The Gift

My friend Lowell Boyers, the painter, was named after the poet Robert Lowell. Painter-Lowell’s father edits Salmagundi, and lots of poets came through the Boyers’s place in Saratoga Springs in those days—late Sixties, early Seventies—probably still do. Little Lowell hadn’t met this particular poet though, so one night, when he was about five, he was summoned downstairs for an introduction. He was heading in his pajamas to the room where his parents were, when he found the poet Lowell standing in the dining room, smoking a cigarette in the dark.

You must be my namesake (or something), the poet said.

Yes (or something), Lowell replied, and stood there, not knowing what else to do.

I should have brought you something, the poet continued, but I didn’t. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change.

Lowell took it. I imagine him carrying it away in his cupped hands like a person carrying the last water, or maybe a goldfish destined for freedom, little-boy style.