Sunday, January 8, 2012

Now That I Am Gone

Image borrowed from movie goods

Now That I Am Gone

Lying in his hospice bed, he discovered
the first frost on his bedroom window,
overlooking Central Park, that tenth day
of October 1985--and piercing the vicodin
fog Yully Borisovich Bryner juggled a miasma
of memories-- like the autumns in Vladivostock
as a kid, nicknamed Jules after his paternal
grandfather, growing up proud of being Swiss,
Mongol, and Romani--his gyspy genes always
rising hot when he played his guitar and sang
joyously the old classics;

still sad that when he was ten, Daddy Boris went
out for some cigars and forgot his way back;
precipitating his mother to take him and his sister
to live in China, and then onto Paris to spend his
adolescence with those French girls,

until he was twenty, standing at the rail of the
S.S. President Cleveland in 1940, sliding slowly
past Lady Liberty on her tiny island, like Circe,
torch held high greeting immigrants, and before long

as an athletic handsome exotic-looking young man
he created quite a stir by posing nude for George Platt
Lynes, moving like a graceful jungle cat from working
on the radio, to being a model, to being an actor, and
in 1949 appearing in his first film, PORT OF NEW YORK,
he appeared just once with his own naturally thinning hair,

because in 1951 he shaved his head in order to play
Mongkut, the King of Siam, in THE KING AND I, a role
he would play 4,663 times on Broadway, in road shows,
in several revivals, the movie, and a TV film for CBS--
his shaved shiny pate setting a new standard for virility
for decades to come; how odd he reminisced that
Gertrude Lawrence died of cancer
during the first year of the run,
and now the carcinogenic cretins had come
to fruition within his own perfect body,
and he was facing death at an age
most people could finally retire at;

Kathy and his five children from four marriages
buzzed about his bed, lying to him
about his prognosis, smothering him
in familial ardor as the flame flickered within him.
Rom music played softly in the background,
and suddenly he smiled remembering the time
he played a character in drag with Peter Sellers

He died later that day, drifting away peacefully
the same day his friend Orson Welles died,
probably meeting each other above
the Empire State Building
as Jules hopped on piggy-back
for their glorious ascending duet.

He is buried in France near a Russian Orthodox
monastery in Luze’, with a spectral circle of those
beautiful French girls hand in hand wrapped around
his tombstone like a flowered lei listening to a
tarnished brass speaker hooked into an infinite
loop of tape, with his voice stating repeatedly,
“Now that I am gone, I tell you not to smoke.”

Glenn Buttkus

January 2012

Listed as #36 over on Magpie Tales 99

Would you like to hear the author recite this poem to you?


Tess Kincaid said...

Nice tribute, Glenn...

Rinkly Rimes said...

So well-written and with such feeling. You captured the spirit of the man.

Everyday Goddess said...

Excellent tribute!

I didn't know they passed on the same day - wow.

Brian Miller said... really brought his story to life in this glynn...def one of my favs of this mag as you gave me much greater understanding...

Berowne said...

Strange how close you and I were in our responses to this week's prompt...

Anonymous said...

yours is close to mine too...

nice analysis of his life.

my dad's cousin was best friends with his sister.

days of cohan

Dave King said...

Impressive and worthy tribute.

Helen said...

Let's hope he and Orson met in some magic place ...