Monday, June 07, 2010

Carla's memorial was amazing. More like one of her benefit concerts than a funeral, complete with beautiful music by her "guys," David Rokeach, John Burr and John R., and by Kaila Flexer, and W. Allen Taylor, and two jazz standards sung by her brother Jason (who knew he was such a great singer!) plus one of her original songs sung by Maclen.

It's when Maclen was singing that I personally lost it. She had wanted her memorial to be more laughs than tears, and on balance, I believe it was, although who is holding the scales at a time like that? She'd also instructed her women friends to dress as if for the funeral of an ex-husband whom they were suspected of murdering, i.e. tacky and tawdry and sexy.

Her caregivers did their best, in red lipstick, tight dresses, and outrageous hats. They sat in a row together, sipping at bottles of Budweiser in brown paper bags and alternately laughing and sobbing in each others' arms.

I read a poem by, well, me, which Carla had asked me to do a few weeks before she died. Allen Taylor read a beautiful poem by Naomi Shihab Nye called "Happiness," which perfectly epitomized Carla's spirit and her unconditional joy.

Carla was a huge and serious lover of poetry. True, she had an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and cheesy television shows, including The Mod Squad and 24. True she could recite many many SNL skits verbatim. But she also had read and deeply contemplated so many poems by Rumi and Hafiz and Naomi Shihab Nye and others that she could quote them at length--and of course she had memorized vast tracts of Shakespeare. I often inflicted "hot off the press" poems on her as I was working on them, and she was always enthusiastically receptive.

Here's the link to the news bit about her memorial. Only a tiny portion of her "farewell video from Heaven" is excerpted on the TV program. There's a lot of it that could never be broadcast on a regular station due to the language: ("Look! There's JFK and Marilyn, f*&%king on that cloud!") It makes me chuckle to think of the television execs viewing the footage and trying to find two minutes without profanity that they could actually use. I imagine (I hope) a complete version of the video will be made available on Youtube or on her blog at some point. But for now here's a taste:

And here is the poem I read for Carla--it's one I had written about watching her perform way back in '08 not many months after she her diagnosis of ALS was confirmed. It's in my book, See How We Almost Fly (Pearl Editions.)

Tuesday night at Yoshi’s
for Carla, recently diagnosed

Onstage, your hair’s vermilion, your white
shoulders bathed in piano and saxophone.
Everything shimmers, even the jokes about dying.

Down in the dark, glasses clink.
Tuesday night
gleams and hushes to a halt.

We’re listening to you
bright bird, like you’re our last
drop of blood whispering the secret
we always wanted to hear. We’re on the edge
of what we can stand
to take in, and still leaning forward.

Even the stars overhead, bright
ice-chips melting on a black backdrop
freeze for a little moment. As if they knew.


Anonymous said...

thanks for posting this, alison. and for the link to the news piece. your poem is beautiful. i wish i could have been at the service. rest in peace carla. we all love you...

p.s. i do have "See How We Almost Fly" - amazing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Allison. I didn't know Carla in person and, thus, not able to attend the memorial. My thoughts were with her and her mourners on Saturday. It is generous of you to post this, esp. the link to the TV clip. It allowed me, as you say, to get a taste of her.

I hope you are right, that her memorial video will get out: perhaps in "Leave Them Laughing"?

I'll certainly be looking for opportunity to see the documentary about her.

I am sorry you lost your friend.