Friday, October 11, 2013

REMEMBERING MARCEL



You were always waiting for me
on the corner
of Elliot and Richter 
in the snow
all those dark sub-zero
bitter weekday mornings
in the crystal dead of winter
long ago,
under crisply winking stars
fall in beside me,
our steps crunching
across the frozen snow
towards the lighted school
where you would play
my champion,
towards the lighted school
where I would play
the fool.

We need not speak;
you were just there
to guide me
you supported me
and loyally you cared
through all those years
you walked,
silent, beside me
so full of all the words
I could not speak
so left unsaid,
brittle with so many
tears
I knew not
how to shed.

Your presence
along the deep abyss
that I was skirting
was a comfort
you, the only one
to see that I was hurting
you, the only one to see
who I was
really meant to be
hiding behind the gay bravado,
the laughing eyes,
the laughter,
you saw me shining then
and ever after
all my life long,
you've always been
my friend

Perhaps your presence
kept me from
the chasm,
my pain hid deep
behind my
thousand smiles,
you knew I needed
help
along those
so-precarious miles,
and up that hill of pain
so steep,
someone
who would
my painful
secret
keep.

You were so loyal,
you asked for nothing
but it is true
that in those years
that burned us deep
I was your defender, too
When other boys taunted you
beyond your years,
so sage, so wise,
till angry tears stood,
smarting,
in your outraged eyes,
frustration at living in a world
so cruel,
I would fall in beside you
as we walked away
from yet another day
survived in school

I lost you for a long and lonely time,
went looking for you many years ago
you, the one who always made me laugh,
you, the only one from those sad years
who "knew me when"
and who was still my friend

I needed to thank you
for always
standing by,
be your friend
better
than I could be
back then
when you watched me
breaking my heart
over silly boys
who decried me
while all the time
someone who cared
stood right beside me

One day your name was there
on my computer screen
it was so good to finally
make up the lost years
in between

But, Marcel, you left too soon
and suddenly.
This time I thought
that there would always be
more time to tell you
all you mean to me
especially how
kind you are
and rare,
how clear you see,
how loyally
you care,
we still had so much
friendship
left
to share

Once again,
as if the years
had never intervened,
there you were
supporting me
behind my winking screen
making me laugh as I did you
with stories
all too ludicrous
and true
because laughter after pain
is what we always knew

I took for granted
this time you would
always be
at the other end
of an email
never lost again
to me
We never had the chance
to meet again
If we did
I knew your face
would be the same
because your heart was
throughout all the years
unchanged

We did not metamorphose;
from those young ghosts
our spirits rose
and we became
more truly
who we are:
delightfully deranged,
two solitary souls
who are
wicked awesome
strange

I still had a hug
to give you
in this lifetime,
wanted one more time
to look into your eyes
You left too soon
but this I surely
promise:
Marcel,
you'll always
be a friend
of mine

I have to believe
that one day
I'll be crossing
a clear and frozen
landscape
all alone
until I reach the
far and distant
corner
just past the morning star
the corner
where you are
just waiting
to fall into step
beside me,
your presence
in that moment
not denied me,
to support me through
that last stretch of the journey
Once more
I will be
Heading Home
with you.

Marcel,
back when you loved me then
so true,
I'll bet you never dreamed
that it would end up
me and you.


Marcel with his beloved Paprikas, 
two weeks before his death, 
when he knew he would be leaving.

Marcel was gay in 1960's Kelowna, and was taunted mercilessly by the Good Ole Boys, who would goad him till he erupted in a tirade of Shakespeare - "Begone, thou milk-faced fools!" - red-faced, tears in his eyes, while the other boys fell about laughing. Always a champion of the underdog, I became his friend and he repaid me with utter devotion. 

We lost touch for a few decades but I had only just found him again when he was gay-bashed - assaulted and with limbs broken - by a homophobe in Vancouver. The police did not pursue charges, though Marcel identified his attacker, who actually stalked him for a while. At the same time, his insurance company denied his claim for disability (for other serious health problems) and Marcel said "I cannot work and I will not beg." Altogether, he gave up and definitively took his own life in March, 2001. I read the above poem - crying all the way through it -  at his memorial.

I wrote the story of Marcel here.

I am posting this for dVerse, where Brian has called for us to write about friends, as our community mourns the passing of Dave King, a lovely poet and fine gentleman, who will be greatly missed.

