Today I learned my friend Eve Saulitis has died. I am suddenly very tired. I have things I need to do but I only want to grieve, to go someplace and finish crying. But love sometimes wants us to act and this is what I want to say for her. I will miss her. She was my mentor in graduate school. She was my teacher and my friend. She was also my promoter; she knew how I avoided submitting my work and how to gently suggest places to send it. She asked the people at Orion to use my photographs to accompany her essay “Wild Darkness” and there were emails from the people who published her books asking if I had a manuscript they could look at. She was generous in that way and when I tried to thank her she said the rewards were built into the act. She called it “sympathetic joy” that she would get to experience “every time a once-student sends good news.” She said it is how things should continue, and that her students would continue.
But I did try to thank her, I wrote this poem and put it an envelope to give to her at the end of our summer residency after my thesis was finally finished. She opened it, read it, and told me now everything was paid in full, but I know how much I will always owe.
Poem as Partial Payment of a Debt
When someone says they like your glasses,
there’s always the chance they mean
Or wish these were the days
we could choose our family.
You would be that bright cousin
from the city,
going barefoot in the barns
speaking carefully among the cattle
better names for preacher lice, nettles,
and the burdock that grows behind the plum orchard
where the red bird lives.