I saw Don Quixote reading Truman Capote;
Captain Ahab as a boy chasing Moby-Dick
in a bathtub, giving Desdemona, his owner,
a back-rub. Melville in hell, barely making
a living instead of a killing. Emily Dickinson
devoid of hope, envious of Shakespeare’s
quivering feather. Virginia Woolf looming
along the seafloor with rocks in the pockets
of her billowing dress.
Glowing ghosts have dinner, comparing betrayals:
Jacob Marley, Banquo, Hamlet’s father,
still in armor. Jesus sues his producers
for screwing up his story. James Joyce
jabbers away to his secretary, Samuel
Beckett, in an elaborate language even he
can no longer understand, as if his tongue
were a fish caught in a stream of ink.
Jack Kerouac has a heart attack
as he realizes his writing is crap.
William Burroughs’ wife shoots him
and asks, “Happy now?” Kurt Vonnegut
smokes and jokes with Mark Twain
on the insane cloud of words they’ve made,
quipping about the crippling masquerade
Christopher Hitchens still bitches about religion
with Alfred Hitchcock, who says Norman Bates
is great to Anthony Perkins. The furtive murderer
smiles and nibbles on a gherkin. Adrienne Rich
recites a poem of her own to adoring Nora Ephron.
Hemingway arm-wrestles with Gertrude Stein
and loses. Oscar Wilde feels like a child, bored
by William Faulkner, who balks at the Irishman’s
ridiculously rapid wit, preferring to bask
in the vastness of his self-created vapor.
Buddha compares notes with his student,
Lao Tzu, who plucks a piece of parsley
from the toe of his shoe. Chuang Tzu tells
Elvis he’s somebody else, a butterfly dreaming
he’s Herman Hesse in a physical vision
unbelievably real. Sigmund Freud says to Groucho,
“Let me have a void with you.” Harpo laughs out soft
and hands him a calf, reaches into his coat,
and pulls out a giraffe.