vargas Llosa, and others.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury