To Sleep before Evening (from This Short Day of Frost and Sun)

The only evil consists instead in the decision to remain in a deficit of existence, to appropriate the power to not-be as a substance and a foundation beyond existence, or rather (and this is the destiny of morality), to regard potentiality itself, which is the most proper mode of human existence, as a fault that must be repressed.

—Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community


Brennan Farm House, 84th Street, undated. Half-tone photograph. PR 020, Geographic Images Collection, New-York Historical Society, 84696d.


The Brennan Farm, where Edgar Allan Poe (19 Jan 1809–7 Oct 1849), with his child-wife and mother-in-law, rented rooms in May or June of 1844.

     The above picture was taken in 1879, thirty years after Poe’s death (in Baltimore). The road running to the left is Broadway, looking north. The house stood approximately where Eighty-Fourth and Broadway is today. Poe and his family lived there during the time he wrote “The Raven,” though where he wrote it and how long it took him is much debated. Theories include a grass-lapped boulder in Riverside Park, more than a hundred yards closer to the bank of the Hudson, and another mentions a woods in Saratoga Springs, New York, where, during a ’44 or ’45 visit, Poe was a guest of the Trask family, in whose mansion Yaddo is today; several other suggestions have been made as well . . .




To Sleep before Evening, §0

Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening.

—Walter Pater, The Renaissance


With a stream running west and north, a deer trail now widening the cut between the trees into a cowpath, the meadows and forests hereabout once made a rambles for pensive Edgar Poe. He ambled by and across corn- and kale-covered farmlands, finishing the “The Raven” in a granite declivity at the top of an outcrop in sight of the Hudson. Seventy-five and a hundred years later, sunk in tar and pebbled macadam, concrete curbstones and iron grates covered the Brennan Farm, in whose main house, with his child-wife, Virginia, and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Clemm, Poe once rented rooms, Eighty-Second Street having long ago paved over the stream and, even wider, gated either side with grass between, the cowpath become, famously, Broadway. 

On breezeless summer avenues, through evenings with both motor cabs and horse-drawn carriages, Dorothy Gish, George Gershwin, Igor Stravinsky, and most of New York’s between-the-wars radical community walked home even before the neighborhood’s late Nobel laureate, Isaac Bashevis Singer, stopped in at Bloomsday to hear visiting Alberto Moravia read. Then Bloomsday gave way to Shakespeare & Co., itself (along with the Brick-Floor Bookstore, Barku Books, Woman Books, the Dolphin Bookshop, Nine-Nine-Nine, the New Yorker, Red Letter Books, the Endicott Book Shoppe, and Eeyore’s) long gone. 

At Reeves Teletape on Eighty-First, they shot a decade of Sesame Street, the cast often retiring across the avenue to lunch at Teacher’s, where Paul Simon and Buffy Sainte-Marie rubbed shoulders with successful porn actors like Mark Stevens, Annie Sprinkle, and Jamie Gillis. (Once I even said hello to Ronnie Gilbert there, songstress and heroine of another age.) When the studio closed, Scorsese raised a twelve-foot caricature of Jerry Lewis above its marquee to film The King of Comedy. It stayed up half a dozen years. But the building’s been down more than ten. At the Beacon Theater, I’ve seen Elizabeth Swados’s operas and Wagner’s complete Ring from the Boston Lyric Opera, while, in my own living room, broadcast from that same stage, I’ve watched George Carlin stand-up routines and VH1 Divas concerts. With Lincoln Center, St. John the Divine, and Columbia University, the Upper West Side has much history. 

It also has quite a homeless population. 

Like Poe’s father, I’m a successful actor—whom you’ve never heard of. 

My biggest part to date was a computer commercial in 1997. I was on screen for the first five, the middle four, and the final seven of its thirty seconds: in the first two sequences, I’m hurrying to work through Wall Street. In the last, the camera sweeps around my ultramodern office, coming to focus on my face—while I rise from my desk and, out a window, as the metallic blinds open under reflected clouds, gaze upward. It took three weeks to film—six days of which involved shooting me atop an elephant, then a camel; but they dropped those shots and decided to do it straight. I made twenty thou (as they would have said then: today it’s 20k). Then they paid me another 5k not to accept a job in a commercial for Tyco Tools. 

Your face is now associated, Hilda explained, with information. No more laborers in bib overalls for you for the next couple of years.

It’s true: over the three months it aired, seven people stopped me while I was sitting on the blue seats toward the back of the bus, on the stool at the gray-veined coffee-shop counter, or clanking up the iron steps from the little secondhand Book Ark then on Eightieth just east of Amsterdam, to ask: “Hey, aren’t you somebody I seen on television, maybe . . . ?” which is vague enough so that I was never sure how to answer. (“Maybe, yeah . . .”) For six weeks after they paid me the five, there was talk of making me company icon—and icon is better than spokesperson, any day. My face would have been on all their advertisements.

Then they got an actress you have heard of.

Though they only paid two to four thou apiece, I did nine other commercials that year.

As unknown actors go, I do pretty well.

Days before this story begins, however, in the mail I received a large blue and red Priority Mail carton from which I slipped a coffee table book commemorating a minorly famous three-evening festival production of August Strindberg’s dramatic trilogy The Road to Damascus, with photographs by Irving Mann, Pictorial Associates, in a new translation by a major American poet, who ’d attended the first two performances of the cycle as well as the opening-night cast party. That year, ’88, I ’d been the assistant director. 

Though I ’d been introduced to him at the night’s festivities—it was an open-air event—shook his hand, and even brought him a drink from the bar set up on the other side of the stage (he walked with a cane), without looking him up, I couldn’t tell you the poet’s name.

I ’d also played a Mourner. 

Among Mann’s glorious full-page color photos, I’m in three—two on stage in costume, and one behind-the-scenes daylight rehearsal pic, showing me, shirtless and “looking good” (as the producer who wrote the text identifies me, in the white-on-black caption on the facing page), standing beside the open-air scaffolding and gazing off, in front of seven or eight other young men and women—electricians, stagehands, a few minor actors, and production assistants—in jeans, shorts, tee shirts, and tank tops. My only competition is another shirtless fellow, dead black and a decade younger than I was then, down on one knee about ten feet diagonally behind me, probably a carpenter, with pumped arms and abs that looked as if they ’d been scored with bulldozer treads. He had one arm around the shoulder of a dog, seated beside him (who, I vaguely remember, had started hanging around the production site as such strays will and, for about three days, become a favorite with some of the younger crew, until he upped and disappeared), and a smile that looked as if it would seduce . . . well, anyone who could be seduced by a smile. 

I put the volume on my glass-topped (you guessed it) coffee table, vowing to leave it out no more than three weeks. 

For the longest time I didn’t think so, but now I believe the story I want to tell actually starts a week later in October ’91, when, still working for Hilda, Farhida Johnson phoned: “Do you remember someone named Hardy Frodoushky—he ran lights on a show you did about a year and a half back, down at the Upstairs Stage?”

“Of course I do. He’s a great guy. I love ’im—”

“Well, he wants to talk to you. He just left his number. He says if you’re going to call, do it before noon tomorrow. That’s when they’re turning off his phone service.”

Frowning, I put the phone down, then picked it up and dialed the number I ’d jotted on the pad with the silver ballpoint. 

“Hey, I know we haven’t seen each other in a pretty long time.” Hardy sounded hesitant. “But I’ve been kind of sick—probably somebody told you. I have AIDS.” 

Actually, no one had. 

“Well, I suppose I haven’t been seeing all that many people lately. For a while, I guess, I wasn’t saying anything to anybody—I mean, you know . . .” 

“Sure,” I said. “Of course . . .” 

Hardy had been a brick shit-house of a guy, friendly, ebullient, from working-class folk in Connecticut. All muscle and cuts, usually he ’d been up on a ladder (without a shirt; those of us who have it flaunt it), or crawling around the light rack. In the half dozen evenings after rehearsals we ’d gone out for beer, I ’d never been sure if he was gay or straight. Over the phone, he explained they were putting him out of his Avenue C apartment at the end of the week. 

I asked: “How much do you need to make up the rent?” 

When he said, “Four months,” I laughed out loud. (The rent on his squalid Alphabet City digs was, I learned in that phone call, six hundred a month higher than my rent-stabilized three-bedrooms-plus-living-room-and-kitchen.) “Come on up here—take a cab. You can crash with me awhile. I’ll wait for you downstairs.” 

“Are you sure?” 

“Sure I’m sure.” 

Standing on cracked pavement beneath clouds and lisping hickories, as I fingered in my hip pockets for loose bills to pay the turbaned driver through the front window, a guy slid slowly from the cab’s rear door. The twenty-seven-year-old assistant light-man I ’d remembered had flared from the waist into a wide chest and big shoulders. He ’d had an open, rosy face. Now Hardy was straight up and down. The muscles were still there—but smaller and deployed in different proportions. He was still the big, rough-handed fellow who looked like he ’d done more physical labor than just hanging lights. His hair was longer, had some gray I didn’t recall, and his face had emptied. He still smiled, still a handsome guy—only instead of seeming five years younger than he was, now he looked six years older. 

Upstairs, I carried his heavy knapsack into my living room and put it on the rug by the wingchair—all he ’d wanted to take from East Ninth. Then we sat and talked. 

During that overcast afternoon, I learned, nine days before in Hardy’s bed, Hardy’s lover, Nock Marquez, a coal-black Tennessee-born bastard who loved to fuck—Frodoushky’s yearning description—had died. 

Between us, on the coffee table’s glass, the Damascus cover showed the Lady and the Stranger prowling against the black scarves blowing about the Mylar-covered arches with which the director/production designer, Sam Montel, had created the monastery’s moonlit colonnades. Glancing at it now and again, Frodoushky explained how, six years ago, when they ’d been hitching around the southwest, he and Nock had met and, that night, had sex in a torn sleeping bag in a hobo camp under a southern Colorado highway. They ’d been together most of the time since. Nock had been the product of four different foster homes and one year in an Alabama pen for pilfering a six-pack from a country grocery store. While Hardy had a set of little-theater tech jobs, starting at age twenty-three, sometimes in Cincinnati, sometimes in Minneapolis–St. Paul, and sometimes here in New York, Nock had been doing kennel work for a woman in Queens who trained guard dogs—till he ’d gotten too sick. He ’d also done some theater work. “Somehow there were all sorts of people I knew that Nock never met. Six years we were together. Six years—Christ, those six went fast!”

“You were together when I met you?”

“Were we ever!” Hardy grinned. “That’s probably why I didn’t mention him. Oh—” he said, as if remembering: “We had an . . . open relationship, I guess you ’d call it.” 

I thought: Now you tell me . . . !

In small green italics The, Road, and to overlapped the gold-foil D on Damascus—whose reflective three-inch letters stretched across the cover, spine to edge. 

Frodoushky went on: “I feel like an idiot—” 

—someone flung gravel against my front window: that’s how it sounded. We glanced over to see droplets clinging to the pane, moving sideways, stopping, quivering, moving again. In the wind outside, it had begun to rain. Another gust outside. More droplets struck glass.

“They came and took Nock . . . when somebody dies in your apartment in the city, they send the Fire Department first. I didn’t know that. But that’s how they do. All these firemen, standing around in our kitchen. And the police—with rubber gloves and masks on, because it was AIDS. When the paramedics took him—they were pretty nice, actually. One asked me how I thought we got it. They were all in their masks. I told him, we got it from the same kid. The two of us were working together, out in Oregon—every once in a while we got to work with each other. Not enough, though. The whole bunch of us all used to fuck around with each other—it was a community of fuck-buddies. We ’d all been tested. We all had our papers. We all were negative. We just assumed his were okay, too. He said—when we realized what had happened; I mean, he fucked about six of our asses—he was so angry he had it, he wanted to give it to as many people as he could before he went . . . like a fucking kid at school!” 

Jesus, Hardy . . . !”

“Before they left, one of the paramedics asked, about Nock: ‘But he was a black guy. So he probably fooled around with drugs and needles, right?’ I said, ‘No.’ 

“The guy said, ‘But a lot of black guys do. We’ll put him down as an IV-drug abuser. That’s what they told us to do with any black fella.’ I started to say something, but the policeman said,  ‘don’t worry. It’s all right. They’ll put you down as a gay man. Because you’re white, the two of you’ll cancel each other out. It’ll be okay.’ And I was in such a daze, I didn’t figure out what they were actually doing till about six or seven hours later, when it kind of hit me—I mean Nock didn’t even smoke pot.” 

“Wow . . . !” I said. “I ’d heard about the city doctoring statistics. But I hadn’t realized—” 

“I didn’t know what to do. I tried to think of somebody who I liked, and who I thought liked me. Somebody I had some feeling for—to call. You were the fifth person I tried. The other four, in a nice way, yeah, didn’t want to hear about it. After you, I was going to move into the park for the winter—”

Hardy . . . !”

Frodoushky shrugged. 

“Well, then,” I said, “I’m glad you phoned!” Though it had only been a few nights’ yakking over bottles of Rolling Rock after rehearsal, during which I ’d paid him the perky attention you give someone you think is good-looking but you’ll never get into bed, I ’d been fond of him. I still was.

