Saturday, July 28, 2007

New Poem

Wrote a poem for the first time since Katie's death, and want to share it. I highly recommend an excellent sad song that helped me find a path toward writing this poem, "For A Dancer," by Jackson Browne.


There Are No Words

Her last few years in the house
my grandmother mastered a capacity for preserving foodstuffs,
uncertain what would be lost, or when.
When we emptied her deep freezer we found
butter from 1994, hogsheads of ice cream, enough lemon concentrate
to ceviche the lake where I fished with my grandfather.
He was a quiet man who was always doing nice things.
During his wake my father delivered the sort of elegy
I want to write now but I don’t know where to start.

The week of your funeral,
a famous poet wrote to tell me there are no words
and I thought, isn’t that his job? Doesn’t he spend all day
matching words to situations, fascinations, strangers? Poems for the dead
are called elegies and the best elegies rattle around anthologies
like lost guitar picks, suggesting the kind of music
that will never be played again.

We played guitar together.
You hated barre chords, loved The Flying Burrito Brothers.
One night we sat out on a park bench near the Chicago apartment
and played “Sin City” so slow I thought I’d lose my mind.
We played that song again in Miami, Bucharest, Sinaia,
at your office for the fourth of July and on the train
to Budapest with the Romanians practicing their English.

Some days I listen to that song and feel nothing.
I walk over to the grocery store and spend all day
cooking a big dinner for Ed, Beth, and the kids,
taking in the whole Greatest Hits album while chopping onion.
Nothing. That’s the thing about grief:
it doesn’t hit you until it hits you. It blades the numbness,
quiet, efficient, and sudden as sunlight. The doctor I am seeing here
calls it “shock,” and says it can be that way for months,
there are all sorts of books about it on Amazon,
one of her patients—a firefighter—was called out to a house
and didn’t think, until three months later, that the body
he carried out that day could be either of his daughters.
He fell to pieces. I guess we all do, eventually.

The grief that never entirely wells up or washes away.
I don’t know its source but I believe it is a kind of sustenance,
that the mind sometimes does not know better
than to try to overcome by consuming it all at once,
no matter how shitty the feeling afterward,
like eating the two-pound burger that gets your photo on the wall
of the local chain restaurant.
It’s just not the sort of thing you want to define you.

I keep changing the background picture on my computer,
trying to remember the exact details of whichever day.
Supposedly that’s one stage of grief, bartering.
I would exchange any or all of the days ahead
for that afternoon we sat out at the bar by your office,
drinking long espressos and waiting for a friend,
when the waiter offered to take a photograph,
not knowing I would spend all morning wondering
at the old man in a blue suit and his wife in a red dress
passing through, behind us, shading their faces from the sun.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

New Photos (from Mom and Dad)

April 2006
Stuart, FL
(Kayla, Katie)


Katie, John, Hannah


September 2006


(Dad, Mom, Katie, John)


May 7, 2004
Hobart, IN
(Chloe, Ed, Katie, John, Jeff)

Monday, July 23, 2007

New Photo (from Ileana Pirvu)

Last December, Katie and I chaperoned an overnight trip with eleventh graders to Vidraru Lake. This photo was sent to me by Ileana Pirvu (orange jacket), one of my colleagues from Cosbuc.

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Photos (from Dave and Meghan)

Photos from Dave and Meghan Cashman's visit to Romania in March 2007.

Athaeneum Palace, Bucharest
(Meghan, Sara, John, Katie, Dave)




Bran Castle


La Tramvai Beer Garden, Titan Park, Bucharest

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Painting by Chloe LaPlante

Katie's nieces and nephews--Kayla, Emma, Chloe, Chase, Aidan, Hannah, and Connor--have all been very thoughtful these last few weeks. Katie's 9-year-old niece, Chloe, made this painting for me over the weekend, so I thought I would share it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Photos (from Jeff and Sheila)

Hobart, 2004


Aspen, July 2005


Chicago, 2004


Chicago, 2004


Aspen, 2005

Friday, July 13, 2007

"Spice Night" by Catherine Bowman

Katie loved this poem. She often said it was her favorite. So, I thought I would share it. The collection in which this poem appears, 1-800-HOT-RIBS, is great stuff, too.



