Thursday, December 23, 2021


When I was just eight or nine my father--already a denizen of the ad business--had a massive heart attack. Moreso than today, back in 1966 or 1967, a heart attack was close to being a death sentence. A lot of men didn't make it back home from the hospital. Or if they did make it home, it was home to die.

That memory has loomed over me my whole life. 

No matter.

You don't get used to it.

This will be my last post for a while. Because we're at the end of the year and because I've found out over the last couple of days that two people close to me are either no more or about to be no more.

One is my oldest and dearest friend. A person I've known since we were ninth-graders. And fifty years later, we're still kindred. And kin.

His wife just called.

This looks like it.

I've always had a way with words. I've always been attuned to them and I've always believed in their power. 

But there are times--many times, actually--when words are feeble instruments. They are as effective in holding back the pain as King Canute was in holding back the sea.

I have nothing to say now.

But I still have my eidetic memory--which includes about 20 to 30 poems I can call on when I need them. They, too are like dear friends.

This, by Ernest Dowson.

They Are Not Long 

Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam.

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate;
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses,
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
The Latin at the start of the poem reads, "The shortness of life prevents us from entertaining far-off hopes" and is a quote from Horace, in the Odes.

More important is this poem. That my friend read at his dad's funeral which took place about 15 years ago. 

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

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