Writing | For David, Who I Still Owe 30 Bucks by Danielle Willis

Lerner and I's friendship ended back in 1988 after a stupid fight over the politics of some Hollywood poetry reading. He was furious with me because we were supposed to be down there to piss these people off, not get our picture in Interview magazine smiling vapidly between Dweezil Zappa and Ed Begley Junior.
We didn't speak for years, then became friends again when we found ourselves strung out at the same time. Then our only vaguely literary arguments were centered around who gave the best prices on shoplifted books.
I didn't want to write
anything about David Lerner
to read in front of his
friends and family at
the memorial because
the David I knew
these past few years
had been a corpse
long before his body
finally decided to lie down,
a state I was fast
approaching myself,
grey-skinned and gaunt
In clothes I hadn't wanted
to waste any
precious junk money
on washing for weeks,
sulfuric pus erupting
like warm shaving cream
from matching
holes in both of
my shoulders
I was beginning to
see visions of
the Angel of Death
like a giant winged slug
with fever-green slits for eyes
hovering over my bed,
rubbery wings dripping
webs of mucus
down on my face
My apartment was
known as Charnel House
because of Vylet's
sullen insistence
on spattering blood
over every
tile or
linoleum surface
David was an
occasional visitor there,
slumped in chairs too
small for him,
nodding so deeply
we'd usually end up
slapping him across
the face to make sure
he wasn't going out
on us.
David Lerner was high
on the list of
people who
were under no circumstances
allowed to fix in
our living room
Like the sign said,
No Dying in the House
Neither of us were
writing very much,
neither of us expected
to live much longer
and neither of us
really cared
there's a poet across
the room cursing you
for sticking needles in
your arms, like it
was something you
were doing to him personally
David did heroin
because the pain in his
back was too great
to obliterate with
anything but morphine-
based remedies
Heroin is also the only drug
on earth that can
instantly alleviate
depression, anxiety, and
that queasy feeling
that the afterlife is nothing more
than a hallucination
generated by
synapses firing in
a dead brain.

from (bull horn / special issue, august 1997)
in memory of david lerner (1951-1997)