I have never been a prolific poet and I can’t write a long poem to save my life. In grad school, my poems got shorter and shorter. I was only too happy to cut cut cut. It was as if I’d taken Imagism to an extreme. After grad school, I don’t think I wrote for almost two years.
Two years ago, I decided to try and write a long piece. A year later, through weekly blogging, I accomplished my goal. Essentially, the experimental novella that I ended up writing was a series of smaller pieces strung together. I haven’t been able to determine if the novella itself is any good, but I am still proud of myself for finally writing a longer piece.
It wasn’t easy—there were many times that I wanted to give up, but my friend, Eric, wouldn’t let me. Whenever I had a lapse in posting, he would always hit me up, Hey, what’s going on with the story? He was a writer, too, so he understood.
Six months ago, Eric died. I didn’t know for almost two weeks. We had not seen each other for years and he had relocated to a different state with his wife and kids. However, we had always maintained a fondness for each other and reached out through email every now and again. When I started my project, our correspondence became much more frequent. The novella I wrote takes place during a critical period in my life, a time during which Eric and I had been very close.
I had emailed to confirm his mailing address so I could send him the finished product. His wife emailed back: I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to tell you—Eric passed away.
I couldn’t bring myself to ask her what had happened. At that point, I was on the floor not able to breathe correctly; I couldn’t imagine what she must have been going through.
I know he was proud of you, she wrote.
After the initial shock, I got the strangest impulse—I started submitting poetry to literary magazines again. I hadn’t regularly submitted since grad school. I went on a streak. I told myself I was doing it for him—because he had been proud of me, proud of my writing.
In the first few weeks of grieving, I looked through everything I could find—old paper journals, notebooks, hard drive folders, old email accounts. I was looking for him.
I even reactivated an old Instagram account so I could reread our chats. It was a profile I’d created for my pen name and I gave up on it after getting frustrated. After reading our chats, I decided to give it another try.
I’m glad I did because I reconnected with another old friend, a photographer, and now my photographer friend and I regularly hang out again. Our conversations about art and my pledge to post daily have generated some serious creative energy as of late.
If Eric and I had never met, I can say with certainty that my life would have turned out differently. And now, even after being gone, he is still there, helping.