chocolate is a verb

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Tag Archives: friendship

found poem: riveted

remembering Ira…

Ira 1983A couple of months ago, by way of a random Facebook post, I learned of the very sudden, too-soon death of a dear friend. I met Ira in the 1970s, when we both lived in Seattle, and again in the 80s, when we both lived in Los Angeles. For most of the years since, he had lived in Israel. Our contact was occasional, by e-mail or on Facebook, but always with the warmth of old friends. I was — am still — stunned and saddened by his death.

Yesterday, unbidden, this memory of Ira popped into my head. It was 30 years ago: 1984. It was a time when surgery meant you stayed in the hospital for some days, and that’s where I was. I felt emotionally and physically depleted and sort of afraid of myself — of the tubes dripping into my arm, the staples holding me together — as if at any moment I might leak or tear or break into pieces.

I didn’t really want to see (or, more to the point, be seen by) anyone, had left instructions for friends not to visit, and mostly they hadn’t. But not Ira. He showed up with his big smile, slipped off his shoes, crawled right into the hospital bed with me and gave me the biggest hug. He didn’t treat me like something fragile or dangerous. Disheveled, unfamiliar to myself, I was, to Ira, simply his friend.

It may have been one of the sweetest things anyone ever did for me and it makes me so, so sad to know that he’s no longer in the world. Thanks, Ira.


phoneOff to college, living away from home for the first time, I was unformed, my cell walls entirely permeable. I was innocent of the world and ecstatic to be released from the fierce, unsympathetic guardianship of my parents.

It was the six of us — three sets of roommates, the four girls, the two boys — not always together but always pulled back into the chemistry of the six.

Jose was not so much blond as fair — pale skin, pale hair, clean shaven in the places where pale whiskers grew in reluctant dustings on his face. His eyes were luminous blue-gray behind round lenses set in nearly colorless frames. His voice was deep and soft and we would all lean in to hear what he was saying. He serenaded us with his guitar and awakened us to the rhythms of poetry.

We were all friends, all, perhaps, a bit in love with each other, all tentatively learning the Braille of our bodies and hearts. We tried on philosophies like new clothes, experimented with the taste of political rhetoric and shared the agonizing secrets of our childhoods.

Jose and I talked for hours in the empty dining hall, whispered in the library, trekked along the cliffs and followed the meandering line of foam where the waves lapped the sand. Each step, each word, carried us deeper into the landscape of trust. I bemoaned my innocence, he beguiled me with experience — titillating stories of conquest and desire.

We sat in the lifeguard tower and watched the moon set and he took my face between his warm hands and kissed me as tenderly as I have ever been kissed. He said, ‘You’re the person I really wanted to be with tonight,’ and I realized those were the words I had been listening for my entire life.

And yet, we weren’t two. We were six — friends with classes and dates and discoveries apart from one another, our partings as gentle as our connections.

After two years, I left for Berkeley and our friendships continued on paper, Jose’s letters full of poetry, cynicism, humor and hope. We all graduated, and by some numerical misfortune, Jose was drafted, and then, somehow, after an interval of bitterly funny letters, undrafted — something to do with his knees. And then a letter from one of the six: Jose was dead. The words a razor slash that forever sliced my life into Before and After.

Among the remaining five, we knew only this: that Jose had acted with intent. That he was not deterred by the requisite waiting period. That he waited, and he collected the gun he had purchased, and he turned it on himself.

I went back and searched his letters for clues. There were none. No dire warnings or pleadings, no strange new slant to his handwriting, no subtly couched goodbyes.

Jose had shown me that what happened between men and women could be shaped by tenderness and friendship. Now he introduced me to the colorless panorama of grief.

I could not share the pain of this loss with my parents; I had no vocabulary for the death of a friend. It was too acute and intimate for any nostrums of sympathy, so it sat, a sharp stone in my gut, unmentioned.

Two weeks after Jose died, hollowed by loss, I went for a planned visit home. Over dinner one evening, my mother said brightly, ‘Oh, I forgot to tell you. Your friend Jose called a few weeks ago. I didn’t want to give him your phone number without asking you. He called back one other time. I think I wrote down his number. Do you want it?’

© j.i. kleinberg

Happy Birthday, Pat

PatThere is history between us. There are stories and photographs tracking the years. There is the seldom-shared geography of our lives that seems to make no difference. There is the bracelet I wear that used to be yours.
But most profoundly, there is empathy and witnessing: the presence — emotional, spiritual, physical — at the long river’s-edge of our growth.
And there is love.
Happy Birthday.

visiting the garden…

juniper with berriesWithout deep intention, I see that I’ve been moving toward very-low-maintenance gardening. Not watering. Weeding toward a time when there are no weeds. And now I see that I do the same thing with my friendships — let them take care of themselves. Trust that they will thrive and grow without my constant fussing. And truly, they do. Evergreens, they grow slowly and live a long time. Being together is a reward, not a chore, our visits blooming with ease and appreciation, our affection rooted in familiarity and trust.

it’s Jerry Davis’s birthday…

marking time…

happy birthday, mom!Writing, recently, of a lost friend, I saw how the loss focused my vision, my memory and my words. But why should such focus be reserved for epitaphs? When someone dies, especially someone too young, we remind ourselves to live every day, to do and say the things we’ve always intended. But, much as we might linger over the loss, we quickly return to routine.

Today is the birthday of one of my dearest friends. It’s not one of those round-number birthdays to be marked by much hullaballoo. We won’t celebrate together and we may not even talk on the phone.

But here’s what I know: We met almost 40 years ago, when a few of us saw the need to create a closer alliance between the words women and art. We came at it from different perspectives, each pouring our own vision and talents into the pool. From that experience emerged friendship and trust.

She was and is a person of huge intelligence, integrity and warmth, with a passion for art and community. She has an amazing ability to absorb, retain and synthesize information, to honor the vision of others and to be a leader in even the most leader-resistant groups. She puts her money where her mouth is — and her heart.

She holds a profound desire for calm but wages an ongoing war with a chaos of paper, the books and magazines and correspondence and journals accumulating in perilous drifts around her.

She is generous, astute and insightful. She has a wide smile that extends all the way to her eyes. She has fabulous earrings. She can do anything.

Most of the time we’ve been friends we’ve lived in separate cities. We don’t see each other often and we don’t talk on the phone enough. But the feeling of connection, of continuity, of closeness and trust is always there. I am grateful and honored to be her friend.

Happy birthday, Cathy. I love you.
photo by Joseph Hudson