bpNichol

George Bowering

copyright ©2004 by George Bowering

I walkt to the back of the house in the
yard near the garage & saw him in a
white shirt playing ping pong with a patient
or friend or someone else who lived in the
house & there he was.
I sat at the table where we were reading
aloud together & heard him from behind where
he was crying aloud & wearing his pink
leather number on the west coast & I
must tell you he is a star.
Maybe Holofernes.
He tried to grow a mustache & took his
vacation in a classy hotel in bermuda where
he sat & drank bourbon with ice, a poet
taking his own kind of holiday, hooray.
Judy lookt as if she wanted to be him
or be with him or kill him.
I think that all the time he was listening
to the ice in the glass his ear was thinking
ping
pong
ping
pong
pingngngngng
One time he placed a bottle of Pinch on the
coat hook on the back of the door in our
clothes closet & we opened & closed the door
for two months before we found the bottle
of Pinch & it should have fallen off many
times so we drank it & later I bought him
a bottle of Pinch in August because the night
before we had been drinking bourbon on his
credit card in the bar where he goes to
drink his own way, the poet.
There he was, on the tape, all over the
country, making personal appearances, Captain
Poetry, listening to the voice of the four
horsemen in the children’s fiery
chamber of verse.

Notes on the Poem

George Bowering has used his poetry for, among many purposes, working through thoughts about death and loss. The poem "bpNichol" from Bowering's 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize collection Changing on the Fly does this in the intriguing fashion that is a signature of both poets' work. In his 2019 essay collection Writing and Reading, Bowering touches on connections between grieving and wielding (or not wielding) words:
"Through my life, it seems, best friends and former girlfriends have been dying. Apparently after the poet Red Lane died on my twenty-ninth birthday, I was not talking to people much for a year. When Greg [Curnoe] died I flew across the country for his funeral. When I heard bpNichol had died I continued to play the ball game I was playing. On it goes. But I continued to write. I really can't say how much the writing was part of the grieving. In Greg's case, it would seem that it was at least a major pathway."
In "Pale Blue Cover", another selection from Changing on the Fly, Bowering reminisces with wry affection about another friend lost, writer Matt Cohen. Interestingly, the poem focuses on Cohen spontaneously taking a plane ride across Canada, just as Bowering remembers doing for another friend's funeral. Although he claims not to have thought much about it at the time, Bowering clearly eventually the processed the news of legendary poet, publisher and performer bpNichol's death. Verifiable stories, fanciful notions, muscle memories of how bpNichol wrote and spoke were all stored for later. What does the reference to Holofernes mean, we wonder. Since "Judy lookt as if she wanted to be him or be with him or kill him." and we know that Holofernes met a grisly end at the hands of Judith ... well, let's tuck that one away for further contemplation. So, perhaps "bpNichol" the poem was a kind of pathway in bpNichol's case, too. It takes some decidedly whimsical turns along the way, stopping perhaps appropriately here:

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