The news came crawling
Like dreaded, deadly spiders into my ear,
Spewing their gossip like a lethal poison.
It was your name they whispered,
Your name now linked forever with a dreaded disease.
Your name that had blinked in our dreams in large Broadway marquee
Like advertisements to all the ambitions we would realize
During our callow days of infinite possibilities.
Now, we have only finite things to contemplate like:
Estates, wills, a memorial service.
A memorial to you
Who clung with such tenacity to people
Hoping to find approval,
Hoping to find acceptance,
Hoping to find love.
Oh, I understood your yearnings for fame,
I understood your need that sent you homing
Back to Oklahoma looking for permission to be
True to who you really were.
And you really were humorous, witty and remarkable.
You heard music—original or derivative—
It did not matter,
It was beautiful,
And it sang of truth
Like nothing else in your life.
Why did you listen to the lies from others
About who you were?
Could you not hear in my voice
The awe you inspire?
Could you not believe
The one who was the “Portal of your Art”?
Could you not see and hear it in your own songs?
You were such an accepting friend to so many—
Especially to me—
But such a bad friend to yourself.
When the grim news arrived,
Tears and speechless silences punctuated our hushed conversation
That seemed the opening measure of the prelude to your requiem,
A requiem you wrote long ago.
Poor artist, time is brief,
Love misspent on those who
Mostly returned insensibility and judgment
For your uniqueness.
Now we both must take what is offered us
And make what we can from it
As we add this unknown ingredient
To all the facets that have made up our friendship.
Is there one last thing that Death can help us compose
As he gives you your personal map revealing
The particular path you are to take?
It is not a broad path, friend.
It is winding and narrow, not straight.
It is dark and full of uncertainties.
It is steep and scary
You must go it alone.
I would go with you, honest to God,
But that is impossible.
Only the one in whom you have trusted can travel with you,
And he is an invisible companion,
But I have been assured that he is there,
Providence sustaining even now.
You tell me—
Is he there with you as you walk through the valley of the shadow
Originally appeared in Holy Ghosts, a book of poetry by Ragan Courtney.