Later, walking across the living room, Hardy pulled from his hip pocket three brown and orange foil squares. “Well . . .” Standing before my non-working fireplace, he looked over at me. “I’m probably not going to be using these for a while. You want me to stick ’em in your bathroom?” Through the water running down my windows, outside was the color of lead. 

Beneath a framed poster of Eleonora Duse as Magda in Sudermann’s Heimat—Bernhardt’s only real rival by the 1890s—Frodoushky looked back.

I pointed to the green ceramic bowl on the mantel. “Put them in there. It’s where I keep mine.” Years ago, home from a “safe sex” rally at some club where they ’d been handing them out, I ’d dropped a handful in.

Hardy turned back and looked down. Like me he was a tall dude.

I asked, “What is in that . . . ?” 

He frowned. “Two paperclips, some rubber bands . . . dust.”

“Nothing else? Well—” I chuckled, wondering who ’d walked off with them, “—the truth is, I’m a lot more oral than anal.”

Wryly, Frodoushky looked over. “Lucky you.” Then he put his in. As he turned from the mantel, the polyurethaned floorboards glimmered. Then, after count three, thunder crumpled the sky.

And for seven months I lived with this nice guy from Connecticut, a part of New York’s and a few other cities’ little theater communities, who, for the past few years, had led a life his Catholic family—Welsh mother, Polish father, both dead more than a decade—had known nothing about: The city had buried Nock in the Rikers Island potter’s field. 

The first time I had to move Frodoushky into the hospital for a three-week stay, he told me, “I want the same thing. I’m serious, Scott. I know we won’t be next to each other or nothing like that—Nock and me. But I want whatever happened to him to happen to me, too. I told him that’s what I ’d do—he was so scared of being dead! Thank the universe, I’m not! But at least I can do that. And, please, promise me you’ll keep me out of my family’s clutches! You’ve got to promise me that. I don’t want to be up there with them! I just don’t want—” 

Sure! Hardy, sure! Yes . . . ! Of course.” 

It was on one of Hardy’s early good days that, shortly after I got home, he asked me, “Hey, did you actually see this thing?”

In jeans and a blue pajama jacket, with a maroon bathrobe over all (Hardy was always feeling chilly), Hardy stood by the coffee table looking down at The Road to Damascus.

“Pretty much every blessed performance.” I chuckled. “I was assistant director—as well as a wildly overpaid extra.”

“You were? Wow . . . !” Hardy spoke slowly, with surprise. “Nock told me about it a couple of times—it was back, what, in ’87, ’88 . . . ? It really impressed him.”

“Three years ago. Nineteen Eighty-Eight. Why? He got to see it?”

“Nock was on the crew. He said he was the only black guy they hired.”

“He . . . was?”

Stepping up beside Hardy, I reached down, turned back the cover and a bunch of pages, then went on flipping through till I reached the picture of me with the black fellow on one knee in the background. “Is that him . . . ?” I stepped back so he could edge forward.

Hardy looked a long time. 

Then, letting out his breath, he said, “Yeah. That’s Nock. Jesus . . . I didn’t think I ’d . . . I ’d ever see a picture of him again. I left all the pictures back on Ninth Street. I guess I was punishing myself. Do you remember him? He was . . . such a sweet guy.”

“He was a very good-looking guy,” I said. “But, no—there wasn’t that much socializing between the principals and the working stiffs—at least on that show. Most of them were summer kids fooling around with scenery and gels, waiting for someone to recognize them as the next Al Pacino or Meryl Streep. They could kind of get on the nerves of the rest of us. I don’t mean that was necessarily Nock, but—”

“It wasn’t.” Hardy looked at me and smiled. “Yeah, he was good-looking, but he wanted to be an actor even less than I did. Which is not at all, believe me.”

“Truth is, I have no memory of him whatsoever—but then I don’t remember three quarters of those kids.” I shrugged. “I remember the dog . . .”

“Nock used to work with them—dogs—when he wasn’t doing theatrical carpentry.” He pointed at my picture. “Who’s that?”

I laughed. “Have I changed that much in three years . . . ?”

“I thought it was you.” Hardy’s smile became a chuckle. I had just realized he was working to keep the conversation going, when he said, “I’m going inside.” Taking a very deep breath, he turned and walked from the living room into the hall to the bedroom, where I ’d installed him, leaving me looking down at his dead lover. 

Hardy was really tired, I know. He did that suddenly-leave-the-room thing a lot—more and more, actually. But the timing could be unsettling. Still, I knew if he had wanted to talk, he ’d simply have sat down on the couch. So I didn’t follow him, but stood there, feeling uncomfortable. 

