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My poem for a late friend.

Mike Pearl: 20 Years, Passed.
by Christopher Walsh, 3/15/2017-3/19/2017





"A minor altercation," you wrote:
I know you meant "alteration," but
Your spelling errors had become
Their own species of in-joke.
"Speeling errrors," you called them.
I can imagine, had you not left us early,
Being your proofreader,
Clearing up your words so that
Other people would know better what you meant.
We'd have worked well that way, I think.
It amused me to
Take your "speeling errrors" literally,
So that "a minor altercation"
Would be a small sort of fight.
"Fleet-footed fisticuffs," I told you,
More in an attempt to be clever than anything
— "Fleet-footed fisticuffs" sounds like a dance-brawl —
But, I think (and hope) that amused you.
Amusing you was an honor.
It was a goal.
It helped we were on wavelengths similar enough
That jokes were reasonably likely to connect
Even at our more esoteric.
We didn't have to explain ourselves.
We could be weird together.
I wish we'd done that more in-person,
But e-mail and letters (actual letters)
Stood in for that.
Me on the West Coast, you in the East:
Northern Virginia then college in Ithaca,
A New York winter that made you tell anyone weather-complaining
"Bite me. Frostbite me."
But when I needed a sympathetic ear
As I wrote of my worries that I'd not study well enough, or live well enough,
Or that I was mightily screwing up,
You filtered away the sass.
You didn't have to. You did.
I saw that smartass side of you less often,
Sometimes just reflected,
Because you were good at
Calibrating it.
Others Not-Me saw that side more often
And others saw other sides —
The love sides of you
The composer side of you
The animator side of you
The nascent sides which had no time to get past "nascent" —
All these parts of you
Still
Twenty years later
Flavoring the world.
You're remembered.
Imperfectly,
Incompletely,
As memory always is.
Our memories took up the slack
Of yours being lost.
Some of the slack.
No way to recover all of it,
To recall all of it.
You gave us what you could,
By habit,
Writing lots down
— had you reached the blogger era,
I can see you plunging into it,
Saving more ideas, words, and jokes that way —
But it's still as if
We had sifted your nuggets of thought
Out of a Gold Rush river running with far more gold than rocks,
Far more gold than is possible.
Which of your thoughts have we missed?
What thoughts never got thought?
These are unanswered, unanswerable,
Eventually.
It's been twenty years of being unanswerable.
Twenty years of you not being here.
Twenty-one years ago, we didn't know that.
You'd been primed and stoked for 1997:
You loved how the year seemed,
Even more than other years not yet lived,
A time science fiction was meant for,
A year so many stories of the future had been set in.
You only got to see a little more than half of it.
You had hopes for all of it,
And for whatever would've been next,
A future that shifted to Now
Without you.
A Now that still has you in it
Is unknowable
(Though we've tried imagining it,
Reflexively
Thinking "If Mike were here, he'd...")
— and we learned to live with that
Though not, exactly, necessarily, get used to that.
Life means learning how to live with loss.
Life also means much more than that.
Life and meaning fill the time given.
And we know this:
We know, know, know this
Underlying every way we live
Even when we don't think about it
Or dodge our thoughts around it
Or ignore it.
This, I think, is true: years past
When you'd gone,
I thought: "I've probably thought of Mike
Each day since I'd learned."
Years of likely daily thoughts.
One; two; more; but there
Revisiting
Thinking possible new angles towards the overarching thought:
I miss you.
I've missed you.
We miss you.
We've missed you.
The thought stays. The feeling stays.
This space (for rent) you should have still had in the world
Is somewhere, unoccupied, unclaimed.
And we feel that gap.
We'll never exactly fill it.
This is tribute to you, Mike
And the life-sized hole that
We wish wasn't here,
That we wish had you.

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