His body so broad you could climb his everest hips
so high you could scale the shoulders to the sky
the fishing rod as thick as your thin fragile wrist
the line’s heavy twill the four-ounce sinkers – my soft fingers
sense a strong pull, a laugh, his rough hands only a gentle tug
his whisper some grass, then his reeling big laugh
my first blackfish the hugging embrace under fire-brick sun
muscles chests tendons sinews sweat in unbearable fire
thighs tightening torsos tensing arms flailing faces shining
as we twist flex and bump and brush against each other
tossed to the ether floating safely to his arms in summer care
his face all grit – bloody scrapes and scars on hands of
tools hammering sawing sawdusting grinding now splashing
soaking smiling we being one – suddenly none ever more
sand and sea
sand and dad and sea
sand playgrounds of dad and sea
sand coffee with dad and me and living sea
sand coffee and breathing dad and me fishing sea
sand coffee and smokes a lost dad and sea
sand smoke memories of dad and me
smokes and coffee memories
and this memory that doesn’t make time stand still or come alive
but is. is in the scar is in the muscles in the sweat sweat
from the same chest in the same fingers reaching out for any
hand that feels the same gentle tug
This poem is written in memory of my friend, Walter Bjorkman, who passed away October 8, 2015, in Maryland. This represents one half of a collaboration I did with Walter some years back — two poems, written across seasons and time zones, that appeared in the journal, BluePrint Review. His was Summer (and appeared under the beach image, left above); mine was Winter (and appeared under his frozen creek photo, above right). You can see them both here.
I love how this poem is quintessentially Walter, straddling the line between fact and fiction, with flawed memories playing at the edges of the mind and images dancing between line breaks. Walter wrote many reminiscences drawing from his early childhood and his parents, then also from living through the riotous 1960s and 1970s. Many more of his stories and characterizations can be found in his story collection, Elsie’s World, and his poetry collection, Strand. Both can be found here.
Walter was a force — in life and on the page. I first met him at Fictionaut and we dreamed up a few projects together. His help with the 52|250 project drove the other two editors batty sometimes — he was so brimming with ideas we could barely keep up some weeks — but he changed the look and feel of our year (so colorful in the end — the links and final page layout were all thanks to Walter), and I will never forget his energy and drive. We finally met in 2012, at a 52|250 reading at the KGB Bar in New York City, and Walter brought his poetry, and his cheek, to the city to share with us.
Walter was a diverse writer and a huge supporter of various literary projects, including Thrush Poetry Journal, A Minor Press, Voices and Black Tongue Press. He is missed by many, no doubt. I’m glad to share some of his words here this week.
May you rest, finally, Walter.
Tuesday Poem is a collective of poets who share poetry on a weekly basis across borders and time zones. Please check out the other poets and the main poem at the TP hub this week — an excerpt from Glaciers by Sarah Jane Barnett.
For more Tuesday Poems, go here.
This is a wonderful tribute, Michelle. So fortunate to have known Walt personally, as well as professionally through the many online venues like Fictionaut and 52/250. Glad to call so many of those writers my friend (including you), and Walt will always be remembered with great fondness, and appreciation.
Walt was a true original in every sense. He held tight to his belief system and didn’t waver. He had (has) my deepest respect. It was an honor to know him and read his very fine work. Both ‘Elsie’s World’ and ‘Strand’ grace my library of books. His nature photos are among some of the best I’ve seen. We who knew him feel the hole.
Thanks, Robert and Susan. What you say is so true.
Superb choice, enjoyed reading this today. Walter was a great man, very supportive to me and my meager work. He is missed but will be remembered forever. Thanks Michelle!
I love this poem and yes, it is quintessential Walter. I will his kindness and generosity to me and to other writers, and his superb sense of humor and quirkiness. Thank you Michelle for this perfect remembrance. Peace…
it’s a wonderful poem…so visceral somehow.
Yes, Walter commented on my poems on Voices…sorry to here of his death. Jx