Ode to Abe Vigoda

By Michael Dorr

In a life spanning just ninety-four years
you perished more frequently than Mark Twain;
yet, somehow you would always reappear.
Stooped and sagging, you would never complain
about the dismaying difficulty
of getting auditions when You Are Dead
or about the starker reality
that your Greatest Role is being Not Dead. 
And if, perchance, you happen to doubt me,
feel free to check out Wikipedia.
Mistaken deaths is its focus, you'll see.
Just take a look under Abe Vigoda.
Yes, Good Abe, you were—and are—so much more
than Sgt. Fish and his sunken-eyed stare
or the ever-pragmatic Salvatore
greeting his end free of panicked despair.
Born of Jewish immigrants from Russia,
a Brooklyn boy who died in New Jersey
but made a living in California,
you have now crossed into Eternity—
Still you'd say, “I'm not dead yet, you pinhead!
My face is unique, horse long and dreary.
Sad eyes filled with hundreds of hounds unfed,
I will live on syndicated TV!
“Also in my family's memory—
my daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandson.
What's your definition of Victory?
I know what I've lost and know what I've won.”
Doomed worlds resting on your hunched back no more—
now lighter than an origami crane—
know dying celluloid can be restored
and the itchy cause of hemorrhoids explained,
but you'll always live, Breathless as Buddha,
White-Sale Crazy as Shiva on a Spree,
Master of Death Spurned and Perfect Pasta,
Longtime Messiah of the World Weary.
Consumed by Existential Angina,
you soldiered (shuffled) on, never a bore,
placid as a rock-garden pagoda,
until you slipped into death with a snore.
It's an Open Call!  Step into the Sun!
Fuck People magazine and fuck Yoda!
Your real career has only just begun.
After all, you are The Abe Vigoda.
For those who still breathe—say a little prayer.
I regret you did not live to read this,
but don't be surprised if a Voice declares,
“Always liked you.  It was Only Business.”

Published February 22nd, 2016

Poet, writer, editor, former publisher, educator, cultural critic, and (briefly) a gravedigger, Michael K. Dorr is a Phi Beta Kapa cum laude graduate of Hofstra University, where he studied film, theater, history, anthropology, and astrophysics.  He is co-editor of MILES ON MILES: Interviews and Encounters with Miles Davis.  He lives in Brooklyn, New York with a Rhodesian Ridgeback runt named Trixie Maybeline.