|Posted on June 18, 2012 at 8:35 AM|
In memory of my friend Ray Bradbury
My measure of greatness is not celebrity but how someone treats humanity, the humble, the working class, and, yes, even a simple poet like me.
Ray Bradbury's greatness, therefore, is beyond stellar in my eyes. His creative powers, telepathic vision, and literary legacy are treasured, but what I remember the most about Ray was his friendship, his inspiration and fervent support, his love of life, his devotion to family, and all that's truly important.
My friendship with Ray began in 1993 when I sent him a heartfelt fan letter, and he wrote back. That began our long correspondence, sharing books we liked, poems, cartoons, good times and bad. The first time I sent him one of my poems, he wrote "Send it somewhere---The New Yorker? The American Scholar?---to be printed!"
His enthusiasm was contagious. He used exclamation marks more than me, and I loved that about him. He advised me to "Write every day from now on. A poem a day if possible, or one every two or three days. I don't want to force you. Act natural. Have fun. Be beautiful." His letters were always signed with an exclamation mark: "Love! Ray," and I've kept all of our correspondence, emails, and Christmas poems that he wrote each year and shared with his friends.
I met Ray in 1997 for the first time in Eureka, Illinois. I was star struck and a nervous wreck. I did manage to buy him a pear at a local market in honor of that beautiful passage from Fahrenheit 451: "A glass of milk. An apple. A pear." I got to ride in the same car with Ray as he was escorted back to the airport in Peoria and managed a shy conversation but often found myself at a loss for words---the moment, both profound and unnerving.
I composed this poem in my head as I drove 500 miles on my way home to West Virginia. Loren Logsden, the editor at Eureka Literary Magazine, published it in 1997. When I sent it to Ray, he said it was beautiful, made him cry. This time I'm crying, but not for too long. I have to write a poem today.
"A glass of milk, an apple, a pear."
April 1997: Day Meeting for Ray Bradbury
What I meant to say,
became a pear
I placed in your hand.
What I meant to say,
you had already answered.
On that Illinois road
that divided empty cornfields
with a new silence,
I wanted to give you immortality.
But how can I give,
what is already yours.