The Poetry Project


Lisa Rogal

Once Lewis met me at Le Pain Quotidian (you know the one by his apartment) and told me about his parents.

Once on a plane to Chicago I opened my hand and showed Lewis the tiny white pill I take before a flight.

One time Lewis was reading at the Bowery and light got in his eyes.

Once Lewis wrote me that he’d “always been a secret pill head” and understands how you can “just turn on the music and float away”.

Once Lewis gave me L’Amour Fou for my birthday and I read it three times through while standing in my apartment.

One time Lewis mentioned “Great Balls of Fire,” the song, and asked if anyone knew who sang it. I said Jerry Lee Lewis and Lewis looked at me and said “good for you”.

One time Lewis told me to never throw anything out, you never know what will be valuable in the future.

Once Lewis stuck his tongue out at me at Junior’s.

Once Lewis told me he thought he knew something about me, but then, I did something else and surprised him. I was proud of that.

Once I bought Lewis a Dewer’s with ice, and he didn’t pay me back.

One time Lewis made the writing gesture with his hand when I asked what he’d been up to.

Once Lewis told us the world is full of jam and what do we think of that?

One time Lewis lost his place at a reading and said “Can one read?”

Once Lewis took me under his wing, so to speak, and showed me some things.

Once Lewis turned to me on a balcony and shrugged his shoulder “let’s make a book” he said – and we did.

One time at Phoebe’s Lewis watched us dance and said it was desultory.

Once Lewis didn’t mind that I copied his poems conspicuously.

Once, at a hotel bar, Lewis told me his stories from Naropa – oh they were good.

One time Lewis came outside to share a joint with us kids (just a bit & a half cigarette).

One time Lewis said “Wow” and we all knew what he meant.

Once Lewis became my friend quite naturally, as though we’d known each other before.

One time we all met for drinks at Soda bar and sat in the yard enjoying each other’s company.

One time Lewis told me he’d carry Max to the park every day in a backpack and how great it was – “what’s the point,” he said of having kids, if you don’t stay home with them.

Once Lewis told me I’d figured something out and it was the best compliment I could get.

Once Lewis read every poem I sent.

Once Lewis showed me the desk where he collaged and his system of sorting letters (large black & white in this baggie, small color in this one, etc.)

One time we helped Lewis carry bags of books to the book fair and he let us keep whatever we wanted from his stash.

Once, after my dad died, Lewis sat next to me on a couch and gave me sad eyes while nudging me with his shoulder.

Once there was a copy of Judyism by Jim Brodey that we all wanted but Lewis wanted to sell it and we propped it up on the folding table like it was a prized possession. We hoped it would stay till the end so we could argue over who got it (or at least go to someone who deserved it).

Once Lewis said “glad to see you dear” and kissed my cheek. After the reading, he told me, “you sounded great”. (He did little things all the time to let you know he cared.)

Once Lewis taught me the importance of the gift – it’s a stream that moves through us.

One time I asked Lewis how all the poets got money for things before and he said money was just floating around in the air back then, but not anymore.

Once Lewis was just one of us, roaming the streets after the reading, looking for a quiet bar.

Lisa Rogal

In Memoriam: Lewis Warsh (1944–2020)