The Linnet's Wings Summer 2014 - Page 115

in the water. I had remembered the story of the USS Indianapolis , the ship transporting the atomic bomb to Okinawa that on its return voyage had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, and as it sank, six hundred men went into the water. When a rescue vessel finally got to the stricken men, only two hundred had survived the shark feeding frenzy. It was a tale told to every young Navy recruit before he went to sea. The next time I saw Eric was at my sister’s wedding in St. Louis, and then, five years after that, at his wake. My sister Janet who was closer to Hillary’s age, had been invited to Nantucket more often, and she had spent a month there two summers in a row, I’d remembered vaguely, and then she and Hillary had some kind a falling out, over the same young man, who later became a rock musician, playing bass guitar with several Boston bands. Hillary was one of those postmodern poets, always brusque in conversation, who liked to end their conversations with a ‘shit,’ at that very least, or worse, despite her Columbia pedigree, and the fifteen years she’d spent teaching Keats on the Morningside Heights campus. She had a steady sort of profane streak, period, maybe because of too much Keats, I don’t know. She had long stringy red hair usually tied in an unmanageable ponytail that she still wore well into middle age. Hillary liked all kinds hats too, and for years she always wore these black homburgs or checkered pork pie hats to family events, always men’s hats, in a sort of Frida Kahlo style. You would see her with the hat on, brim pulled down over her brow in those old black and white family polaroids with that wry Cheshire cat smile on her face, thinking to herself, “I can do anything I want, and you can’t stop me!” She had met Beat poet Allen Ginsburg, on one of his lecture tours when she was a student, and had convinced him of her many skills as a personal assistant, and traveled with him for a year, until she met her poet husband Gregory who had been a young disciple of Timothy Leary. The following year they married and lived in a commune outside of Humboldt, California’s Golden Triangle for another year, and then were divorced. Poor Gregory didn’t survive the Seventies, and somehow was lost at sea off Casablanca when he was visiting his friend novelist Paul Bowles, who he had met through Kenneth Rexroth when they all shared a house together in Berkeley in the late Fifties. He had been a youn r6