LIZ AT SIXTY (San Francisco Chronicle 2/28/92)

   Seeing you
   in your enormous bouffant
   no one has ever slept in
   your face wide-eyed and masklike
   as Mickey Mouse behind you
   at the portals of Disneyland
   opening to the tune
   of "When You Wish Upon a Star"

it is hard to remember how each of us felt you so fragile with pure possibility as you leant to your horse’s neck in National Velvet the war almost over your sex hidden in your jockey outfit

I watching with concern from the back of the audience throbbed with intensity reserved for adolescence at the deep bond created by our dreams for the future

and would have written you to explain how much we shared had not that gross address HOLLYWOOD separated us like a sword where others would have read my verses to you first and not have understood

so we grew apart I could see in that Albee play as you bad-mouthed your drunk husband Richard Burton (who by the way I had met once when hitch-hiking from outside Denham up to Oxford you were right he wasn’t good enough for you) life had treated you cruelly as he gave up Stratford for the profits from B-movies the high dreams dissolved in higher-proof alcohol

now we have traded that undeveloped future for California’s wealth of malls and parking lots I cannot retrieve those nights I lay awake imagining us walking together innocently as two deer through the lost autumn roadways of the abandoned Laurentians north of Montreal now all fenced and gated in vacation properties

we still need the word dream if only for this innocent hysteria of a sixtieth birthday party Dress for Fun, Jeans Tres Casual your guests saying this is fabulous

and I see clearly in the prodigious efforts of your face to become timeless as if in a mirror this relentless exchange of dreams for identity life as fabulous each of us imprisoned in our Disneyland of absurd efforts to achieve remembrance

rather than confront the ultimate question What if there is nothing else?