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I stand in your shadows when I write. I stand in your shadows when I read. I measure myself by those mental yardsticks and know I’ll never crash to the bottom in you, any of you. But you, sir, took it to the next level.

My words tend to be grainy and delayed, selling the promise of a poem and little more.  When I read your words I feel like a five course meal at a five star restaurant wearing sweatpants, sleeves dipped in red sauce. I feel like throwing in the towel. But I read them again and there comes a swelling dare, like swimming beyond the breakers, daring some thing to swim past my skin, brush my leg, make me wonder, but keep going, it’s out there!   Your words dare me to keep writing (but I’m still not gonna rob liquor stores with you, which is really the same thing, isn’t it?)

You say you’d forgotten that beach exists, the city obliterated water from your memory. I say the city can’t take nothing away that you didn’t want to let go.  You get to make your life as precise, blurry, fractious, secret and perfect as you want it to be, like the figures you sketch on train rides home.

Your PKDick mind never stops. I could hear words flurrying, flickering, battering, infernoing the whole way out to Omaha and back, so I would point past your nose and grunt things like, “Look! River! Mountain! Field! Mist!” I wanted you to stop. To see a land where the plates and the glacier said “You will not end here: You will fold and ridge and rise and landslide, you will be covered in greens and generations of deer and owl will fly from your sides. You will glisten red and wet in sunrise and bow down broken cold in gray winter knowing it will pass and you shall gleam again.”

I stood before a pine coffin in a far-flung section of the cemetery.  I came to help you say goodbye to a friend in Omaha. A hawk flew overhead. Bees played in the low, dry grass. Sweat trickled down our sides with our tears. I listened to a song and a prayer for the dead in a faith I’d only just learned about, Baha’i; the word is beautiful.  I like making graffiti on smooth, cool bathroom walls and how much I wanted to put my pen into the soft wood and write, “Rest In Peace, Friend” though I did not know him.  The pen grooves would have felt satisfying, and it was a hard urge to resist.  Maybe that’s all writing is to me, after all?

Final scattered notes:  Remember when exit 91 was closed?  The Arch.  “Yeah, well anything looks pretty when you stick a blue light on it,” she said, bitterly. Your magic box, world ending hot sauce, a final fresh vegetable meal I will make again and again.   I have notes on the couple sitting next to us in the museum café that I hope she never sees because it’s not flattering a’tall. You lost in a painting you didn’t particularly like. I may never drink coffee again due to world-ending heartburn, and I wonder what your 53 pages look like today. Have they multiplied, conjoined? Divided? Where do you go to write now?  I will never drive by a Starbucks without thinking of you.  Thank you for allowing me to be part of this journey.  I am blessed because of it all, and I will try to honor and continue the blessings.