I can’t open my e-mails. I need to clean out my inbox, but I can’t see his words right now. He died yesterday. I loved him.
His poetry group was the first place where I openly came out about my schizophrenia. Even with that, he once told me I was one of the clearest thinkers he knew.
He never judged me. He never treated me as less than. He was a champion of my poetry and prose. He wrote me a letter for graduate school. I got accepted.
When graduate school turned out to be a joke, he felt personally responsible for encouraging me to try the program. Of course, the problem with the program had nothing to do with him. I applied to another school. He wrote another letter. I got accepted.
He published my poems in Serving House Journal, and accepted a poem for The Reader that was supposed to come out this month. I don’t know if it ever will. I wish it would, so I could hold on to the memory that he believed in me.
That’s it. He was a successful writer, and teacher, and he believed in me.
Of course, he believed in hundreds and hundreds of people, but all of us felt as if we were the only one. He had that knack. He possessed the ability to make every writer, mostly poets, he encountered feel as if they were special, and he gave all of us his attention.
He wrote endless letters, and endorsements, and gave feedback continuously on the poems that flooded his inbox. I don’t think he believed in God, but I believe enough for both of us, and if there is an inbox in heaven, his is already full of poems from all his poetry friends he told me went before him. He is reading poetry. I am sure of it.
And making jokes, and serving snacks to everyone, “Here, try one of these. Have some. Take some home.”
Home, he is home now, or at least that is what people say. I thought his home was with us. He was always a natural wherever he was. Laughing. Joking. Laughing. Joking. He freely gave out good, sound writing advice, all kinds of advice on how to live, and be a writer.
He wanted us all to succeed, and the funny thing is he made us all feel like we had.
I had no confidence as a writer when I met him. I wouldn’t even call myself that. I was just someone who wrote an occasional poem. He built me up, block by block. I have a business card now that has the word, writer, printed on it.
He gave me that, and so much more.
Good-bye my friend, my mentor. I have to keep pushing on, because that is how you would have wanted it. “Do it!” “Go for it!” “That’s a great idea!” “You are so smart!”
Your words will now have to hold me over until we meet at the next poetry workshop, the one where you’ll need to introduce me all over again.
You are among the greats now.