In memory of John Frederick Nims (1913-1999)
Dapper in sport coat, necktie, jeans,
you were droll, John, more than zany,
trolling bookstores on morning walks,
their open-minded miscellany
something like what you showed me once
from high above Lake Michigan:
"It wasn’t much of a view," you said,
until we had the lake put in."
For days before you died, the white
and frozen waters looked bereft.
Old buses moved like mastodons
through mounds of snow the blizzard left.
"As good a time to go as any,"
you might have said. And so it was.
Earth’s still a whirligig. We’re dizzy
children searching for a cause,
dead serious in laughter, green
in grief. I wonder where you are.
Do you have to wear a necktie there?
Does color dwindle? Is it far?
Now it’s your turn to be translated,
ours to wonder who could match you.
No whispers of a western wind
from the fond Muse herself could catch you.
They fall back to the earth in lines,
just as you surely knew they would,
more shapely than our harried lives,
meant to be kept and understood.