Poem for Ellen (Ellen Kleimaker 1952 – 2017)

“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” Arundhati Roy: The Cost of Living.


Poem for Ellen

How could we have known it would be

The last breakfast together?

— Those big, beautiful, German breakfasts –

The last chat, the last film,

last walk, dinner, hug?

And if we had known, would we have done it differently?

We both just showed up,

for each other,

for life.

What else should we do but live, while we are alive?


Not because we weren’t afraid did we not hide away.

For we were afraid, sometimes.

But I drew strength from your courage

And for sure, you did the same.

You surely did so with each of your dear ones,

As we filed by in the years, the days, the hours,

the last breath,

making meaning, making hope.

Fashioning courage with the tendrils of your mind and heart

just as surely as your fingers

coaxed fine figures from clay;

just as expertly as your hands elegantly stitched

history and love together

The history of love.

For you loved and were loved.


It’s raining today but where is my umbrella?

Hell, I don’t even know what day it is.

I can’t remember when we first met

Or why I first liked you.

What I remember is you showing up;

Your big, toothey smile;

Your wordless encouragement for all that I am.

I also remember your love of running around naked,

How you adored music and art;

sharing food and kindness and stories.

And, in the face of injustice, how you loved to incite a good fight!


Today, some key words are missing in my sentences,

the meaning is not very clear;

nothing makes much sense.

I scramble to rearrange the words I still have

Now so disappointing and inadequate.

I look into the eyes of my friends

Not for answers

But for a signal, for permission

to join hands

and tentatively to begin

to follow the scent of that strange

fugitive creature of joy and beauty.




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