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A Friend is Gone

remembering my kayak friend Clifford Janoff

by Duncan Dwelle, February 2004

A friend is gone; I mourn his passing
Fleetingly, as memories massing
Put in focus the fact that death
Is hardly more than life's last breath,
While life itself is what we knew.

He was a man, like you and me,
With flaws and secrets all could see
Whose eyes returned that liquid gaze
Transmitting equal scorn and praise
Wrapped in a crust of love askew.

As seven blind men who touched the beast,
Having made their observations, ceased
Discovery of the creature's true being,
So we knew him, barely seeing
More than fragments without plan.

Yet it was the whole of him,
What we might call the soul of him,
Which each of us and all
On due reflection now recall
To be the nature of the man.

What made him so? Irascible and short;
Attentive, patient, yet ready with retort
For any proffered theory, scheme, or thought.
Contradicting his world view swiftly brought
Down upon one the wrath of godless dogma.

Yet should one need the tender affection
Of a loyal friend, absent all connection
To reason, right, or rationale
His love abiding and unconditional
Flowed forth as from some inner Buddha.

Such contradiction no one man can hold
Unless he be dramatic, strong, and bold,
Yet tender, compassionate, and aware
Of joy and suffering, ecstasy and care
In all things around him, obvious and unseen.

So ought we be surprised by his rebuff
Of things trivial, shallow, and fluff?
Is it not fitting that such a friend rejected
The superficialities of life and expected
The painful truth from us come clean?

I miss him now, and will six hundred days.
But time will come when memories fade to haze.
What then I keep, if choice is mine to make from here
Will be those things which made him to me dear
And cannot fade with time, nor ever need us mend:

His warming smile, his loving heart beneath a shell of thorn;
His ready wit, of all excuses shorn;
His evening toast as glasses rise together;
His clasping hand so warm and worn with weather;
These are the memories by which I'll keep my friend.