My Biographer

Harrison Fisher

     I die suddenly, leaving an unattended literary
estate small enough so that I had never thought seriously
about its care, but large enough now to demand a
literary executor.

     The court appoints an unknown, someone none
of my friends or relatives have heard of. He assumes
the job confidently, and seems to be quite capable,
if a little too knowledgeable about me.

     With the aid of a co-conspirator, he leads the
estate from one phony legal imbroglio to another. No
fraud is too outrageous in his thunderous drive to
bankruptcy.

     With no liquid assets, commissioning a writer to
produce the authorized biography is out of the question.
The executor uses this excuse to take on that task
himself, suggesting it is a labor to repay his mismanagement.
Eight years later, the authorized biography is published.

     Where, in life, I was kind and gentle, he describes
my capacities to hate, to gossip, to injure. Where I
was generous and encouraging, he states quite matter-of-
factly that I jealously coveted everything around me.
Where I was strong, he demonstrates how adept a crawler
I was.

     And, as if to argue against the few good poems that
remain from my work, he produces the text of a so-called
"lost manuscript," poems I supposedly wrote which show how
erratic, largely uninspired, and, actually, lousy a poet I
was. Of course, these poems he dummied himself, so bad
they could only be so with reason.

     Historians who go in for such minutia eventually
untangle my unpublished works from his, but they never do
understand why someone so obviously committed to drag me
into disrepute subsequently assumed my identity in his last
years, an imitation so perfect only lunacy could maintain it.
I became his joke as he became an embarrassment to his family.

     Locked away for the final year of his life, he is photo-
graphed twice, the second time a week before his death. He is
asked to stop talking to himself for the duration of the pose,
leaning against an institutional wall wearing a tie they
brought him, and he complies. His last words were something
like my last words, less cursing perhaps.

 

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