Friday, November 18, 2011

On April 9th, a Poem

I was squeezing honey into my coffee from its honeybear this morning, counting "one-and-a-two-and-a-three-and-a" as the thin stream poured, a habit anytime I pour anything, established from five-plus years bartending for a living, decades ago. This caused me to reflect how any process, repeated enough (how many times did I tip up a pour-spout bottle and count in my head like that?), internalizes into subconscious habit. Mindfulness should be as lucky in my own internal habit mechanisms. Perhaps with a little more practice.

My brother died early this year, leaving my older brother and me as the remaining Merrick patriarchs, the last of our nuclear family, as it were. Ed texted me a week or so ago wondering if we should do something to honor Bill on his upcoming birthday. On Tuesday he would have been 59 years old. Alcohol, combined with some other habits of mind and body that he had allowed, perhaps encouraged, to gain control of his life, took him away in a last, violent, motorcycle moment.

Maybe it's no coincidence: While cleaning out my home office recently I came across a thin three-ring binder of poems written during a semester of Vanderbilt University writing classes with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet-in-residence Philip Levine (he received the news of that award the evening before a class session). There are a few unpublished poems in binder, ones not in my little book of poetry that has languished at, a victim of my congenital lack of fiscal motivation, for years. If you want to take a look at that it's at You can get a .pdf download for like a buck and a quarter.

 That semester with Levine is a story unto itself, one which I may write someday, but not here.

One of those poems was written the week of April 9th, 1995, on the anniversary of our loss of our father, Edwin Augustus Merrick III, who had died in 1985. At the risk of being accused of double-dipping my grief, I submit it here to mark the passing of William Claude Merrick (November 22, 1952-January 20, 2011). I will note Levine's hand-written comment: "Don't abandon this -- much of the writing is potent & there is true candor here." I hope you agree.

May Bill, my much missed little brother, rest in peace. And I mean it. As with all my poems, I feel it's best read aloud, if under your breath. Please accept...
On April 9th 
The first year, on this day, my mood was maudlin.
Those who knew me knew the reason why:
Between me and the world thee hung a coffin
suspended in the air. Although I'd try
to focus past it to the tasks at hand,
nothing I could do or say sufficed.
Later on, my anger at the man
and sorrow (over having lost him, twice)
as if bound by blood oath, would contrive
most painful ways to show the day was coming.
These past few years, the ache, alive,
less violent, has assumed a soft, incessant drumming.
Today I had not marked the day at all
until my hand picked up a telephone, to call.

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