Dear Chuck, sweet brother. 
These songs,the only thing I know. 
Lena and I talked music,
she liked jazz, here’s my list 
with no Miles. Lena liked Miles. 
Be sure, his back is turned,
and Lena’s smiling. How these songs 
got here, what I want you to listen for.
Gretchen wanted Amazing Grace. 
I get to pick the recording. 
Charles Lloyd has a 2-hour set 
for his mother crossing,
Lift Every Voice and Sing. Gretchen
will track her mother to paradise
if she finds all of it, 
and gives six months
to nothing but You’re So Beautiful.
Not here. What is here? Lena’s listening.
Listen, when your girls finished 
writing the obituary 
we took out every reference
to here, as in not here, substituting
earth for here, believing, in fact,
Lena’s presence. What a privilege
being in the room with your daughters,
fully adult, as they wrote,
Megan saying at one point, 
This seems like Dad’s paragraph—
the one detailing how Lena
kept football pools quarter by quarter
with prizes to keep up her own interest.
Dad’s paragraph, his call.
They wrote Glioblastoma out of our world.
Chuck, sweet brother, Coach of Our Valley,
good husband, best Dad, and Papa,
I’m getting warmed up, 
under the influence
of Megan and the way she 
led the gospel songfest
around Lena’s bedside. 
Cottage in the Meadow-hospice, 
blessed place for family.
When Megan and Julia led us  
singing Blessed Assurance,
everyone in the room became believers.
Iris DeMent learned 
the song from her mother,
who believed like Megan. Like you.
Iris DeMent comes from deep river country.
She sings from, and crossing, riverbanks
most of us have never seen. 
She’s here, twice.
Just because, just because. And for Megan.
Chuck, these lines aren’t testimony,
but a kind of code. When you hear 
Archie Shepp’s clarinet 
on My Lord, What a Mornin’
picture Julia taking out her violin,
playing for Nana’s crossing. Note, too,
there are two versions 
of What A Morning.
These, the most beautiful 
ever recorded. Charlie Haden, 
Hank Jones, Archie Shepp, Horace Parlan.
Hank Jones had this bone disease capable
of shattering the bones in both hands
simply by laying them on piano keys.
And Elvis? Aren’t we Justified
by our listening? I’m just about done,
but Marsalis and Clapton carry on
with Just A Closer Walk with Thee
for over 12 minutes. It’s here
for that drum solo. Those are kids
banging on pails and garbage lids.
They’re at the ball park 
watching you coach
during the closest of games. 
You’re on third base, working praise songs,
coaching Lena on the Bridge to Heaven.
You’re really coaching. 
As you said, I was.
There was never any doubt in the outcome.
Thanks for that walk, for permitting us
to be present, to be 
in the room with you and Lena.
The rest is easy. Gretchen reminded me
of Mavis Staples, how we listened 
one day on our way up the mountain.
42 years of marriage. 
Jackie Robinson’s number. 42 years. 
40 Days in the Wilderness. 16 Songs.
Chuck, I’ve always had to go  
through the City of No, 
to get to the Paradise in Yes.
Leonard Cohen sings through fire,
he’s King David creating 
the Psalter of Our Days.
The women in our lives, 
Karen and Lena,
like Ruth in the corn.
Wherever thou goest, turning tables on us.
Where they go, we go too.

Your brother,

22 August—1 October, 2014

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