The Man Who Left

                in memory of my friend, Morgan

He made six posts to my Facebook in the last month

I didn’t respond because I don’t respond to Facebook

But I saw his posts: two marked the passing of artists, Z’ev and Donald Hall

The most recent one, from about three weeks ago, recounted hearing Hall read

In Wisconsin “in the earliest 70s” and his (Morgan’s) writing a poem about him (Hall)

          “about his taking a stall next to mine in the bathroom and just letting his drawers

fall to the floor and the noises he made” and lunch and snippets of poems in a drawer

Morgan didn’t graduate high school, but after spending four years, as he put it, “on the

road or off the road (as in off-road),” he was accepted at University of Chicago,

where we met as freshmen in the fall of 1978

I can’t remember what drew me to his garret at the top floor of Vincent House

Maybe a mutual friend told me to seek him out, maybe we had spoken in the dining

hall,

He was lying on his bed and had a healthy dark-brown goatee matching his long, dark,

hair

He sat up when he saw me and smiled, a smile that all who knew him will easily recall

I can’t quite believe I am writing these words about Morgan

We were always friends in the present tense, even when continents apart

He may have been reading a book of poetry, maybe Apollinaire, whom he often quoted

He asked me who I liked, and I mentioned Ted Berrigan

“I love Ted Berrigan!” he replied, laughing, and on that note, our friendship was born

Later, I was able to bring Ted and his partner in crime, Ron Padgett, to U of C to read

Morgan was there, never shy, he always liked to meet his heroes and went up to Ted

and asked him to sign a book (possibly Red Wagon, published by The Yellow Press in 1976)

Ted wrote, to the young man he’d just met, “To Morgan, who taught me everything I

know”

Morgan said that we should go see DJR Bruckner, a classicist and former Rhodes

Scholar who had known Tolkien and went on to become a literary critic for The New York Times

We were ostensibly going to see him for his signature as faculty advisor for a poetry

group we wanted to start, but the real reason was to be in his presence and engage in the age-old practice of literary chit-chat

Morgan was majoring in Psychology, and one of his Psych buddies, Joe Grossman, was

also a V House resident

They bonded in wildness and pushed each other to try every possible extreme

Morgan started to get into psychedelics and got Joe to join him on trips

Joe started dressing differently, customizing t-shirts, wearing dark makeup under his

eyes

Morgan looked pretty much the same as usual, he always had a grin, devilish but

friendly, whether high or not

But Morgan ended up in the emergency room a couple of times

He’d just go too far out and maybe Joe wasn’t with him

The first time, he was kicked out the UC housing system

The second time, he was either expelled or asked to take a leave of absence

When John and Yoko released Double Fantasy on November 17, 1980, there was a

long article and interview in the Times

Morgan mailed me the article

I was so happy to get it and read it and so shocked by what was soon to occur

I next saw Morgan in my senior year

He’d migrated to University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he was studying film

I’d moved to an apartment near the lakeshore with two guys from my band and another

friend

Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky had reached out and we organized a reading for

them at the Law School

Before the reading, Allen walked through the audience, giving out our address

After the reading, everyone came over to the apartment, which we had painted abstract

expressionist red and black, carefully avoiding the Rolling Stones poster c. 1970

Allen and Peter would be spending the night, and there was a lot of action

Our band performed in the kitchen, as that seemed the room most like a stage

I had called Morgan, and he had come down from Wisconsin for the reading

He had brought his filmmaking equipment and shot footage of Allen and the rest of us

I’ve seen this footage, and like all else regarding Morgan, I wonder where it ended up

I headed East, for England, and Morgan West, for the promised land of San Francisco

There, he fell in with a psychedelic magazine crowd, first under the title High Frontiers,

later as Mondo 2000

I saw him “Out West,” one of the most memorable times being a drive to Bolinas on a

day thickly covered in mist

Somehow, we managed to find Bill Berkson’s bungalow and had a delightful afternoon

together

Morgan took a photo of me next to a sign that said “Dogtown, Pop. 5”

We spent the night with friends of his in Mill Valley, and he took us to meet Jaron Lanier,

who introduced us to early virtual reality

Everything was an opportunity to be on the cutting edge for Morgan, and he developed

it into an art form

After that, it was correspondence again for a long while

He went to Europe and got involved with putting on large-scale multi-media

extravaganzas, bringing together young experimenters from many different areas in the arts

He was in Budapest, Prague, Vienna…

We were able to meet again when we took a trip up the Danube in the early ‘90s

Everywhere en route, Morgan provided contacts, people for us to meet

Finally, after techno parties and too much Schnapps in Vienna, we made it to Budapest,

where Morgan was living near some farms outside the city

He met us in a cafe with lofty ceilings at a pre-arranged time, that was how Europe was

then, and Morgan tapped into that

As up-to-the-minute as he was in terms of tech and its connections to frontiers of the

mind, he also valued traditions, and we shared a love for ancient poetry

We wandered around in post-sickness daze with Morgan and Hilda

They had been in love but were currently not, but they came together to be our hosts

They were amazingly sweet toward us, bestowed such gentility

Somewhere I have a video we made of Morgan in his backyard, biting into a long, green

pepper and speaking, I dubbed him a Medialogue

The house he lived in had dirty dishes piled in the sink, water ran across the floor when

you flushed the toilet, and he hadn’t paid the rent in about six months

He sent us to other media people in Prague, who put a poem of mine up on a circuit,

pre-internet, it traveled from computer to computer on a fragile network

Later still, Morgan moved permanently to Vienna

He once asked me to help with a passport snafu

He also occasionally made purchases via the internet that were then sent to me for

safekeeping:

I still harbor a set of Ted Berrigan’s In The Early Morning Rain Morgan purchased

He probably saw them as talismans against an unthinking, bureaucratic, world

It angers me that I won’t be able to give them to him

But I’m going to find homes for them Morgan would have approved of

When we got our mini dachshund, Luis, Morgan took him on as part of the family

Future correspondence always included good wishes to Luis accompanied by some

specific, dachshund-friendly, reference

And then, when Isaac and Oliver arrived, Morgan asked to be called “Uncle Morgan”

And Uncle Morgan he was:

He sent them both vintage pull toys, and he sent them hand-colored prints he’d found in

a Viennese flea market

In exchange, we sent Morgan a cache of the boys’ earliest art works

I always felt Morgan was accompanying my travels in poetry

When I embarked on translating Sextus Propertius, he was as excited as I was by each

new discovery and as delighted to find a real, living, person, from 2,000 years back with whom we’d have loved to spend a night, or nights, drinking, reveling, and in Morgan’s case, revealing, any place our minds had occasion to alight

When I started editing Vanitas, I let Morgan know

He wanted to have something in each of the seven issues

He didn’t quite make it, but he published some remarkable pieces:

Two poems and three sections from an ongoing memoir

I was proud to have their wit and youthful energy in the magazine

I can’t believe I’ll never hear from him again!

His phone calls could be lengthy, and they got longer, and his voice slower, with the

years

But I always loved hearing from him

What can I give to get him back?

I’d like to write to Morgan now about gnomic aorists

I’d like to send him a poem Oliver discovered: Paul Blackburn’s “7th Game: 1960

Series”

Now Isaac is going to college: Morgan would certainly be applauding from afar

He didn’t like to go outside in later years, he’d stopped traveling, I think he found his

imagination the safest place

Morgan was a dangerous person, in that he thrived on challenging assumptions

But he was a humanist first and foremost, he adored his mother, and from that, found

something to love in most people

As we drive to college on Monday, we’ll take Morgan with us

                — Vincent Katz