That He Was

Quicksilver turn of a key in the lock—slee-slocket—
and his presence filled the house in an instant
like the bolt of lightning
that he was.

Out of him darted plans and suggestions
to dine, to do, to shop, to see, to make, to change,
something for everyone, nothing for him
except the tremendous thrill of being the enabler
that he was.

One passive hour of mindless relaxation
to rest the ceaseless motor of brain, muscle, blood and sweat
that made him the quiet plotter of a zillion dreams,
experimenter with a million schemes,
that he was.

Shoulders to bear loads, hands to hold steel,
heart made for crises, chest to take gunfire,
a profound gift for love and loyalty forged the sheet-anchor
that he was.

Of stones, of danger, of privation, of work, of people,
knowing no fear, certainly not of words,
yielding only to the compulsion to speak his mind,
ignorant of calculus, unafraid of consequence
that he was.

Quick to anger, quick to cool, quick to grasp, quick of wit,
quick with words, quick with deeds, quick with tools, quick with seeds,
quick to eat, quick to drink, quick to sleep, quick to think,
quick to trust—quickly deceived,
quickly set, quick to life, quick to die. Quicksilver
that he was.

Ten years and counting, since he is gone.
The photographs are fading, the memories are not.
One life for us, one life to give, still no accounting of how he did live.
When history is written, his life is as nought.
The living give the dead no further thought.
No one can recall the colossus in the rooms of their past!
Without gratitude, no gift can last.

I look for him in the pages of the book.
This book. That story. This record. That documentary.
Of a life so fully lived, so filled with love, so full of graces,
oddly enough, there are no traces.
Clean-washed as his last shirt, is his presence from every page.
Not fitting here, not fitting there, set aside like an extra dining chair.
If the purpose of life, his life, was to give, give and give,
should there not be signs of the fact that he ever lived?
Should the universe not reflect our own profound loss?
I ask all these questions, not out of rage
but because I don’t find him on any page
of a book whose story he helped to create
with every moment of feeling, every impulse to act.
More than forty years of caring and daring, to do and to speak,
ten years after he is gone, the world has forgotten
that he ever was.

As a post-script, this I must add:
If living was giving, to him it was also motion.
To ponder these things, to him would be a silly notion.
He would dismiss his effacement as insignificant,
getting on with his work,
leaving hurt no time to fester as wound.

The words he wanted to write, the stories he wanted told
will now forever remain on hold.
All we will have are remembrances of the man,
a chance to live like him to the extent we can.
At the end of the day, the balm for his loss
is in mimicking the humane human being
that he was.

October 31, 2005
His seventy-seventh birthday

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