someone tweeted f. scott fitzgerald reciting ode to a nightingale

by Gary Percesepe

poor son of a bitch

he recorded it in his last year

forty-four with skin like paper

probably in a self-recording

phonograph booth in LA

or somewhere in southern california

where the light is a daily reminder of all

you cannot have

like zelda in custody

his own private paradise

lost a thousand times or more

and he recites from memory this—what?

this ode gone off the rails

the keats is unmistakable but he begins in

such a low key

his voice the hushed tone of priests

even at his death he dreamed of death

and every art a sacrament

did people once believe such things?

scott did

he wrote to get the girl

and look!

the girl was got

and unstoppable fire

made her a torch

she burned alone

on the mental ward one day

if the river was whiskey

it only went downhill

their journey was beautiful & damned

but now you listen

as he begins well

the words barely breathed

his voice pure purchased princeton

the meter   the line   the exquisite pain

of knowing his last flight

like the nightingale he laments

will set hell on fire again

my heart aches  and a drowsy numbness pains

my sense   as though of hemlock I had drunk

o scott!   o zelda!

we could drink a case of you

that i might drink   and leave the world unseen

and with thee fade away into the forest dim   so then

fade far away   dissolve   and quite forget

what thou among the leaves  hast never known

the weariness   the fever   and the fret

here   where men sit and hear each other groan

but scott has stopped reciting

he lost his place

his neurons misfiring again

he stumbles to a line he thought he'd never forget

and ends the poem in the middle

no second act or third    only this last fragment

where youth grows pale   and spectre-thin   and dies