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).

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