Chapter 2021

It’s early January,  and the sunlight is reflecting my face back on the black screen before I turn it on, turn to thoughts of a friend who has died. It’s the third death in a matter of weeks. My boss’s mother died on January 1st. She sent me a text: “Good Morning, just letting you know my Mom passed away Friday night. I’ll talk to you Monday.” We did and she spoke with the measured circumspection of loss. Another friend’s sister, 22-years-old, cancer-ridden, had a stroke, had multiple issues, went into arrest and died right before Christmas. She’d been sitting bedside for over four months, and had years ago, after several hospital trips, come to terms with the possibility of her sister dying. “E____ passed away a few minutes ago” she texted me, 4:24, December 22nd. I called a few hours later, listening to her swirl of thought that circled the anticipation of Christmas to the anticipation of the funeral. There is anticipation and there is the absence: in my experience, the absence comes later, weeks or days, when the desire to reach out is met with the reality that that person’s simply not there.

Steve’s death also came in the form of a nighttime  text, then a check of the internet, where we actually knew one another, years before, on a poetry forum. Now, we were relegated to social media, which lets us hang onto the fringes of other’s experiences, sometimes passing a gauzed hand into their world, which we accept as connectivity .  Steve’s death struck as like Bowie’s death–something other, something perhaps untrue. I’ve been less and less of a social media user, but there was always something comforting in seeing his posts, seeing his presence in the world, as it had been back on the poetry board, unapologetic, unfailingly committed to being himself in these relative spaces.

Emails keep crossing my screen, telling me to make this my year, be it in reading, investing, health or love. My year. Another email says to stay inspired. I’ve dug up some of Steve’s poetry in an anthology from 2010. Another year. Another chapter. 

My last full interaction with Steve–not peering into his videos or hitting a “like” button –”I’m here! Did you see?!”–was when he bought my book. Late February 2019. I would’ve sent it for free but he he felt it was very important that poets get paid. Ultimately, he sent me a 20 pound note and I said that I’d save it for when I visited him, buy our first round with it. In rereading our exchanges, I’d forgotten that he’d been getting a master’s in writing.  

“One of the things I’ve really liked over the years from being involved with poetry and poets is getting signed books! I’ve also had a few from artists through doing interviews for Triggerfish.  I always really appreciate it. I should sort myself out and put a book out one of these days, but I’m very lazy about doing it myself. I just tend to stick things on my blog. Maybe I need a secretary haha.” 

I don’t have a cap to this, no aphoristic wrap-up. I miss my friend, someone who seemed eternal, and I wish I’d done more, ingrained myself further as I know, as much as I had already been, that the experience would’ve been enriching.

Published by Brendan McEntee

Poet and critic living in New York near Long Island Sound.

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