But recently, the words, at least, have been restored to me--delivered by the hands of his gracious sister Nicole. A gift the worth of which I could scarcely repay if she would even entertain the offer.
So, what can I say here, here in this modest forum, for what few eyes at odd times wander this way? Can I possibly say enough? Should I dare say a word? What words? Exactly, what words?
The question brings me back to Jeremy. Words. Those were the heads we banged and the bruises were no less real for being figurative. Me full of bombast and blurts, he full of meekness and subtleties. Between us in that dialectical dance, grew an ineffable intimacy comprehensible only in the viscera.
We were young poets, doing what young poets do--that is, discovering that poetry did not need us, we needed it. We needed it to excuse our penchant for looking at things through wonky glasses and to support the weight of unwieldy ideas.
And it was in those days, those two monumental years, that I was believed into being as a writer. Jeremy's belief in me turned into belief in myself. His sincerity, his devotion to the art--just as evident in his eyes as my own reflection--stood me up, dusted me off, and said get to work.
And so I wrote and blustered and spoiled my liver and along the way I made choices and lost my mentor, my nurse, my hero, my friend.
Years passed. In the meantime, he excelled as a scholar, had the soul of an explorer, and continued being what he had always been, even in the sonic-boom of my fleeting fame--he continued being the real poet. The poet with wider eyes. The poet with keener senses. The poet with more open arms. And, sadly, the one with the broken heart.
I continue to write. I've studied, I've engaged the craft, I've been tormented and delighted by the whimsy of words. But do as I can and try as I might, since the severance of our paths over ten years ago, my vision blurs when I look through those old wonky glasses and my back buckles beneath the ideas of my youth.
Three poems follow. The first was written in the days of our dance and alludes to a larger conversation between Jeremy and myself. A conversation typical of those unwieldy ones parsed beneath starry nights in Columbiana. The second was written within a week of his passing, the grief for which I rightfully suffered in silence. The third was written recently upon finishing Jeremy's posthumous collection Guard Your Speech and Letters: 30 Poems of Jeremy Lespi. [See sidebar for information on the book and regarding contributions to his legacy award.] I post these poems humbly and respectfully to honor his memory and share my heart.
To A Friend Before I Forget
Love’s tyranny is so complete that even when it’s gone
We’re scared to feel other things.
Where the sleight of hand becomes so slight
It neighbors real sorcery is where the poetry
Finally smells the animal musk of real life.
The lines that separate are dental floss thin.
Ready to cross at a moment’s indiscretion,
One fell tremor and we are in.
But being close is sometimes as good as being there
Because urgency’s more satisfying than achievement
Because as soon as you’re there--
The end zone, the championship, the heaven,
The fight is done and every purpose is wrung from the sponge of our toil,
Our stalactite patience crumbles from the ceiling and showers the ground
At our Undoer’s feet.
To a Friend, Though He’ll Never Know, but Before I Forget
Reminder: Love is blind, deaf, dumb,
Paraplegic and suffers migraines.
Suffers all in the paleness of cloudy
Days perhaps spent dancing
On the crumbling shoals.
Suffers the palpitant annoyances of its own
Decay. Like your heart,
Your real one. I loved
Your heart—your real one.
That flesh-fused, bleeding but briefly,
And eventually shit-headed, assassin
Heart of yours.
Love being what I said,
I hope mine only injured, never
Murdered. Because yours believed
Me into being. We danced the crumbling
Shoals and wetted our ankles in the creek, laughing
Because the lives we were speaking of were so
Obscene, humiliating, sacred, and deep dug down
through the heated core, down,
more deep down
Into the starry lake beneath.
Sestina for a Friend, Two Years Too Late
A melancholy comes with yellow-birds
That vanity swore we could lift with words
Accustomed more often to twisted shapes
And sentiments, more to what separates
The angles, by orders of magnitude,
At the extremes of our hypotenuse.
I call our growth apart, Hypotenuse—
The yawning of us since the yellow-birds
Came whistling of sadness’s magnitude.
With notebooks on our laps like infants, words
Like colicky complaints, we separates,
Once one, began to form our disparate shapes.
Of all that fashions and of all that shapes,
What most will lengthen the hypotenuse
Is the sobriety that separates
The wasted poets from the yellow-birds.
Such subtler creatures, unlike wasted words,
Disguise the barrenness of magnitude
With seeming praise for that same magnitude.
With their color, with their songs, with their shapes—
Each argue the case well. Funny, no words
Are called for. Funny, no hypotenuse
Can threaten the feathers of yellow-birds.
They fly unconscious of what separates,
Unbridled by the yokes we separates,
Then one, once mistook for mere magnitude—
The lachrymal bond of those yellow-birds.
Recall it was the day you showed me shapes
That poems can make, the hypotenuse
One forms by slowing the rhythm of words.
But it was not what we said (not our words
Scratched on flimsy paper) that separates
Us now. This widening hypotenuse,
Our overestimated magnitude
Propelled into eternity, now shapes
The heart-bursting song of yellow-birds
Into a magnitude of blathered words.
Hypotenuse separates mirrored shapes
and along its length are the yellow-birds.