Six foot six, the both of us,
the two tallest poets
in Santa Barbara,
though you had thirty
years on me and a superior
sense of song—not to
mention that long patrician
an eyebrow that
arched at someone’s
balderdash, and a
voice cultivated
by higher education,
soothing even when it
faltered as you searched for a
bon mot.


Frost was your ‘subject’,
but John Frederick Nims
was the poet you most
called to mind—witty,
for a clever rhyme.
Your ear was an exquisite
instrument, fine-tuned
to philology. You’d clap once—
‘Just so!’—when a friend nailed
a metaphor,
and scan our lines
with the rigor of a dance
master keeping time
for his awkward charges.


Not content to craft
your own poems
merely, you dove into
translation like an
Olympic freestyle
champ. A folk epic
in Hungarian,
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,
The Pearl—in this century
who would think to translate
The Pearl? In your mid-
eighties, you embarked on
Homer, undertaking that long
journey from Ithaca
out into the wine-dark sea.


The end came as swiftly
as one of your concluding
lines, a sideswipe out of
In December, an email
began, ‘Encouraging
words I’ve heard…’
The next month was your
last. Your memorial service,
mid-March, was the final
event I attended
pre-pandemic, a
bouquet of lilies,
spaced two chairs apart,
masked friends serving


This poem’s title
references Heaney—
you’d have appreciated
that gesture, John: homage
to an elegy. We both
borrowed from our betters,
too much perhaps, but only
because poetry feels
more vivid than humdrum life.
Or am I wrong? I see
you now, rubbing your
broad forehead,
with your glasses,
preparing to form your

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