BY JAN HAAG
I don't get to think of you anymore living
In Texas, doing your thing.
You wrote me the letter, I wouldn't have tried
you. I understand. I would do, will do,
The same thing under the
Going blind/gone blind, unable to do
thought about as your job in this world,
Reading, Xeroxing, helping
Being the dearest soul with the brightest laugh,
energy of a kitten gamboling,
Entertained by the world, and certainly
Brave, when it came to your fellow
Approachable, willing to approach anyone,
Riding high waves of discovery,
Eccentric, too eccentric for some,
Eating garlic for health,
Scented, at times, like an Italian
Living among "The Ten Thousand" books,
As in a Borgesian
Needing all that Stuff,
Forced into retreat behind an
avalanche of stuff,
Into the back room,
uncover the couch
From under all those papers when I came
Finally having to retreat next door -- me,
On my last
visit -- into that gloriously empty apartment --
And you, later, it
seems, to live -- leaving that Alexandrian
Library all the room of
your life for itself.
How we laughed and giggled and moved things
I wanted to help, but there was no place to begin.
O, Great Soul, for doing what you wanted to do!
Loving life in spite
of... because of...
Around each corner, each deviation,
Never losing faith in the goodness,
rescue-ability of people,
Always helping, always cheerful,
with a smile,
Wanting to save the world,
But in the end
To wait for its salvation.
I will, no doubt,
write to you from
Time to time. I have a feeling you left,
off to where good spirits go,
So you could help more efficiently,
Directly, as if you hover over me
This very minute,
Laughing, egging me on.
What was our friendship, indeed?
A year or so in Texas, a few visits,
A few phone calls, always
at your expense.
You always talked too long, too much,
Told me more
than I wanted to know.
Whirlwind visits with pre-arranged
As if I were an Empress, meeting this one,
Phoning that one,
partying here, eating there,
On to the next event, must do this,
Must see that -- so different than my life of silence
withdrawal. I loved you for it, for your faith
That all people should
meet everyone, should
engage, adore, help, whoop, chortle, chuckle.
Always willing to take on a project or a person,
Gay with life, gay
I remember your remarking that at about
My age --
now -- or maybe in your fifties
You had decided,
useful and cheerful.
You'd had and acknowledged plenty of tragedies,
Misfortunes, mishaps, disasters, anguish, pitfalls,
But from then
on you were never going to retreat,
You were going to enjoy life.
think this was said in a conversation
Centering around one of my
You had exited an untenable
Home life early,
almost a child.
You had a husband, a child, a ranch,
You had established a bakery and lost it,
You had been on your own
For decades and decades, you loved poetry,
But clearly you loved
the kaleidoscope of people,
Activity, urgency most of all.
Appearing here, disappearing there, pulling off,
With a modest
strength, the most unlikely plans,
Succeeding nearly always where my
Failed to even think of going.
After years of
acquaintance, my courage began to grow.
You were my mentor in how to
just burble through,
Do What You Do, enjoy the lollipops of life
Let someone else pick up the wrappers.
I see you cooking in
that kitchen where not
An inch of counter space remained...
Vitamins and every health remedy under the sun,
Dug from the earth, dropped off trees,
Gleaned from under bushes,
Ranked and banked in the cupboards high and low.
great excursion into the brush
-- To pick agarita berries --
Dragging the bat and the sheet,
Stepping on the fire ant hill,
Both of us bone naked, shaking the ants
Out of our jeans, flapping
them, dancing like maniacs
In the hot silence just off the
Then your letting me do the three day task
the tiny salmon-colored
Berries from the leaves. You knew me
Enough to know I would not waste a single one.
Sharing the few
jars of crimson nectar it resulted in...
The tea party with the Buchu
-- Only that day did you tell me it was a diuretic,
And encouraged me
to go on serving it.
Who knows what health we brought
sipping bodies that day?
At times, your presence overwhelming.
twins -- so like you,
Eccentric and full of the juice of life --
Didn't hit it off with you. Something, as I recall,
food, the lack of it, the too much of it,
The wrong of it. You didn't
mind, you remembered them
With fondness, were eager to visit again.
But we never did.
Interesting, how similar you were:
exuberance for life, the discomfort of being
Around you all, so
opinionated, so unable to let
Even a moment go without commitment to a
point of view.
I loved/love you, perhaps, even more
In the abstract than in person.
You did what you did because you did it.
You accomplished what you
did by DOING IT,
Always troublesome, always your way -- it got
You changed my life several times,
Taught me awesome beauty,
gave me engaging experiences
-- Like the visit to the grand old ranch
Owned Hamilton Pool, so I could get the history
most beautiful five acres in North America straight.
Have you gone now
to some other where
To be more useful?
I feel you hovering around,
Arranging this award I so much want.
I will dedicate
Amazing Grace for Leah Neal.
I loved you, your generosity, your love, your energy, your
Taking up of
a challenge -- that made whatever outrageous
Need seem just one more
Thanks ever so much for putting me in
With the TWU Library. It saved my life from stuff,
free to live unencumbered,
Without having to shoulder the burden
having created a world.
Your departure may have been a
Thinking nobody would want to -- that you wanted
Nobody to -- take care of you, while you were willing
To take care
of the whole world. But it was graceful,
It was elegant, it was
vintage Leah. Who would dare
Even try to deny Leah the right to
Copyright © 2002 Jan Haag
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail:
BY JAN HAAG