An older man with a cane came to my front yard poetry hut a couple weeks ago. Big smile. Lively eyes. He thanked me for all the new poets he’d found over years via the poetry hut and we began talking about his favorite Minnesota poets.
He was handsome in the same tall lean way as my friend John Zdrazil, curious in the same intense way. Had they met, they would have been instant friends. I kept thinking that this man, with his love of Minnesota and books, his wide intellect and knowledge, was the man my beloved Zdrazil would eventually have become.
Alison, have you ever been to northwestern Minnesota? the man asked. Sure, I said. A few times just last month on my way to a little town near Alexandria. I didn’t tell him it was to say goodbye to Zdrazil and then attend his funeral.
But his eyes turned keen and focused. He observed me for a minute in silence. You know, Alison, he eventually said, I’ve had so many blessings. But you and your poems have been the most beautiful gift of my life.
This was so much like something Zdrazil said in our last conversation that I teared up. It can’t be true –this man doesn’t even know me–but his words brought my friend back so fiercely.
Which little town were you driving to? he said. A teeny little place called Elbow Lake. You wouldn’t know it, I said. He smiled. Oh, but I would. I was born and grew up in Elbow Lake.
Sometimes your dead friends return, to embrace you unconditionally.
The Whole Shebang Up for Debate, by Kari Gunter-Seymour
Today I gave a guy a ride,
caught in a cloudburst
jogging down East Mill Street.
Skinny, backpacked, newspaper
a makeshift shield, unsafe
under any circumstances.
I don’t know what possessed me.
I make bad decisions, am forgetful,
cling to structure and routine
like static electricity to polyester,
a predicament of living under
the facade I always add to myself.
Said he needed to catch a GoBus,
shaking off droplets before climbing in.
He gabbed about Thanksgiving plans,
his mom’s cider-basted turkey,
grandma’s pecan-crusted pumpkin pie.
It was a quick, masked ride.
Bless you, he said, unfolding himself
from the car. No awkward goodbyes,
no what do I owe you? Just Bless you
and a backward wave.
At the stop sign, my fingers stroked
the dampness where he sat minutes before.
Sometimes life embraces you
so unconditionally, it shifts
your body from shadow
into a full-flung lotus of light.