I won't be at school today. Instead I will be attending the funeral of a cousin of mine. For many years now, she has battled cancer, but the cancer finally took her life this week. She will be missed by all who have ever known her. She was a good woman.
I had planned on using this poem for Tuesday's poetry post, but when I read the description about the poem, I decided to use it today. The poem is called "White T-Shirt" and is by Lewis Ellingham. The poem 'White T-shirt' records a San Francisco bus trip returning homeward from a cancer radiation treatment session at U. C. Hospital (Mt. Zion) mid-December 2012. He'd been writing poems 'about objects' for a month or so. The setting collected and intensified as he sat on the bus, and he wrote the poem immediately upon arriving home.
Sometimes we just need a snapshot (visual, verbal, or written) to bring back so many memories...
by Lewis Ellingham
I caught sight of it at a bus stop:
a white T-shirt, though
it was partly covered by
the turning form of a lanky youth massed
with other human forms intent upon
boarding the bus on which
I was riding, tucked in a corner seat on
the last row of seats on the bus, the right side, sheltered,
watching the surge as it entered the double rear doors that
soon welcomed as a bottleneck the half dozen
new passengers — tall, he walked back along the aisle until he stood
maybe a dozen feet from me, holding a rail
with one hand (the right), the other arm dangling, his hips relaxed,
every color — hair, eyebrows, lashes, half-day beard shadow,
heavy cotton pants, a
jacket dangling from the dangling left arm — black except for his
white T-shirt, unornamented, the folds from his twist
as he stood, deep drapery folds, the cotton heavier than ordinary
for such a garment, the trim at waist and short sleeves the same material rolled,
eye-catching for its clean bright whiteness, hinting at his beauty, and
beautiful in its self: a white T-shirt, an
would move slightly, the creases deepen
as the twist deepened
at Castro, Market and 17th streets
he got off, many did, many boarded, his eyes, a light brown, met mine through
the bus window for a moment, the T-shirt at his neck white,
an object still
Born February 27th, 1933, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Ellingham was educated in Catholic schools because his mother, who died when he was two years old, was Catholic. His father, a newspaper executive and Democratic Party leader, was not, and remarried when he was a teenager. By age 21 he had migrated to San Francisco, having tasted bohemian life in Chicago and New York, a lifestyle dictated by an early understanding that he was gay, wanted to be a writer, and was without mainstream social or economic ambitions. He settled in North Beach, in a world centered in bars, odd jobs and the group of poets and painters dominated by Jack Spicer. For him it would remain the same cultural world, the leading influences eventually being Bob Glück’s writing classes and his efforts as a Spicer biographer, culminating in prose in a book co-authored with Kevin Killian, Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance . The Birds and Other Poems was published in 2009; new writing continues, now online at The Ellingham Digest.