Then I reached down and closed the book.

In April ’92, the third time he went from my place into St. Luke’s, Hardy Frodoushky died. I ’d been visiting him every other day. He ’d developed toxoplasmosis. (Only a year later, the first thing they told you was, Stay away from cats!

(Margaret downstairs had cats.

(She and Hardy had taken an immediate liking to one another; but back then what did any of us know . . . ? 

(They were finding new opportunistics every month.) But though he was always glad to see me, because of the disease’s neural damage more and more he wasn’t sure who I was. Still, I ’d promised him I ’d be with him in his hospital room when he went—only he stopped breathing the afternoon I was doing a Fujifilm commercial on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Home from the shoot, when I got the message off my box, I made a cup of drip-through coffee, didn’t drink it, and called Phyllis, Hardy’s social worker, with whom I ’d developed a pretty nice relationship—once we got it straight I was not his “primary caregiver.” 

Hardy didn’t have one: I was only a friend.

She was about to leave her office. “Look, Phyllis,” I told her, “three days from now some people who can’t afford it and for whom it’s going to be a real inconvenience will call you from Connecticut about the body. You can do them and Frodoushky a favor by getting him into Potter’s Field as soon as possible.”

“I’m supposed to wait two weeks. But I’ll pretend I didn’t get this call,” she told me, “and do it.” Actually we ’d discussed it all before. But I wasn’t sure she ’d remembered.

She had.

Three days later I phoned the Frodoushkys to say I was a friend, I ’d been away, but I ’d just found out that Hardy had died.

They held a memorial service for Hardy in Bridgeport. I went up by train. The cabbie found the right church once I told him Hardy’s people were Polish. 

In the church basement, his relatives were civil—even warm. 

Those Celtic and Slavic faces all looked like people who loved each other very much but who saw an awful lot of one another. At the back and off to the right some seven black men stood together, at least three flamboyantly gay, two chuckling quietly, the others just standing together before things got started. Going over, I overheard one diminutive cigar-colored fellow with freckles say: “Lord, it’s so sad they couldn’t get that boy up from the city, so he could be with his family.”

In a pale blue suit with a red carnation and a dead black tie, the heavy black man leaned toward the first: “No it ain’t, honey. Him and me was on the high school football team together—if you can believe that. After practice, when everybody ’d go home, I ’d fuck that white boy from one end of the locker room to the other—he loved black dick, more than anything in the world! He worshipped it—and that kinda worship could make you feel pretty good, if you happened to have one. Naw, he didn’t wanna be back up here. Once I helped him bandage some bruises and cuts his uncle, what he lived with after his momma passed, put all over his hips and ribs. And who you can see ain’t here today . . . I tell you, it almost made me cry—and that was when I was still tryin’ to do my serious butch number. Naw, he wasn’t interested in comin’ back to this place.”
“You don’ haveta tell me.” One of the others chuckled. “I’m glad as many of ’em came as what made it.”

I thought about saying something friendly, but it hit me, this was my first—and probably my last—trip to Bridgeport. Besides, other than an occasional hug, that was it for my and Hardy’s physical relationship. 

One black guy got up to speak: a warm, funny talk about his three months’ rooming with Frodoushky in the early eighties, which had us all chuckling and recognizing a lot of our own Hardy in his—except one sixteen- or seventeen-year-old girl cousin, who, for about three minutes, wept in the back loud enough to make five or six of us look around. At the end, though, I hadn’t the faintest idea if this guy and Hardy had been lovers or as platonic as . . . well, as Hardy and me. But then, nothing gay had been mentioned from the podium at any time during the service—including AIDS.

Returning from Connecticut to my Upper West Side apartment, I phoned Margaret downstairs and left a message on her machine saying I ’d tell her about the memorial if she wanted. It had been crunch month at the biannual photographic catalog where she was production manager, and she ’d been sick—sincerely so, I believe—that she hadn’t been able to take the day off and go up with me. I took another sip of coffee and still felt as if I were relaxing for the first time in more than half a year. Two hours later Phyllis phoned to say that Hardy’s family never had called about the body. 


As I hung up, I actually thought: what a shame to die at twenty-nine—a birthday that had occurred four days before his death, but which we ’d never reminded Hardy he ’d had. Till then, I guess, I ’d been too busy trying to keep Frodoushky alive, as though I could do it with pure want and will. 

