A Paean For The Goblin King
After my last sweet visitor had headed home the night of the 10th, after a perfect and beautiful birthday, full of friends and children and kindness and sweet medicine and pierogis, I sat alone at my kitchen table covered in sweet gifts and roses and flickering candles burning down low. A last glass of champagne, chuckling and weeping over heartfelt birthday messages from dear ones faraway, and then the news: The Thin White Duke had left the building. A shard of sorrow in my hands, turning it over and over like a piece of obsidian: but no shock, no disbelief. I had known, somehow, that we would all be saying goodbye soon. Of course. This day, that moment, it was his time. I could feel the deep peace of a life well lived, of a life’s work well done, and the release that follows as such a bright star breathes one last and then evaporates into everything.
Capricorn brother. I always felt an affinity, with his birthday two days before mine, and now his death coinciding with the anniversary of my birth. So I’ll never forget — as if I ever could fail to remember my admiration for that elegant elfin alien, such an otherworldly, brilliant being. So full of passion and incredible talent and preternatural grace. Him passing on my birthday felt like a very peculiar gift. I cried tears of love, gratitude and deep happiness for the gifts he shared, for every soul that he inspired. I see so many people I love struck deeply by this loss, bereft and adrift. Grief’s arrow can affix you to a moment, can paralyze you — or it can spurn you on and motivate you in powerful ways. When death strikes, I see some people get lost, sink down into themselves, get numb under blankets of apathy and depression. I see others fired up, fucking in the bathroom at the funeral, staying up all night writing songs, stories, poetry, love letters. When you beat a tomato plant or a rose bush with a stick, it will think its life is in danger. Faced with mortality, it will attempt to reproduce itself hurriedly — just in case there won’t be another opportunity. This could be it, you know? Animals do it, fish do it — and we do it. Biology and creativity — sex and death. I am hoping fervently that more of us will fall into that fevered excitement instead of a sorrowful haze.
I want to ask you to stay present with this one. Keep feeling it, keep your eyes and heart open. Let his death wake you up, make you remember what it felt like to discover that you weren’t alone, that there was an anthem for your strangeness, and a guide through the wilds of self-discovery to the cosmos within. Countless flocks of blossoming freaks found their sherpa in him: he led the way up the mountain ahead of everyone else, sure-footed, brave and indomitable, leaping from rock to rock and scaling impossibly sheer heights. He kept going, kept pushing — against all resistance, laughing in the face of fear. He made it irrelevant. Singing onstage in a mini-dress and thigh-high boots, coming out loud and proud because someone had to, goddamn it.
That man worked so, so hard. He pushed himself to the limits of his own psyche and beyond. He let himself be tempered, hammered into different shapes — constantly transforming, an alchemist of creativity. He survived the maw that consumed so many of his genius peers to become a wise old man, (but not too old). Instead, he sacrificed his alter-egos on the altar of fame, killed off the worn out personae, and continued to fashion new masks to protect the man inside, the one none of us ever met, or saw.
David Bowie was a true genius, and in true saturnine sea-goat fashion, he endured, persevered, always working, growing, manifesting — and he was richly rewarded for all his efforts, all his magic. He held the glory, he was the glory. So, how could he be just gone? No, not gone — but here, closer than ever. Now he’s everywhere, all around us, like embers floating on the wind — let his spark alight on your skin: let it burn you, mark you, scar you. Let his essence surround you, embrace you, and ignite in you that same drive, that same passion, the willingness to push off and fly. Now he is immortal. He gave you permission to be a beautiful weirdo, so don’t forget to honor him by continuing to stretch yourself past your own internal or external boundaries. Please keep doing the sacred work of connecting, keep sharing yourself with the world by doing your magic, whatever it is, with the same dedication, focus and verve that Bowie brought to the table for us to feast on. Step up into his shadow, into the hole his absence has torn in the fabric of our reality: get playful, look deep, transgress (and don’t apologize), wander far away from your comfort zone, discover those other archetypes within, and let every wild facet shine. Be willing to be uncomfortable, to be fabulous, to be both elastic and silvered steel. Do all this in thanks for the gifts he laid at our feet.
He came here to do his work, and he really fucking did it. With such great aplomb! We only have a lifetime, however long that is, to shine, to do our big work. That’s all any of of get. We are mortal. Our time here is brief. Do something righteous with what you were given: your brains and body, your imagination and your own singular perspective. Ars longa, vita brevis: art is long, and life is short. We will be listening to the songs of this poet forever. We get to keep them with us. He hasn’t truly left us at all. Feel how close he is? Do you hear the music? Sway with his spirit, dance for him. And then get to work!