A friend of mine died recently. I know his wife and children and we have kept in contact through the years, now through email and facebook. I have had many friends die on me, and it's easy to keep moving on because I trust all is well and as it should be. This one has a different impact for a very strange reason. My friend's wife sent me a file he had saved on his computer. He had written about me in the past tense, almost as if he knew me as already dead. That has a strange impact on me - making me wonder about our relationship. I explained this to his wife, and she said, "I see what you mean, but you are probably thinking too hard. He may have just assumed you would die first, so he had your obituary ready." She wasn't sure that was true, but I've decided to accept it as truth, so what follows is my obituary written by a friend who died before I did. I think it would be nice to be remembered in this way. Some of you will know from the style who it is. It is a style of writing we all were using at a certain point in time - he just never stopped. Till now, of course. I feel I should thank him and honor him by sharing his kind words. He remains unnamed to respect his wife's wishes for privacy.
My Obituary Written By My Dead Friend (undated)
memories of the man
he invited me to his apartment in san diego. we would drink. laugh. walk down to the corner and buy vegetables. he would allow me to read the poems people sent him. he seemed to be angry at times that people would send their work without thinking just to waste his time, and he also seemed angry that he felt obligated to give each reader a close reading "just in case there was a treasure hidden among the crap." he was not a kind editor, but he was a kind and generous host. he made me feel welcome any time to sit and think and talk and play chess or scrabble and ask questions and tell my own stories. he gave me his own poems to read. he wouldn't discuss them. he told me that if they needed to be discussed then he was a poor poet, and he apologized for wasting my time. when he moved to san jose we corresponded several times a month, sharing our new poems and family stories.
in his poetry, soos focused on solitude and simplicity. he saw life and poetry as one, and as such each is expressed with no pretense, no artificiality, no extra literary affect added. he believed life and poetry should be understood without the need of analysis by anyone coming in contact in person or on the page. honest and direct, his poetry thrived on experiences free of intellectual or scholarly whilygigs. he saw true poetry as a welcome journey through the depths of inner experience. he said that "poetry and life are both experienced as freedom through nature strengthened by the spirit of light. life and poetry provide each of us with a unique inner light which guides us on a path through the darkness."
a few quotes from letters soos sent me in 1977:
"work that must be analyzed by a phd student in order to be understood by my neighbor is not truly poetry - because it is the analysis that my neighbor understands and appreciates. the work itself remains a game played by a wordsmith who has no intent to communicate with his fellow humans. this is proven by the next phd student who finds a completely different analysis of the same words. one must be very careful. A simply poem about how old age has the effect of causing exaggeration of memories by Robert Frost has completely been destroyed by "the academy" (anyplace academics hang out) and is now used as an uplifting quote for a graduation speech because a simple, honest, truthful reading is no longer 'acceptable' in the halls of university."
"poetry looks deep into our life. from time to time it makes us shout. it always keeps us from pitying ourselves. tears fall, sweat flows. we savor experience unconcerned with circumstances. poetry is the sound of our soul. anything not present in our heart is not poetry. moon flowers insects water - all these are present wherever we walk and while more apparent in the desert, we realize their importance all over this earth. no place exists without them. this is essence, this is poetry."