David Trinidad




When you came to a dinner party at

Ira’s and my loft, you brought

a fruit tart.  A glazed kaleidoscope

of peach, kiwi, and strawberry slices.

It was an auspicious occasion:

dinner with James Schuyler.

You’d always been a fan of his work.

Jimmy, on the other hand, had never

been impressed by yours.  (“I do not share

your enthusiasm for Dlugos,” he wrote

in a letter in 1985.)  But he had

read and been wowed by “G-9,”

your long poem about having AIDS,

just out in The Paris Review,

and now wanted to meet you.

August 9, 1990.  (I’m glad I saved

my datebooks.)  Jimmy eventually

made it up two flights—quite a feat

considering his heft and bad leg.

Inside the loft, he almost slipped on

one of Ira’s throw rugs.  The rest

of the evening I worried that he might

fall and hurt himself.  I sat with

you and Christopher (your last lover)

and Jimmy, smoking and listening

(small talk—nothing memorable),

a rather sullen host, while Ira

threw together a salad and his

specialty pasta dish in the kitchen.

Worried, too, about your gaunt

appearance, the little round Band-Aid

covering a KS lesion on your cheek.

Thinking back on it, I see how

deeply into myself I had retreated.

People were dying and no one seemed

to be talking about what mattered.

In less than four months, you would

be gone.  Jimmy would join you

in the afterlife the following April.

Ever courteous, you sent a card

thanking us for “a lovely evening

of great food, conversation, and

friendship.  It was wonderful to be

able to spend time with Jimmy

(is it okay to call him by his first name,

gulp?), who seemed very happy, too.”

I’ll trust, at this late date, that this

is true.  I saved everything you ever

sent me, Tim, every letter, poem, post

and Christmas card, thank you note.

This one had gooseberries on it—

twelve of George Brookshaw’s veined,

alien-looking green and red orbs—

rendered with impeccable detail.

All these years, I’ve held onto the copy

of Tanaquil—the novel by Donald

Windham—you gave me.  When

you came across a stack of them

at the Strand, it pained you to see

your friend’s book—you loved

both, your friend and his book—

on the remainder pile, so you bought

them all and presented them to friends.

I confess I still haven’t read it.

Will I ever?  The glue in the spine

is dried out.  Two decades after

your death, when I was editing

your collected poems, I got in touch

with your brother John.  A building

supervisor for the phone company

in Washington, D.C.  Parents and only

sibling (you’d both been adopted)

long dead, single since his divorce

in the seventies.  “I’m a nice guy,”

he admitted, “but I’m miserable.”

He also admitted he was pissed off

when you got AIDS.  (He was

with you on G-9 when you died.)

The implication: you should have

been more careful, restrained yourself.

He had all of your childhood ephemera:

photographs of you (a skinny

kid with glasses) and the family,

report cards (you were a straight-A

student), a program for a piano

recital (on June 14, 1962, you played

“The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”),

two religious medals, your Roy Rogers

and Dale Evans lunchbox (with

“Francis Dlugos” written in pencil

and “Remember: thou shalt not steal”)

filled with commemorative stamps

and political buttons: Nixon, Goldwater,

LBJ, JFK.  If I came to visit him,

John told me, he would let me take

whatever I wanted.  I intended to,

but waited too long.  The next time

I tried to contact him, his number had

been disconnected.  After some

detective work, I discovered that

John A. Dlugos (nicknamed “Doogee”)

had died unexpectedly in his sleep.

“He was preceded in death by

his parents and brother Timothy,

a published poet.”  Survived by

“adoring friends too numerous to

count.”  I’ll trust that this is true.

No will.  A cousin was contacted by

the attorney, but wanted nothing.

All of the possessions—including

your mother’s cedar chest and a quilt

she made, which John had retrieved

from your apartment in New Haven

upon your death—disposed of,

given away.  Tim, I mourned your

lost memorabilia.  Kicked myself

for not jumping on John’s offer.

But where else can what’s been lost

live, save in the poem.  Nine

months before you were lifted into

the afterlife, you organized a reading

for us at Yale Divinity School.  On

the flyer, next to “New York poets!”

and our names, you put a picture

of the Everly Brothers in a somewhat

fey (how appropriate) pose, singing

their hearts out.  Only three people

showed up.  But we sang our

hearts out anyway.  We had agreed

to introduce each other.  I wasn’t

happy with what I wrote—dashed

off on your electric typewriter shortly

before.  In the Institute of Sacred

Music’s nearly empty Great Hall, you

praised my work for “its unflinching

willingness to share disquieting

emotions like shame and regret,

as well as the real-life situations

that provoked them.”  And: “David’s

poetry pays careful attention to

the things of ordinary life—the concrete

details which might be overlooked

by poets who foreground their

strong feelings at the expense of

the evanescent or ephemeral.”

