Content Warning: Suicide

Originally published at Measure Review

In Memory of Jim Simmerman
by John Philip Drury

“Ever the best of friends,” your letters ended,
great expectations for a wave of years
that promised more reunions, correspondence.
But all that’s over. The police were pleased:
you’d cleaned your room, and organized your papers,
and spread a plastic sheet on the bed you made
before you squeezed the trigger. Much less mess
than what a riot of pain your life had been:
arthritis that ruled out playing your Stratocaster,
bi-polar riffs, binges of solitude
in bars, relationships blown to jagged bits,
and your dog, Bandit, dying before you did.

You were theatrical, always percolating,
“acting out” like a kid hopped up on conflict.
Your facial tic, compulsive blinking, betrayed
the turbulence within. You clashed with others,
but when I told you that you’d copped a line
of mine, you changed the ending of your poem.
I’m grateful that you talked your editor
into publishing my first book in his series
that barred (till my collection) all debuts.

Halfway from Provincetown to Arizona,
you stopped in Iowa City, meeting me
at Howard Johnson’s by the interstate.
We visited the library to greet
our Masters theses. You pulled out your volume,
ripped out the pages from the binding, and dropped
your poetry collection in the trashcan,
returning the empty cover to the stacks.
“This one belongs to them,” you said. “That’s mine.”

John Philip Drury is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Sea Level Rising (Able Muse Press, 2015). New poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Able MuseThe American Journal of PoetryThe Poetry PorchRaintown Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. He teaches at the University of Cincinnati.