Andrew Levy
The First Time I Met Stacy

The first time I met Stacy was at an evening party at Jena Osman’s studio apartment at the Independence Plaza North towers in Tribeca, sometime in the mid-to-late eighties when IPN, other than some artist’s lofts, was the only full-time residential complex in Tribeca and Battery Park west of the highway didn’t exist. I remember being mesmerized by a large black garbage bag hovering in the air outside Jena’s windows; I believe her apartment was above the 30th floor. When Stacy appeared I was struck by her stylish figure, mostly in black, by the elegant sophistication of such a young person. The enduring image of Stacy that I hold in my mind from our first introduction to the present time is one of a person of exceptional intelligence, curiosity, grace, and someone who was always fashionably dressed! There was also something slightly awkward or self-conscious in her conversation, something she was struggling with. At Jena’s party Stacy continually twisted a pearl necklace around her fingers (I remember it as pearls though it may have been some other bright stone or beads). At one point the string of the necklace broke and the pearls scattered every which way across the parquet floor. Everyone went quickly to their hands and knees in an attempt to retrieve them.

Baa man bekesh Beauty becomes BELBEL bird and drab bird's blind body breath burn clouds Co-Pilot CROW Cy Twombly dead death Disorganized Woman dissolve drab's dream dress drip Emily Dickinson everything exhale existence eyes father ferns Feygele flesh flight Francesco Clemente Friar Dad Friar M E GENOCIDAL LOGIC gliding Hills BIRD Hopping Ibn Arabi illusion imagine inanimate inside invisible Jacob's ladder jump khabare kiss Lips live looking MAMA or bird meaning mirror MOUTH ME)orbIRD movie never night numbered ochre odors once organs path pebbles penis penises perhaps Pilot Praline pretty PROLOGUE PROSTRATE WOMAN PYGMY repetition sacrifice slag Solace song speak streaming blood tell tent there's thing thought tree turn Twakaltu ala Allah twin Umbria veil waiting what's Whooping Woman wind wings Woman and bird Yiddish young birds1

I visited with Stacy and Chet many years ago in Paris. I was staying with Robert Kocik and Daria Fain (Stacy had introduced us to one another some years earlier at a Saturday afternoon reading at The Ear Inn), and one afternoon they arranged a time for me to read my poetry at their apartment. It was one of the most seriously attended readings I’d ever given. The audience consisted of Robert, Daria, Stacy and Chet. We sat around the kitchen table. Stacy’s questions were acute and open; she was one of the most honest people I’ve known.

From the early to mid-nineties, Stacy and I maintained a correspondence between Chicago, where I was completing a fellowship at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Paris, where Stacy and Chet were dug in; Chet had a two “amazing” fellowships I forget where, and Stacy was looking forward to the publication of what would become her first full-length book of poetry, Kildare. My letters to Stacy were typewritten; I didn’t expect anyone except my brother Jeff to be able to decipher my scribble. Stacy always hand wrote her letters in a beautifully balanced and legible script. I have a number of her letters from that time. We wrote each other about everything that crossed our minds, just as we were attempting to put everything (even when we felt like doing nothing) into our poetry, all at once and on many levels. In the spring of 1993, we exchanged letters about dreams. On March 7, Stacy wrote:

I often dream about something like an imaginary friend these days, in dreams I don’t remember upon waking, but I sense to be quite every-day. The every-day makes dreams harder to recall. And I had one good-bad dream recently. You know I’m a swimmer: I swim more days than not. And I have lots of swimming dreams, at times, which are sort of like flying dreams but with the sense of privilege foregrounded, since swimming has to do with moving through the difficulties. So in a swimming dream, often, I’ll have access to a secret, magnificent, balconied pool, late at night, for example like a ship. This was the first dream I know of where I was swimming out-of-doors, in a pool that I think was not exactly natural, but more like a very old man-made rectangular pond in Paris. And I was thinking how maybe it was once part of the Palais de Luxembourg or else the Jardin des Plantes; that I’d have to investigate (the water muddy with sun like a pond), and then I realized I must be very tired for some reason; that I should get out once I reach the other side (where Chet was waiting), and then that something like vines was pulling me down; I said “maybe I’m going to drown now” (I think I said it in French) and thought it was too bad Chet couldn’t see – that he would want to save me. And then I realized this was a dream, so, shaking my head to the side, woke myself up. And then I regretted not letting myself drown, not finding out what happened. But I was glad I’d let myself go that far under, at least.