It was your best friend's birthday, 9:00 and late July. By the time
I got there wearing shorts and a T-shirt everyone was pretty spiced
on Corona and Lite. What's-his-name Ramirez started telling jokes
about German Shepherds and Girl Scouts and then someone hurt a knee
trying to somersault and play volleyball with only the light of the moon
and oh yeah Joe Herder drove his '64 Cadillac right over the grass.

I think you had a date but you were sitting with me on the grass
and I didn't feel guilty, in fact I was worrying about the time
because the night would end soon and I had come just to see you. The moon
was drenching the Balcones Fault Flood Basin with a pollen, a spice,
it happens every twelve years, and that's when you put your hand on my knee
and that's when Ramirez started telling a series of dead baby jokes.

Even Joe Herder and his crowd were getting tired of the bad jokes
because they started telling stories about smuggling heroin and grass
up from Mexico and I looked down and your hand was still on my knee
and they were talking about gunrunning, Mayan treasures, and doing time,
and the Hilton in downtown San Salvador as if they were modern day spice
pirates instead of Alamo Heights kids who had been given the moon

and suddenly the sky had changed and I realized that the moon
was using its comic sensibility to fool around, to make a joke,
just by being round and fat, it played up, it complemented the spice
of the lawn, a punchy waltz with the blunt edges of the grass,
without really thinking we were moving our toes, our teeth, in time.
This is when I decided to put my hand on your knee.

So there we were in the yard with our hands on each other's knees,
watching the party, watching the crowd, and of course the moon.
I was tired but didn't want to leave so I asked you about the time
your high school class went camping at Big Bend and you made a joke
about people who ask a lot of questions and then we left the grass
and went into Mrs. Schue's house and down the hall where there was a spice

cabinet filled with, what else, hundreds of unlabeled jars of spices.
We opened all the bottles and played a game, our sweaty knees
shining in the dark. I guessed caraway, tarragon, and lemon grass;
you guessed others as we closed our eyes and inhaled the bottled moons.
Outside the volleyball game continued and the jokes.
We knew we had found that spice cabinet just in time.

Knees. Spice. Jokes. Moon. Grass. Time. Forever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Photo and Illinois General Assembly HR0558

Of all the great photos of Katie I've seen or been sent, none quite captures her, for me, so well as this one. Thanks, Delia, for taking it, and Cathy for sending it along.

Thought you might appreciate seeing this resolution from the Illinois General Assembly honoring Katie's life and work.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Online tributes to Katie and 3 by John Prine

I continue to be impressed and touched by the quality of tributes to Katie from friends and loved ones. Some are online. Please send along any ones that I miss. Here are three I have seen so far:

An Authentic Life: Remembering Katie Evans @ Marcus' World, a blog by Marcus Banks.

Katie and Thoughts of Her @ Long Adventures, a blog by Jenn Carlson-Long.

Editor's Note (forthcoming in newsletter) @ Repercussion Comics, by Jason DeGroot.

Strang Funeral Home online guestbook (follow the links to Katie's name--may only be online a few more days).

Also, I've been posting audio links above to clips of songs that Katie liked. I am also posting some live performances by John Prine, of songs that Katie liked, below.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Katie, 10/27/76 - 6/23/07


Here is the poem that I read at Katie's visitation on 7/2/07:

Central Illinois

we flew into Milwaukee, rented a car, and drove southwest toward Moline, where my friend Dave was getting married. Coming down I-94, we missed the interchange at Tomah and ended up following a series of back roads that paralleled soybean and corn fields. Two teenagers in a Subaru told us that any left would take us to the highway. An hour later, we were still sure that we would find the exit. Embankments, then gas stations, then towns: Ithaca, Lewiston, Rock Island, Ipava, Itasca, Ottawa. When the Chicago radio stations got fuzzy, I cycled through the CDs. Melissa called on the cell phone to say that she and Ross were stuck in Joliet, the interstate was that bad. Would we tell Dave that they would try to make the rehearsal? We had no idea how much farther to Moline. Every time Katie restarted A Man Ain't Made of Stone, I remembered more of the lyrics. While Dave and Meghan practiced their vows, we sat in the car singing, "Digging Up Bones" and "Forever and Ever, Amen," finally stopping for sandwiches and beer at the Shake Rain Bar and Grill outside Peru. It's been called Peru for as long as I can remember, was all that the bartender would say. The Bud tap spit huge heads but the Bud Light poured fine. For a modest tip, The Karaoke Kid sang all the Randy Travis he knew.