Thursday, January 8, 2015

Draw a Line Through His Name

Nearly six years Demetrius has been gone. He is most present in the garage, in his gardening tools. His massive old wheelbarrow I gave to the first person who could move it. In the garage he left rolls of plastic, and vinyl-coated concrete discs and 2x4s, and two fishing reels still in their packaging. (Fishing is about hope.) When dragging 50 pounds of rock salt or oilseed, I sometimes ask him aloud, "Why did you leave me?," and walking where we used to walk, I say, "Where are you? Are you okay?" I thank him for the ramp he built it from particle board, allowing me easily to roll the portable dishwasher into the kitchen; I won't be able to replace it if it breaks. I tell him, "I remember the retired lamplighter" he knew when he was a boy, because that lamplighter will live as long as we remember him, and "I'll never forget Polka the Giraffe," a character in a children's book he was writing but didn't finish. He perfected one short story, about a farm laborer, I'm still sending to literary magazines. In his final months he dreamed that the closet door opened onto a polar landscape with warm furs and a sled and sled dogs waiting for him. (He liked biographies and stories about polar explorers.) In January he rode Amtrak to the Rocky Mountains, bedridden all the while because he'd forgotten about high altitudes. He returned skeletal, angry at everyone, and lived 12 more days, dying less than 5 miles from where he was born.

Seed catalogs still arrive with his name on them, as do letters and newsletters from the radical organizations he so much wanted to be a part of. I write on them "Return to Sender," draw a line through his name, and write "Deceased Feb. '09."