For me, water is something like language – that fascinates, entraps, is to be struggled with, passionately, and there are confusions of surface with depth. And language is where one can really drown – you become someone else through languages, you lose yourself. You get lost. Thrilling and dangerous. I think it has a lot to do with love, and physically, voluptuously. French is insistent upon staying on its own surface, keeping afloat (their language and culture inseparable), valorizing and maintaining lightness (which has little rooting in luminosity). I wish you’d come here. I’d love to see what you make of it.

I wanted to tell Stacy that I am using her book Conference, which she inscribed ten years ago to me, Sally and Gita, and as she wrote, “a wonderful one on the way,” my youngest daughter Sadie, in a literature course spring 2012. I’m complementing her book with Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Stacy’s book is very moving. I’m especially taken with the writing in the section titled “Mission Impossible,” beginning on page 71. The wisdom related in these pages is humbling to read. It asks what’s at stake in living one’s life, questions every serious person must face: “Maybe I really have to give up more of my whole life. More of my ideas of my life, to be free enough to experience any kind of possibility.” It took being a parent for me to fully embrace what that giving up, the ethics of giving oneself over to “Bewilderment and curiosity” means – that very few people are free. The section “End (Endless)” that brings Conference to a close is beautiful, as is its ending, “I am beyond describing; undetermined.” What remains undetermined is the conference Stacy’s work encourages; her beloved reader is its participant. The bewildered and curious will find much to value there.

Why has Stacy gone, having suffered such an unforgiving disease? I am horrified by the unfairness of her death that someone so generous and sweet should not persist while others who harm and destroy the lives of so many people continue, apparently, to flourish, beneficiaries of material comforts beyond the majority of people’s wildest dreams. I can’t fathom the loss in the hearts of Stacy’s children, Rayzl and Laish, her husband Chet, and their families. It would seem that there is something people could do to make living a less demanding and harsh experience, that we could band together our goodwill and intelligence to restore what is life affirming and life giving. That the destructiveness would cease.

“To bless means would or to wound. To breathe is to bless means to speak is to wind. One planet setting into wind. Dissolves.” From Conference (53).

Stacy’s work, all of her work, asks questions about morality, purpose and consciousness. Is there an enduring self? I think Stacy says, “I hope so,” though she understands that no one has named it, unless one would call an enduring self God. Despite today’s battle between militant modern atheism and militant modern evangelicalism (from whatever philosophical or religious quarter) what’s at stake is the conscious world’s survival. The planet and mankind’s place within it exists. Existence is beneficial. Stacy’s poetry helps sustain it by asking one to be patient with history. Her work, from Kildare to the forthcoming Fledge, instantiates a general piece of wisdom: History can change the images by which we are possessed. Stacy’s poetry is patience in the telling of her and her character’s stories. She makes connections among languages and among poetic and sacred texts, employing the same methods of inference evolutionary biologists use to reconstruct life’s history. Poetry, Stacy says, not unlike dreams, modifies ways in which people see themselves and others, creating intricate webs of associations that pervade our judgments. In poetry the residues of many conversations across generations and languages appear. It contributes to what a vision of ethics is and how it might progress. It embraces dialogue. The challenge is not to decide who has the most important insights, but to comprehend the knowledge we have, finite, fallible and fragmentary as it is. Stacy has said to love what you make of it, so to awake in difficulties of surface and depth.

Years have passed. I remember one afternoon when Stacy and Chet visited to spend time with my daughters Gita and Sadie. The girls took Stacy by the hand and led her to their bedroom to see their dollhouse. I watched Stacy move into the world of my children.

Everyone enjoyed the visit. I will miss my friend.

1Googling Doris’s Conference (Potes & Poets Press, 2001), one finds, beneath the review section, this abecedarian stanza of hot-linked “Common terms and phrases.” Click on the terms or phrases and see the pages in which they appear in the book.

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