Tag Archives: death of a poet

The Bee Keeper

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A fine poet and wonderful man passed away a few days ago, just a few days before the private launch party for his newest book of poetry, The Alphabet of Longing and Other Poems. Today, I attended the memorial and celebration of life for Jim Tipton that took the place of festivities meant to be his book launch. In all, there were two hours of tributes and readings from Jim’s work. For my tribute, I wrote this brief poem in which I try to wed a number of the loves of his life: bee keeping, poetry and his appreciation of women.

 

The Bee Keeper

A keeper of words,
he was a tender man with fine vision
and a honeyed tongue adept at sharing it.

A man who loved women,
but not a ladies man,
his heart could stretch to fit everyone.

He was the one among us who knew how to see the other side.
A champion of the beleaguered,
when most found fault, he always had a kind word to say.

Words lived with him. He set them free and always grew more.
Poetry buzzed around him like bees.
He was a man who knew both bees and how to be.

 

 

Because Jim missed this party, I wanted to include these photos of him enjoying the last party I saw him at—last September’s awards luncheon for El Ojo del Lago. As you can see, he was a man who knew how to enjoy life to its fullest. Those of us who knew him through the poetry or music world, his neighbors and his family will feel the huge space left by his exit from our lives. Fly free, lovely man.

Jim’s earlier book of poetry Letters from a Stranger (with an introduction by Isabel Allende) may be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/Letters-Stranger-James-Tipton/dp/0965715922

His newest book, The Alphabet of Longing, will be available on Amazon in June.  It is presently available at Diane Pearl’s Colecciones  and Yves Restaurant in Ajijic. 

The Wall: NaPoWriMo 2018, Day 29

The prompt today is to write a poem inspired by a Sylvia Plath poem.  Below the photo is the poem I wrote. The Plath poem I chose that inspired it is given below my poem.

The Wall

I put my hand against the raw stone of the wall
and I can feel it siphoning molecules.
There is a tingling sensation
as they flow out of me.

I try to send some extrasensory
particles along with them
to communicate to me
where they go
and what they encounter there,
but I know that it is futile.

I cannot follow
where these lost parts of me go––
these thoughts, wishes,
aspirations
that I surrender to the wall.

It is not by choice, you know,
that I sit here facing what 
has  been leached out of my life.

I go on living what life I can,
knowing that in time
all of me will finally
flow into the wall.

 I’ve lost so much ambition to it—
and hope and curiosity.

So much of what has kept me engaged in life
has already  gone into that gray world
where I cannot yet follow.

Now I sit here, facing it,
acknowledging my failure
as well as the wall’s exclusivity.
Only my shadow
cast against it
reminds me that
somewhere behind me
there is a sun.

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For NaPoWriMo 2018, Day 29.

 

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                              Apprehensions

                                              — by Sylvia Plath

There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself —
Infinite, green, utterly untouchable.
Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also.
They are my medium.
The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.

A grey wall now, clawed and bloody.
Is there no way out of the mind?
Steps at my back spiral into a well.
There are no trees or birds in this world,
There is only sourness.

This red wall winces continually:
A red fist, opening and closing,
Two grey, papery bags —
This is what i am made of, this, and a terror
Of being wheeled off under crosses and rain of pieties.

On a black wall, unidentifiable birds
Swivel their heads and cry.
There is no talk of immorality among these!
Cold blanks approach us:
They move in a hurry.

Forced March

Forced March

As certain as its final outcome may be, death is maddeningly vague.  How will it happen and when? I do not like this uncertainty. I ponder its unfairness, fear its possibilities. Would it be better to know for sure and therefore to have a choice in whether we accept life’s choice for us or take our ending as firmly in our own hands as we have taken the other decisions in our life? 

Death is the only thing in our lives that is simply an absence of something else.  A meal is more than an absence of hunger.  It is sensation, texture, a combination of temperatures and tastes. Warmth is more than a cessation of cold.  It has security and depth, succor and support. Warmth cuddles us. It is round and deep and soft.  Would that we knew that death, too, was more than a deprivation. 

Certainly, religion has promises of streets of gold, a reunion with departed loved ones, a coming back to the whole, but what guarantees of the truth of religion have we? I’ve seen friends and relatives return to the faith of their younger years as they grow older, needing some comfort to cushion their inevitable slippery slide progress toward death, perhaps. But I cannot talk myself into a fairytale ending. The poet in me looks for truth over the comfort and distraction of fantasy, and it prods me to create my end as proactively as I’ve arranged those aspects of my life that have led me up to it.

In this case, creativity, however, seems to fail me.  I feel helpless in this inescapable forced march toward my end. Possibilities for the first time in my life seem limited. Is it the fatigue of a failing body that keeps me from finding interesting possibilities from which to choose?  Or is it the knowledge that whatever my choices, the ending will, inevitably, be the same? Rude death, to be at once so inevitable and yet so vague.

I’ve always hated vague endings in literature or films.  Torture for me is a book with the final pages missing. Ironic, then, that I cannot know my own ending.  Cannot flip ahead to the last page to know what I am heading toward. Perhaps this is the secret of those who choose to end their own lives.  Perhaps it is just their successful attempt to not only know their own ending but to write it as well.

