I can never write Dear Chris without thinking of Berrigan's sonnets.
5am. The true witching hour. Or maybe the angel hour. I just woke from
a dream. I was setting up an office space with my friend Brian (you
might vaguely remember him from the wedding) and you had sent over a
large artwork (6' by 6') as a gift for the office. I was horrified to
find that the frame was broken when some janitor tried to jam it into a
closet. The canvas could possibly be saved I thought, but I was afraid
to tell you about it, and was wondering how I was going to do it.
I can't remember what the piece looked like.
I walked back into the actual office and Brian was sitting behind a
desk. He told me you had sent some more pieces to choose from. There
were 5 large works.
The first was a drab Baconian painting of two
girls in a hot tub. One of the girls had her back to the viewer. She
was sitting close to the other girl who was facing forward. The second
girl had her eyes closed with an expression of pain, or maybe pleasure,
pleasurepain, on her face. What was happening was mysterious. There was
the feeling that something was going on under the water. It was sexy and
emotional and slightly disturbing. Beautiful.
second piece you had somehow transferred a GIF to the canvas. The moving
image was of a girl being pulled away at a party from several of her
girlfriends. She had that look of both reluctance and willingness, a
laughing, embarrassed, tipsy look that said, sorry, I guess I have to go
over here now. The girl was played by Alicia Silverstone. (Wow, I
thought, Chris is working with bigtime actresses now.)
third piece was framed behind a screen door. It was just a single word,
perfectly placed. After waking I tried to remember the word, but
couldn't recall it. My waking-up mind wanted it to be "forge." But no,
that wasn't it.
The fourth piece was a wash of grays.
Suddenly you were there in the room and I said, "I didn't know you painted" and you just nodded.
fifth piece was an explosion of overlapping particolored pinwheels. In
each little sliver of pinwheel was a handwritten word in an 80's faux
computer font. It was dazzling and I would have liked to have spent
hours with it.
I woke up.
Sorry it's been
awhile since I have written. I was hurt when I asked for help with the
review of my friend's show and you didn't respond. That was the straw
anyway, on top of a chain of other things that I've forgotten about
now. It's all fine now. I regret letting so much time pass before
reaching out. But I didn't have much to report anyway.
Life is good. I've been in focused dad mode.
written plenty over the last few years, but it mostly goes unread.
Hopefully I'll manage to get some of it out there into the world, but
I'm not so good at that part. The book for Anselm is finished. Long
story, but should be coming out in the fall. We'll see. Threw a reading
series with my friend Tyler Burba that you would have loved. I'll tell
you all about it sometime.
yesterday you drowned,
a victim of a malady
not of your own making,
so glad i was your friend.
wish i had been better.
where are you?
don't want to just feel you,
i want you here.
i want to see you smile
i want to hear your music
want to float on the melancholy
melody of your river-like
play along upon a skiff,
drift with you to the sea.
i don't want you
to just be a memory.
i remember all the way back to mike
(later you would change your name to mikhal
in honor of your polish
mike, rocking out to
jane's addiction. you were cock sure,
a business school tycoon,
a european fashion model wanna be,
a ladies man in the making, all
sinewy muscles and hair gel.
this was some previous you, though.
he left to make room for who you became
(an unlikely hero, as alex put it)
dr. lee's eastern philosophy class?
(he was a true buddhist and you began to wake up)
did i help? yes, i'm sure i must of,
all of my mother's love for other
and all of my father's love for self
channeled through me
so, though i was uncooked, unrefined,
still i could offer you something.
