This is for my friend Jim Ricker. 1954-2015
Elegy for Jim
by Jimmy Jazz
An elegist like an astronomer should know more of a moon or a man than its gibbous phase. -anonymous
A screaming came across the sky
on Broadway two hours after sunrise
as a black crow darted before the cityscape,
a small hawk in pursuit of his tail feathers…
reminding me, strangely, of conversations
in a teacher’s lounge
at a language school
in San Diego
with our friend Jim Ricker
Jim, Hippie Jim,
parsing the spoken words of his interlocutors
asking each to think & re-think
the talons of his sharp logic clipping some who dared
use anecdotal evidence to support a claim
Hippie Jim, there was a fry cook in your heart
and a prescriptive grammar Snoot
A fry cook flipping hotcakes in a Sunday rush
at the big kitchen
Hippie Jim with your Master’s degree
where is your long hair now?
a fry cook who never minced words
& a usage cop with an etymologist’s nightstick
upside the head of the Green Grocer— Who
does he think he is with his ’10 Items or Less’ sign?
Hippie Jim, you old polemicist, you coot
but always ready and able to argue
Hippie Jim, with your long hair
were you a Marxist?
Can you explain for me one more time
Marx’s Labor Theory of Value?
You old union man, you Wobblie
We’ll kick hell out of any scab that crosses your picket line
Why were you shaking your fist
at the lack of common sense in the Ottoman Empire
over coffee with the muse?
Yer cantankerous-misanthropic-curmudgeon mask
didn’t fool the people you loved
A circus tent couldn’t mask a heart like that
Hippie Jim, will they bury you
in bolo tie & seersucker coat?
Will your hair be long in heaven?
Will you give Jesus a piece of your mind?
Will God pour you a beer & with a slap on the back say, Good Job Buddy?
Hippie Jim, you could be sober
a thousand years, or a thousand lonely nights
and all your courage & conviction
wouldn’t stop us finger-waggers from waving your final vices
like a red flag— Did
you really eat a 7-11 chili dog & chocolate milk
every fucking day?
Any man who can find joy in the grit in the bottom of a styrofoam cup of Folger’s,
can be happy in this world.
O, secret joy teacher!
ask your students to seize the day
tap your enthusiasm
in class & field trips
to places they have never been
Jim, Hippie Jim,
Who will speak at length about the great writers of our time?
Who will follow Pynchon & Bill Vollmann,
who will read Edward Abbey’s FBI file,
and care about David Foster Wallace?
Who will throw his body on the gears of the capitalist machine?
And wonder in what desert Edward Abbey lies?
You Knower (of so many things)
History dies with a man like you
History falls into the memory hole
Your hawk soars above the tower,
the crow count his days.