Patti Smith is a badass!. She has touched the lives of people everywhere (including mine) with her many art forms, so to her I dedicate a post every Wednesday. This is a piece she wrote for Interview Magazine in 1992 recalling times spent with Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and Richard Sohl along with a photo of Patti and Robert taken by Warhol himself. Enjoy!
by Patti Smith
It is the immutable hour. The still, somnolent hour of God. The snow is falling and aroused by dream I slip into my coat and enter the last breath of night. Not a bit of wind, not a bird upon the branch to greet me. Only the mute thrum of flakes upon my face covering everything- shoulders, sky, the path before me with the color of snow. And I am reminded of the hair of certain men – of the silky strands of de Kooning; of Sandburg, Frost, and the beard of Whitman.
The moon arrays the field – a wide pallium of white velvet-I do not wish to cross and mar with my step. So I stand for a long time looking down at my faithful boots and my long, dove-colored coat. I have always loved a good coat, and my preoccupation with a sleeve or the detail of a vent can carry me away.
I remember wearing this same coat the night Andy Warhol died. It was February. Snow was falling and I was walking very fast. As I passed a small churchyard surrounded by an iron gate I realized I was chanting a prayer to the beat of my feet. I hurried on. I was due at the recording studio and I was late, for I had been talking to Robert. He called, in great distress, to tell me Andy was dead.
“He wasn’t supposed to die,” he cried out, somewhat desperately, somewhat petulant, like a spoiled child. I could hear other thoughts racing between us.
“neither are you”
“neither am I”
I could hear him hearing me. We didn’t say anything. We hung up reluctantly.
“I am with you.”
“I am with you.”
Walking. I suddenly felt very happy. It was a beautiful evening. Cold and clean. The snow, which had been falling lightly, now fell with great force. I wrapped my coat about me. I was in my fifth month and the baby moved inside me.
“It’s snow, little baby, snow.”
It was warm and glowing in the studio. Richard, beloved pianist, left his post to make me coffee. The musicians assembled. It was our last night recording till the baby came. My husband said a few words about Andy. Then we made ready and performed the song – a structured, improvised spirited argument-talking communion. In the center of it I held the image of a swan – pale and sounding – a trumpeter swan.
We were pleased with our work. Everyone said good-bye and a few remained. Hearn, our percussionist, sat cross legged on the floor with some rare uncommon instruments resembling Moroccan pie plates. Richard sat at the keyboards. My husband played guitar. I left them there, in desert twilight, and slipped outside into the New York night. The snow had ceased falling and it seemed like the whole of the city, in remembrance, had been covered in an undisturbed layer of snow – white and fleeting as Warhol’s hair.
Some months later Robert was commissioned to photograph Andy’s house. He disliked interiors but agreed, saying, “If I’m going to do one it might just as well be his – at least he was a genius.”
Robert, entering a dressing closet, found to his surprise rows of white wigs, some of human hair, some doll’s hair, and all evoking the shy radiance of their master. So much so that Robert imagined if he were to photograph one against his black drop, in his meticulous light, that he would have a true portrait of the artist with all his soft black humor entwined in that wonderful hair – like the wild threads of a fairy godmother.
Everything dissipates, commingles with dawn. First Andy died. Then Robert. And then, quite suddenly without a word, Richard followed. It is time, I think, to walk across the field. The snow failing very fast fills my steps. No one will know I passed over. For there is none but a shroud of snow stained in memory, graced with mourning light.