My dear friend, Stuart Chappell, whom I’ve mentioned on this blog several times passed away recently. It has been a difficult time for me, and of course for his family. Today I wrote this poem for him.
IN THE WINTER OF HIS LIFE
For Stuart Chappell
July 9th, 1940—Nov. 30, 2013
He did not go easily to his end.
Flouting Death at every marker he seemed to say
I will not let you catch me.
Making death-defying choices at every turn’
He loved the mountains, moved to Colorado,
Made many trips to haul it all out there—his stuff
Even the rocks he’d collected over the years
Took them all back to the mountain.
The mountain—the one he could talk to, cry out to
who knew it all—his dreams, his fears, his secrets.
He’d barely arrived when the whisper of Death whistled through his walls.
I’m not ready!
He planted a garden in the spring, anyway.
Joined the Lions Club.
Started a poetry group.
Nobody with this cancer lives more than a year, they say.
His numbers shrink.
Doctor calls him his poster-boy.
He builds a pen for new goats.
But cougar jumps the fence and
Kills the goats.
Death’s howl, he’s getting closer?
The blood numbers, that tell everything–
So life-promising in the beginning
Start to climb.
You can’t catch me!
Plans a trip. Buys new luggage.
That means he’s going to live, doesn’t it?
Look ahead, never behind. Death might catch up.
Sick on our trip. So sick.
Back home, tries new chemo cocktail.
Surely that will set Death back on his heels.
Blood numbers climb.
I’m not ready!
Even at the end, bed-ridden,
Reduced to bone and skin
He wrestles with this enemy.
Moaning and groaning–
Was he bargaining for a reprieve?
Nobody lives with this more than a year;
He lived two.
He did not go easily to his death—
This man, my friend.