A LETTER TO MY MOST RECENT DEAD
Lately grief clings to me like the smell of cigars
that cleaves to my grandfather’s old green
sweater albeit fifty-some years since he passed.
And he wasn’t even the beginning of it. First
came his beautiful son named Frances. Grandpa
was quick to follow. After that they began to drop
like flies. Eva Mae Marris fell out of a truck
and split open her head in front of the grade school;
Aunt Lucille and Uncle George lingered in front
of their deaths so long we prayed for their transitions.
Some mornings my dead are lined up all around me.
Mother and my nephew Todd, Aunt Madgel, Jack
Lemmon, Veronica and Emory, my old high-school
chum, Jack Hamilton and my friend Tom Houlahan
whose Down’s syndrome didn’t keep him from
lecturing at Oxford. Francis and George Dean,
Bette Hays and my dogs Abby and Artie who
passed within days of each other. Everywhere
I look the dead stand with me. Sometimes I hear
the sounds of their voices and know it is not memory
I hear but the voices themselves. In ways I cannot
name, they are as alive as my nephew Jim from
Shelton and my friend Derrel from Memphis with
whom I’ll dine this evening. I go among them
reciting their names as if they were sacred mantras.
—from Rattle #17, Summer 2002
Fredrick Zydek: “I read and write poetry because it continues to amaze me how a few dark marks on a piece of paper can bloom into images and metaphors that question, reveal, and gladden the mystery of the life experience. It’s an addiction that sustains me.” (web)