(Dedicated to the memory of Quentin Crisp)

by Michael Donohue

‘In a state of collapse’,
That’s how the news bulletin
Announced your death:
‘Found in a state of collapse’.
I’m sure this would have made you laugh,
How else is a dead person to be found?
Or was it how you lived your life,
Betrayed by society,
Forced to scrape your dinner off the gutter,
But doing it with style, panache, humour?

‘In a state of collapse’,
What do they know about ostracism?
About being different in the world?
About simply saying:
‘I’m not like you’ –
Just a colored cravat,
Or a touch of henna in the hair
Or a pale shade of eye-shadow,
All the things boys aren’t supposed to be,
Aren’t supposed to like,
Aren’t supposed to want,
Never mind what they want in the bedroom?

‘In a state of collapse’,
They showed you on a
Balcony in New York City,
You, posing your heart out,
Not looking at the view at all,
But positioning yourself for the camera’s benefit
And watching it with a third eye watching you,
As if this was enough in itself,
To be seen: everything,
To be yourself.

‘In a state of collapse’,
I’ve felt less at close relatives funerals,
And yet I didn’t know you, or did I?
Did you make yourself available to be known,
A lighthouse of sorts,
Or an oasis, or a post on an outback?
Was the whole point just to see ourselves
In your life?

‘In a state of collapse’
Has the world forgotten its heroes?
Forgotten those who stood up
For truth and beauty?
Has the dollar bill now taken the place
Of leaves and shrubs and bushes,
One green replacing another?
But who can buy good conversation
Filled with aphorisms?
Who can buy the force of a punch line?

‘In a state of collapse’,
And the world goes on ticking,
Men will come and go
With their great ideas,
Governments will rise and fall,
Fads and fashions will invade us
And leave in the same breath,
And all that we’ll have
Is all that we stood for,
Not: ‘In a state of collapse’.

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Photograph copyright © by Jean Harvey. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Text copyright © Quentin Crisp Archives. All rights reserved.

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