2015-02-18 / Living & Style

In Memory of Joe Sloan

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the death of my friend, Joe Sloan. I know there are a lot of people who could say - “my friend, Joe Sloan” - because Joe was a friend to many, because he tried to help others, because he would contact you and ask you to attend another class reunion and make you feel that you would be missed if you didn’t show up. He loved his family, he loved his community and he loved his church. We were friends for over 44 years and like so many others, I have lots of stories about Joe, who accepted the silly things and the absurd things that happened to him with self-deprecating humor, and met the large and terrible things, with his faith. The last month of his life, we texted almost every day. I’d send him a haiku in the morning, - a fourteen syllable poem works well with texting - and sometime that day, he’d reply. One morning, I sent him this - “Moon hidden behind clouds, still there, unseen, not forgotten.” Joe replied: “That is the basis of my faith. Good morning.” His statement of faith, as well as some of those other texts are incorporated into the poem. Joe’s faith deepened until he and his faith were not two things, but one.

- Joe’s friend and 1969 classmate, John West.

What It Was

a song of Arthur Joe Sloan

I.
In winter born and so there dwelt
where cold and hope joined as breath.
Soon spring began the season’s melt
from whispers moist with life and death.
When summer’s sun burns and bakes
little’s left but our want for rains.
Yet come the fall, what it was aches,
not with loss, but from what remains.

As evening fades away to night,
the stars and moon lift up our sight.
Soon today overtakes tomorrow,
as is joy new born from sorrow.
Obscured by clouds, is there a moon?
With faith a blind man knows when’s noon.

II.
In winter died, yet never dies,
for hope and cold, their promise kept.
Then soon the spring will slowly rise
blessed by prayers of tears and sweat.
When summer’s sun bakes and burns,
and nothing’s left to us but pain.
So comes the fall, what it was yearns
for what’s lost and with all who remain.

Bone-cold fog hides stars from sight,
Tree-shaped cutouts float on veils of light.
Silhouettes, a flock, rise from the lake
And bare trees shook; suddenly, daybreak.
A green force drives up through the snow
And what it was, reborn, begins anew to grow.

III.

In winter now, and for always now,
When hope and cold become as one,
Soon the spring will swear a vow
of warmth and wet, gently, and gently done.
The summer’s drought dries crops to dust
All are parched, faint shadows of grain,
But come the fall, what it was, we trust
will ease the loss, for us who remain.

Our dreams recall a deathless flight
then dawn arrives to bring us light.
He died today, he lives tomorrow;
Faith abides to comfort sorrow.
At the end, what it was, is, again;
there’s nothing lost, we’re all and remain.

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