passages

Bill Berkson (1939–2016)

Bill Berkson and Frank O’Hara in 1961. Photo: Kenward Elmslie.

I FIRST MET Bill Berkson as one of his students at the New School of Social Research in New York. We became friends and later some of our correspondences became the book What’s Your Idea of a Good Time (2006). Before Bill died, we were having a discussion of the meaning of the phrase “the bee’s knees.” We thought it must mean something like: there’s nothing else like it, or it’s so rare, it doesn’t exist. But then, somebody told me that bees have a pocket, right where their knees would be, to carry the honey back to the hive and if you can see it closely, it’s red. I wonder what Bill would make of that?

Bernadette Mayer is a poet based in upstate New York.

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