Cody’s Conversation

Cody Mahler

When I asked Cody Mahler to write something for me about the friend we both lost, he wrote back: “I have to sit down with Carl and discuss what he would like me to say.” They must’ve had a great conversation, because this is what he wrote:



Everybody knows that he is dead except me
Why don’t I know it yet?
Maybe because we were downstairs when he went to bed
We were downstairs and he went to bed because he had a sore throat
He had a sore throat and he didn’t want to spread any germs
He didn’t want to infect anybody
He particularly didn’t want to infect Signe
Who had offered to bring him up some soup that night
When we had called him on the phone expecting to meet him
At the gallery
Where we were planning to join him in the festivities
No, he said he was tired
I told him a couple of funny stories on the phone
which I can’t remember now
He was not too tired to laugh
He could laugh no matter how much it hurt
And there was nothing more he was waiting for
Than a chance to get a good laugh
A good innocent laugh
Or a even bitter caustic laugh at hypocrites
Who he shrugged off with fine chosen words
As fine as the cakes and cheeses and ciders and wines
He brought us
And such fine things we had for dinners that we invited him to
Or dining out in the “ghetto” as we called it
Slumming was the word we used
in his neck of the woods
I called him Mister Mooch
Which by definition is a man that mooches off people
Takes their comforts and their food
It was an intimate joke between us
He was never a mooch
He was our friend
And nothing can take that away
Signe just said I forgot something
We asked Carl once
What his favorite meal in the world was
And he told us spaghetti and meatballs
So one night
I made them
Just like my mother did
And he was about as happy
As anybody I have ever seen!

— Cody Mahler

Feb. 3 — Cody writes in an email message:

Here is another scribble … I feel like poems are standing in a long line waiting … and they don’t mind the wait … they are patient … they chat among themselves … they don’t push to get ahead … some poems even go for a little walk and never come back … we find these poems sometimes staring at a river or gazing up at an old house or standing on a street they played on as a child … sometimes we leave these poems where we find them and sometimes we drag them back into line … in the end it does not matter what happens to poems … they always know what is best for them …

Yesterday after a long forced march to the chemical company Roche through the Siberia-like cold front I returned on a tram to Carl’s neighborhood. I went to Sultan’s grill (where we had gone on a couple of occasions with Carl) … I devoured a Doner Kebab and then went next store to the Turkish bakery for a little treat … I must have looked like a homeless man. The young Turkish guy handed me a sweet and when I asked him how much, he said nothing, it costs nothing … I had to laugh. I guess in a way I was homeless. Another place or person gone that we called home. That is how it feels much of the time.

The sun stares at the cold face of a winter day
like the dead stare at the living
God prays for the dead
who pray for God
And the earth listens
And waits for some movement from below
The toilet flushes upstairs
Signe is asleep on the couch
I read poems all day
To bring back the dead
Who promised to meet me today
With word of Carl
who promised to explain to me
What happened since he died
What happened to the night
We were supposed to meet
And how will I describe it
How he came downstairs unexpectedly
And greeted us
Though he had a sore throat
How he drank a glass of red wine
How he lingered just a few moments
Before he returned upstairs
To his apartment
He excused himself
Said that he didn’t have much time
But that he would come
And pay us a visit
On evenings when we can’t face
What has happened to him
He will wake us gently
And laugh at the absurdity of his death

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