In Fondest Memory of Bill Hart  (1938-2008)
Source: Village Voice, January 29, 2008

Billy died today at one forty something
sitting straight up
listening to a tale of how he saved someone from suicide
talking them down from a steep pitched roof

last I saw him
clutching at some invisible hand-hold
falling back exhausted
thrashing forward like some broken bird
mouth agape
he would just come out with things
like: "I had no idea it would be such a long journey away from evil."
or: "We're already dead, aren't we? We've already done this?"

recklessly crashing down the midtown street
accidentally knocking over James Baldwin
"Poor Little Jimmy," he called him
Mailer waking him at all hours
picking his brain about graffiti
Was it really Art?
Was it really Life?
Was it really Real?

character witness on behalf of Lenny Bruce when he was up for "Obscenity"
and shooting smack
Lenny called him "The Groovy Kid"
but that was back when he really was
when his eleven year old head was gently held
between the trembling palms of Lady Day
and kissed upon his high forehead
when he ran with two white dogs
through the streets of East L.A.
flailing in circles
sometimes berserk
sometimes profoundly stoic
always brilliant and shining with ideas
that seemed to come from far across the known world

who could see directly into the heart of a thing
and call it by a name you could suddenly recognize
with new eyes:
a play
a film
a story
a tale
a legend
a poem
a flight of birds

with not a mean bone in his body
acerbic lightning voice
and a mind that will always shine
on those of us lucky enough
to have crossed through its piercing beam

Sam Shepard
Pecos, New Mexico