Other than standing him up for his death, as it were, I still feel I did right by Hardy. The fact is, though, I don’t think about him much.

Now and then, I remember: the second time I took him into St. Luke’s, when he was admitted through the emergency room, I learned Hardy was terrified of needles. As they started to put an IV into the back of his hand, he went limestone white. And twice, seconds before a shot, he ’d fainted. 

I remember, too: three weeks before his third and final hospitalization, he ’d worked eight days as Rita Ormsby’s lighting assistant—though he didn’t climb any ladders. He gave me his whole $450 check. (Rita knew he needed it and probably padded it by a hundred.) I was touched. The fact that, sick as he was, he ’d insisted on taking the job . . . well, in my circles, that’s heroic . . .

One night at my kitchen table, two weeks after the memorial, I worked it out with a red Pentel on a notepad. Over those seven months, out of pocket, Frodoushky had cost me four thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight dollars—give or take fifty. That’s not discounting the $250 a month Phyllis had finally been able to get him for the last three. (But which she ’d been unable to make materialize for coal-black Nock. Once she ’d explained: “It’s because there were two of them. It kept coming up that each of them had somebody else to take care of him. And, yes, I know they were both dying . . . !” There was a lot to be grim about in Frodoushky’s story, if you felt like being grim.) Surprised it had been that much, I was still glad I ’d helped. Basically, he ’d been a good guy, and—except for some amazing messes I ’d had to scrub up from the floor and off the baseboards when he got really sick (the diarrhea, the vomiting), forgot who I was, or moaned for Nock from the bedroom—I ’d liked having him here.

It’s the heroic Frodoushky I talk about—though less and less—with our friends. The Frodoushky who blanched at needles I recall to myself and smile—also less and less.

It’s an experience I’m glad I had. It’s not something I ’d want to go through again, though.

I pretty much worked throughout the whole time, pretending to be various people I’m not.

That’s the kind of actor I am. 

The day I got back from my shoot after his memorial service, I opened the Damascus book and looked at the picture of Nock Marquez—and the dog. It was still on the coffee table, unmoved. 

Sitting on the couch, I turned to the back, where, among the last pages, in nine-point microtype they ’d put an alphabetical listing of everyone involved in the production, cast, crew, and administration. I ran a forefinger down the list—and there it was: “Marquez, Nock, carpenter’s assistant & dog wrangler.” That made me frown. Was it a joke, a mistake, an oversight, or some idea of Sam’s, abandoned before we even began rehearsals? 

No dogs had been involved in that production—I would have remembered that—and the large black stray certainly couldn’t have counted. 

Once more I closed The Road to Damascus. 

What I want to tell you about, though, began in March of  ’93, when I was forty-one, before Metrocards, when there were still bus and subway tokens, before protease inhibitors and DVDs and Viagra, when Walkmen still used tape cassettes and Discmen hadn’t been thought of, when, all over the land, Tower Records had the best selections, both classical and pop, before Bill Clinton had glimpsed Monica Lewinsky, and while, here and there on the FM music stations, you ’d hear some occasional rapid-fire lyrics, chanted rather than sung, and not every black working class—nor white—adolescent male was wandering around in jeans low enough to expose the top six inches of his boxers, and in a few neighborhoods, those who were weren’t wearing boxers or anything else under those low-hung denims and were displaying four to six inches of black or white plumbers’ crack, cooling through the evening, daring anyone to do something about it, and getting into trouble because of it: and despite Morgan Freeman’s playing one every third film, before anyone conceived of the possibility of America having a black president, before FaceBook, before a foreign oil company (BP—British Petroleum), already the largest profit-making corporation in the country, spilled millions on millions of gallons of raw oil into the Gulf every day for three months, changing the Gulf’s ecology forever, and probably the world’s, then started a decade-long tv and magazine ad campaign to convince us they were as American as Texas, apple pie, and shrimp gumbo (and were successful at it, too), when most of the country that owned computers was on dial-up, and before iPads and smartphones—

—and eleven months after Hardy.




This Short Day of Frost and Sun is published with the help of a Grant-in-Aid from the Mapless Trust


Samuel R. Delany was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame in 2016 and received the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021. A filmmaker, novelist, and critic, he is the author of Nova (Doubleday, 1968), Dhalgren (Bantam Books, 1975), the Return to Nevèrÿon series (multiple publishers, 1979–87), and the award-winning Dark Reflections (Caroll & Graf, 2007), among many other books. Currently, he lives in the Fairmount district of Philadelphia with his partner, Dennis.