The Death of Hart Crane

  1. Sir / Madam,
  2. I was intrigued by the letter from a reader in your last issue that recounted
  3. his meeting, in a bar in Greenwich Village in the mid-sixties, a woman who
  4. claimed to have been a passenger on the Orizaba on the voyage the boat made
  5. from Vera Cruz to New York in April of 1932, a voyage that the poet Hart Crane
  6. never completed. According to her Crane was murdered and thrown overboard
  7. by sailors after a night of such rough sex that they became afraid (surely wrongly)
  8. that he might have them arrested when the boat docked in Manhattan. This
  9. reminded me of a night in the early seventies on which I too happened to be
  10. drinking in a bar in Greenwich Village. I got talking to an elderly man called
  11. Harold occupying an adjacent booth, and when the conversation touched on
  12. poetry he explained, somewhat shyly, that he had himself published two
  13. collections a long time ago, one called White Buildings in 1926, and the other,
  14. The Bridge, in 1930. I asked if he’d written much since. ‘Oh plenty,’ he replied,
  15. ‘and a lot of it much better than my early effusions.’ I expressed an interest
  16. in seeing this work, and he invited me back to his apartment on MacDougal
  17. Street. Here the evening turns somewhat hazy. I could hear the galloping strains
  18. of Ravel’s Boléro turned up loud as Harold fumbled for his keys. Clearly some
  19. sort of party was in progress. At that moment the door was opened from within
  20. by another man in his seventies, who exclaimed happily, ‘Hart! — and friend!
  21. Come in!’ The room was full of men in their seventies, all, or so it seemed,
  22. called either Hart or Harold. The apartment’s walls were covered with Aztec
  23. artefacts, and its floors with Mexican carpets. It dawned on me then that Hart
  24. Crane had not only somehow survived his supposed death by water, but that his
  25. vision of an America of the likeminded was being fulfilled that very night,
  26. as it was perhaps every night, in this apartment on MacDougal Street. At the
  27. same instant I realized that it was I, an absurd doubting Thomas brought face
  28. to face with a miracle, who deserved to be devoured by sharks.
  29. Yours faithfully,
  30. Name and address withheld