(i failed you more often than i was there.
and what is it that you became?
a poet, a mind so attuned to magic
that linear thinking would not contain you.
your prose was ripped through with
of syntax, incomplete
professors all failed you.
none (save lee) could see
that you were merely
in this way, too, i was there for you.
i could see that the truth you were after,
the truth you often found, was deeper
than the shallow rules, more round
than the square pegs you were trying
to fit into. only poetry could contain
all that color, all that light. but there
was shadow too, demons i could never
fathom. when they came to the surface
it was too terrible and awesome to face.
where did they come from? your mother's
suppression of her depression? your father's
anger? your intolerance for intolerance?
and who knows what chemical concoctions
arose from your dna, from the epilepsy.
perhaps there was even some real demon
attached to you, haunting you, a metaphysical
disease tenaciously holding onto your soul,
perhaps even the spector of pure evil, if such
thing exists. i always refused to believe it did,
despite my superstitious intuition. i always refused to
accept the fear if i noticed a bias influencing
my love for you. still, i often failed.
though these monstrous, terrible forces
working in you were more than i could handle,
i refused to accept them. this enabled me
to stick around for the long run, allowed me
to stay objective. still, there were walls.
your epilepsy, too, changed you.
you became obsessed with finding
a natural cure, disdaining western medicine,
even, it seemed to us, if it would kill you.
we hated this stupidity in you, but could not
help but admire your courage in the face of death.
your philosophies slowly changed as the methods did,
but since nothing seemed to work you adopted a stoic optimism.
you began to view the seizures as a blessing. you were grateful
(as long as no asshole cops were arresting you upon recovery,
as long as there was no sirens in your face) for the chance to be
for you did become a child again after the electrical storm in your
scrambled all of your memory. everything was glorious in the natural
state to which you awakened. this constant reminder of the true
beauty of the world was part of your wisdom, your simple
love of an apple, the mountains, your friends.
you once told me, pre-epilepsy, that you wished
the mind could be better organized, that memory
should be more effectively indexed. in this way you
could reference the information you needed by, say,
pushing the correct button. as if the countless desiderata
of each moment could be labelled!
the irony is that with each successive seizure
you would lose more and more memory. and then,
truly, you had to turn to a more organized memory aid,
a pen and paper, or to me, keeper of many of your
most strange and beautiful memories.
(i have no memory more intense, for instance, than your
melt down in the mountains of ecuador.)
you fought hard to maintain mental coherence
(you were eating high octane brain food,
twelve bucks a can, on the last day i saw you.
and though you were less hazy than normal,
nearly clear, still, you were trying to sell
the nuts and berries to me as some sort
of multi-marketing pyramid scheme. i
wasn't buying. you even made the mistake
of quoting bible passages that seemed to tout
the miracle mix. i had to gently tell you why not.)
and, perhaps to counter the failing of your mind,
you kept your body in maximum condition.
you were the only person i ever knew who
could spend hours running up and down mountains.
you were physically beautiful, had a stunning feline grace.
you had a beautiful style, too, in which form always followed function
and yet still managed to keep ahead of fashion,
otherworldly, future primitive.
there were strange experimentations with your facial hair, usually
with striking results (though shaving your eyebrows
was probably a bad idea. i applaude your
courage, though, in trying it. you had that...edge.)
your aquiline, angular face was a perfect setting for
your piercing blue eyes. the icy blue of your eyes
seemed to match the burning intensity of your gaze.
your gaze was more than polite folk
could take. as brice put it,
you wanted to establish
an immediate relationship
with others in the real.
you would want to immediately
be true and naked. polite society
could never understand this. they
were too invested in their invisible armor.
so you were ostracized, too much to bear.
sometimes you even became aggressively antagonistic.
this was sincere for you, as was almost everything else.
you were nothing, if not rigorously honest.
what caused that love for truth?
it was one of the things i most loved about you.
i try to stand back and see your death as the natural
of life, try to be objective. but your very uniqueness won't allow
for it. i cannot accept the loss. who else, but you, will so fully
appreciate how beautiful she is? i'm losing it. my thoughts
are becoming a jumble. why is it i never missed you
a tenth as much as i miss you right now?
as if all my love were condensed
in the heartbreak of this moment.
is it because i always thought
i had tomorrow to appreciate you?
ah, well, i'll imortalize you in poetry
(if in the illusions of my mind only)