Monday, May 30, 2011


James D. Patterson
May 30, 1950 - June 2, 1987

You remembered that it wasn't like
"Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?"
but you joked that you couldn't recall
the number of years
in the Hundred Years' War.
The dates for the War of the Roses,
the square root of two,
pi beyond
had also been removed, you claimed,
for examination.
You were upset
that you couldn't immediately retrieve
the fingering for your first formal
piano piece, though that would return
briefly. But you could remember
your first baseball game and
the joy on my face when
you stopped the ball at second,
and the grimace that melted to
an impassive stare,
the look a brother gives the public
to disavow all relation,
when you threw the ball
toward the loudest shout of "throw
the ball," into center field.
A kinder disease would have removed that
as well, although these memories
were soon even more irrelevant,
as your mind shielded itself,
a cyst of will,
knowing only that will was stronger
than hope,
that life is better
than surrender,
and then believing only in this breath,
and the next,
and finally, recalling
a raindrop
falling from a gutter,
past a window,
like a thought before sleep.

Jim as an infant

I posted this poem in an earlier journal, and it also appeared in the summer 1999 issue of Prairie Schooner (University of Nebraska Press).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What I Saw While Riding My Bicycle Around on May 14, 2011

Graduation ceremonies at Kansas State and the filming of The Great Food Truck Race (Food Network) in Manhattan attracted thousands of folks to Aggieville this weekend. Recent graduates, their parents and friends, alum of both the -ni and -nae varieties, and garden-variety locals filled the midtown area when I visited in the middle of Saturday afternoon.

Three of the competing food vendors prepared and peddled their fare in the northwest corner of City Park, and one worked the crowd in Aggieville. Congestion slowed the traffic in Aggieville, so I walked the bicycle through the 'Ville and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the crowds and savored the aroma of barbecue, burgers, and coffee from restaurants in the district.

Through the window at Radina's Coffeehouse & Roasterie in Aggieville (Manhattan, Kansas)

Attracted first by the tandem bicycle parked at Radina's, I noticed the grandmotherly woman seated near the window. Maybe she was in town to attend a grandchild's graduation. She didn't fit the profile of the usual patrons of Radina's--academics, hipsters, hipster academics, academic hipsters, folks who tote a Roland Barthes tome to be seen toting a Roland Barthes when one's Derrida is unavailable, the cat having swiped it into the home aquarium of guppies, black mollies, and angelfish. But back to our weary grandmother: She had finished her coffee, and she appeared to be tired, maybe bored, too, and I imagined her wondering if all the fuss over the grandchild's graduation really required her presence. It's naptime, dammit.