 

 

The prompt today is vague.

Answered

 
What happens to someone like her as she gets older?
–from Luck, by Joan Barfoot


Answered

She loses her balance, starts to fall.
Once in the kitchen, three times in the hall.
Finds it harder to remember, spends more time alone.
Speaks her mind more freely, less likely to atone.
She starts attracting cats that come inside and do not leave.
Wears frays in her clothing–hemline, neckline, sleeve.
Starts forgetting passwords–sometimes the names of friends.
Her search for keys and glasses never really ends.
Starts waking in the nighttime to contemplate her death.
At midnight, has to go outside to try to catch her breath.
Counts the years before her instead of those behind.
She could live to one hundred if fate is being kind.

Will she live her last years with sister, lover, friend;
or will animal companions help her meet her end?
Will anybody mourn her? Does she want them to?
Will she be remembered by a poem or two?
Will anybody read her after she is dead?
Will all her future poetry die here in her head?
Will her blog named “lifelessons” finally cease to be?
Will they give the name away for a modest fee?
Will they erase her blog spot, burn her files of poems?
Cause a glut on EBay of her leftover tomes?
If she sells a book or two every other year
where will Amazon send the money when she isn’t here?

One day in the future in three thousand two
will Zee, (some bored teenager, with nothing else to do)
go onto the internet connected to her head,
close her eyes and throw herself backwards on her bed
and stumble on an errant line that floats through cyberspace,
and Google it to try to find its author, time and place?
“What happens to someone . . . ?” are the words that Zee has found.
Her fingers start to twitch as she is driven to expound.
The printer prints the words she says without her further action.
Tied into her speech and thought–spontaneous reaction.
” . . . like her as she gets older?” is printed on the wall.
For there’s no paper in the world. No paper left at all!
Her face is flushed, her eyes dilate, her eyes first squint, then blink.
This random line floating in space has provoked her to think.
First she’ll finish cyber school, then link her living pod
with a blowout sort of guy with a gorgeous bod.
They’ll make links with other blogs and party with their friends
for a couple hundred years before they meet their ends.
She thinks back on the interbrain to look for thoughts and links.
Lets her mind go soft as into cybermind she sinks.
Looking for her future job. She knows it’s there to see.
Time being just a concept to wander through for free.
She plops onto a webpage from two thousand fifteen,
all the information still there and easily seen.
The line Zee thought jumps out at her. She sees it’s not her own.
It’s been used two times before and now it seems it’s flown
into her thoughts to sort her out and give her a direction.
As she reads on, she catches on to this writer’s inflection
in every word she writes and when she gets to the post’s end,
she goes on reading through her life and starts to make a friend.
After two days of reading, she winds up at the start
knowing every detail in this blogger’s heart.
Then she goes back to where she started and sees her doubts and fears.
It’s then that she fast-forwards to the blogger’s final years
and sees the truth of everything that’s going to transpire.
The failing health, the hopeful mood, the ad, “Wanted to Hire
an interesting friend to talk to while I fall asleep.
One capable of caring and thoughts that wander deep.
Someone to be there some nights when it seems that I might leave
for one last time this life that’s loosening its warp and weave.
No heavy lifting needed—a weighted thought or two
is all that I find necessary. Weighing thoughts will do.”

Zee zoomed back to the entry that had drawn her thoughts at first.
The very sentence that had caused her gloomy thoughts to burst.
January was the month and 14 was the day
The year 2015, when she’d been the first to say
those fateful words and now Zee, too, was thinking just the same–
moving to the comments to add her words and name.
“Dear Lifelessons,” she’d say to her, and then add her assurance
that everafter she would be her safety and insurance
that she would never die alone or be bereft of friend
for Zee was vowing here and now she’d be there at the end.
She’d looked ahead and so she knew that she would keep this pledge.
She’d known the center of this life and now she knew its edge.
She knew the dates that she’d be needed in the years ahead.
She made a list and filed it in a clear spot in her head.
And then she went on thinking what those words meant in her life.
Would she be a scholar, an actress and a wife?
Would she produce children and would they be there for her?
That sentence found in cyberspace created quite a stir.
But all her dreams it prompted came true enough, what’s more
she kept her date with Lifelessons in 2044.

                                                                            –Judy Dykstra-Brown, Lifelessons, 2015

 

A question posed by one writer can often serve to provoke an answer by another. So it is in this poem, which is an answer to a question asked by Joan Barfoot in her book Luck. This piece was first written three years ago. It is a long piece I had forgotten but enjoyed reading again so I thought perhaps you would, too. I would appreciate knowing if you follow the plot line and realize what is going on. Also, did it hold your interest?  And yes, the prompt word of the day is in the poem. The word of the day is provoke.

Wordless

Wordless

Your words so vivid
that they roped me, 
binding me securely
as they drew me in.

The rub of your words 
and their scent and flavor.
Their nubbiness and length
and width and breadth.

The hands of your words
uprooting me
and planting something
solid in my place.

How could I have known
one day they’d vanish
as though never there.
Smoke signals

from a distant hill
now risen from my sight
and almost rubbed out
from my memory.

 

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The prompt word today was “smoke“.