And: “I admire his work more

than he knows.”  Moved, I asked

you, afterwards, for a copy.  You

handed me the one you’d read.

Which I asked you to autograph.

Almost posthumous, you wrote:

“This proves I really did write

the foregoing!”  I, heartsick to be

losing you, needed proof.  I would

have been too desolate without it.

The Breakup Poem


      It is stunning, it is a moment like no other,

      when one’s lover comes in and says I do not love you anymore.

      —Anne Carson



Ira chose to drop the bomb

in the middle of a session

with Judy, our couples therapist:

I don’t want to be in a relationship with you anymore.

“Really?  You mean that?”

Yes.  I’m done with it.  I want out.

It came as a complete surprise.  I thought

things had been getting better:

my collecting seemed to have run its course

and I was willing to start contributing

toward a country house,

which Ira insisted

he wanted, though I was the one

who would have to do all the driving.

Judy thought things had been getting better, too.

(I had to prod her to admit it.)

Ira and I had dinner plans

after our session, which we cut short,

with lesbian friends.

You mean you’re not coming?

He said this incredulously.

“You’re kidding, right?”

I left Judy’s office in a daze

and took a cab back to our loft

and sat on the couch.  Byron,

uncharacteristically, did not come out

from under the bed to greet me.  I thought—

hoped, rather—that Ira would change his mind

and I’d hear the front door slam

and him bound up the stairs.

But no, he went out to dinner

with the lesbians.  I sat there

as the room grew dim.  In the stillness of dusk.

I thought, “This must be what it’s like

to be told you’re going to die:

you have to leave this life.”

Goodbye Keith Haring refrigerator magnets:

orange radiant baby, blue angel,

green barking dog.

Goodbye three Nan Goldin photographs,

one of a young, sad-eyed Japanese man

and his collection of vintage Barbie dolls.

Goodbye cabinetful of flower-splashed Vera napkins

and tablecloths, picked up at antique malls

and flea markets.

Goodbye pair of Tiffany glass candlesticks.

Goodbye Eames coat rack with multi-colored balls.

Goodbye small Tom Slaughter painting—

a New York cityscape in primary colors—

that I convinced Ira to bid on

at a charity auction.  He only

paid $250.00.  No way

was he going to let me have it

in the “divorce settlement.”

Goodbye painting.

Goodbye big red tulips flopping

all over the white oval Saarinen coffee table,

flat waxy petals open wide.



I thought, in that moment, of an incident

that had occurred a few months earlier.

Driving to Woodstock.

The three of us in a rental car:

me nerve-wracked at the wheel;

Ira harping at me from the passenger seat;

Byron, frightened by our arguing,

cowering in the back.

I was relating yet another

disappointment in the poetry world

when Ira snapped, “Get over it, will you!”

He always fought against what I was feeling.

An inconvenience he felt obliged

but unable to fix.  And impatience:

he never understood why I

couldn’t grow a thicker skin.

How many times had I said to him,

in our sessions with Judy, “Just let me

have my feelings.  They will pass.”

I hate you, I spat.

We drove in silence

the rest of the way,

both stung by my declaration.

Byron, wagging his tail again,

excitedly took in the scenery.

Sitting in the dark apartment

saying goodbye to the things we had accumulated,

to the space we had shared for ten years,

I wondered if what I’d uttered was true.


When I told Helen, my “medical intuitive”

(L.A.-speak for “psychic”), about the breakup,

she said, “You should get down on your knees

and thank the powers that be

that he ended it.  You would have

stayed with him out of loyalty.

Now you’re free to develop

other aspects of yourself.”

How could I have faith in the new unseen life

she said I was going to create.

Wayne Koestenbaum said, “Think

of the great breakup poems you’ll get to write.”

But I didn’t wish to write such poems.

I respected Ira, had learned a lot from him

despite our differences—

or perhaps because of them.

I wouldn’t want to write

anything that might hurt him.

Ira would continue to see

Judy individually.

For a while I was bitter

that they still had each other

after the failure of our joint therapy.

Two years later, 9/11
would force me to face
my resentment.  Judy’s husband,
Brian, was on the 104th floor
of the north tower.  She found herself,
in that moment, a widow
with two young daughters.
Ira told me the news.
How could I comprehend the enormity of her loss.
I meant, in the numb months that followed
the horror, to communicate my compassion.
Only after I’d left New York
and was settled in Chicago
was I able to send her
an inadequate sympathy card.


DAVID TRINIDAD’s most recent books are Dear Prudence: New and Selected Poems (2011) and Peyton Place: A Haiku Soap Opera (2013), both published by Turtle Point Press.  He is also the editor of A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos (Nightboat Books, 2011). Trinidad currently lives in Chicago, where he teaches at Columbia College. These two poems are from his new book, Notes on a Past Life, forthcoming from BlazeVOX [books].


Photo by Alyssa Lynee