Elegy for Tim Johnson

Tim Johnson, you are dead

though we spent Christmas together

many years ago.


You bought me an extravagant Swiss

coffeemaker that was much too much

for where we were in our never-to-be.


I never used it, gleaming thing that burps

and groans discharging its silvery steam,

until now—I’d grown used to my ancient


machine whose cracked caraf I replaced

with a burly apple-sauce jar.  I’m frugal,

and liked my fingertips burnt each morning,


but you noticed this private act and made

your mind up to end it.  Tim, you are dead.

No alarm will get you up.  I’m left to sort out


what this means, especially since you

annoyed me, which is why we never did

succeed together.


You were always on the edge of becoming

the next big thing except I knew you

wouldn’t be—you did more talking


about becoming than becoming.  Still

that’s no reason why you should be gone.


Had you heeded your body.  Had the sugar

in your blood broken down as it should

have; been sucked fiercely into your cells.


Had you seen your hunger and thirst

as more than hunger and thirst—not been

the black man alone when your heart


failed you; alone on a gurney in the worst

emergency room of the worst hospital

of one of the biggest cities in the world.


You are gone Tim Johnson,

and I hardly knew you, and what I did

know of you did you no good.

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