31 comments:

  1. sad and touching story...brought to light... well done Sherry

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  2. great tribute although poignantly sad of the trials and tribulations he experienced for being himself, for being a human being.

    i have a feeling that he has spiritually connected to your words

    wonderfully written piece

    mi amiga

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  3. that sounds like a wonderful friendship you had... and so cool that you found each other again after so many years... tears when i read that it was only for a short time... thanks sherry for sharing a bit of the story of the two of you... really moved me deeply...

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  4. This is heart-breaking.. and such a sad end. It just shows that friend ship is about helping each other. This is a story that beats many fictions stories... and also raise my anger when I read about the background.

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  5. Back in the 60s must have been a difficult time for Marcel. Even in the 80s it was hauntingly painful.

    Friendship like this, is painful. But transcends time, and even death.

    I have a friend, he was there for me during a very dark period. I hope we would find each other again one day. You give me hope, Sherry.

    I am sorry about Marcel. but I sincerely hope he found peace. And that you, will always think of him - wicked awesome strange.

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  6. A terribly sad and moving poem, Sherry--yet also full of love and all the things that not just help us survive, but make us shine. I too was in tears reading this. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. tears. at what happened to him...and how ignorant people are at times...i am glad you eventually reconnected...and its cool that life brought you back together even if just for a bit....friends though...what could we do without them...smiles...

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  8. Oh, Sherry, I can picture the two of you meeting at that corner, walking to school. How difficult it must have been for Marcel when not only the other students mocked him, but also when the church considered him the worst sort of sinner. I'm disgusted by the police and their failure to protect him if only by pressing charges, and so sad he would rather die than beg.
    Love, K

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  9. Sherry, what a tragedy for Marcel, for you. It breaks my heart to look at the young Marcel and the older Marcel before he died. How very, very sad for you, for him, for all.

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  10. What a sad story you share in your poem--brightened though by your friendship with one another. Cruelty is so heartbreaking and infuriating. And yes, it is so easy to take relationships for granted sometimes.

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  11. Oh Sherry this is sad. He had you during those young years which is something...A fierce defender of those she cares for. It would have been far worse if he had no one , which is the situation of a lot of young persecuted gays Great story telling.

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  12. This is a heart-breaking story Sherry! Your words are a beautiful tribute to Marcel.

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  13. A beautiful friendship, and a terrible loss. Thank you for sharing.

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  14. Oh my God, Sherry. I sensed what this was about quite clearly before reading your note and my heart feels just broken reading the further story. So so sad. I am so glad that Marcel had your friendship and you his. You are such a stalwart person, supporter of the underdog--that shines through in all you write. Thanks. K.

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  15. This is a heartbreaking story Sherry. I'm glad Marcel had your friendship. I'm so sorry this ended as it did...so, so sad.

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  16. I recognized this poem from the very first line! and well worth a re-read any day. Truly breaks my heart and Marcel... how I wish you hadn't known such meanness!

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  17. Sherry - I have known too much of this. You did a beautiful job, you created a beautiful poem - and he has read it, probably reads it again and again, grateful for your love - loving you back equally. I am not writing yet - don't come by hugs.

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  18. i remember the story of marcel. this is a graceful gallery of gratitude in tribute to one heck of a guy.

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  19. Powerful poem--the deep emotions flow out in every line. While the cruelty of some people is overwhelmingly depressing a lot of times, the generosity and good will of others helps ease the pain. Excellent work here!

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  20. Sherry, this gave me the chills just as surely as if I were walking with you, or waiting for Marcel that winter morning. What a blessed friendship indeed. It hurts me to much to think of gay bashing and, for that matter, any kind of bullying. I had a gay friend who befriended me during a difficult time about 20 years ago. We also lost contact when I moved away from the SF area....this pushes me to reach out. Thank you so much.

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  21. I remember reading this before ~ How touching to read it again ~ Some friends just leave their mark with us for the longest time ~

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  22. You are so lucky to have had the opportunity to renew, and enjoy, your strong friendship which was both comfortable and comforting. A beautifully written tribute, Sherry.

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  23. Sherry, I am so sorry you lost such a wonderful friend, especially under such tragic circumstances. You have written such a lovely tribute.

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  24. This really puts it in line! You've done full justice to the sad episode. Irrespective of what one person had chosen you were there defending his right. Such a fine tribute. It's all the more sadder though that he took the course that he did in the end. On the contrary it was indication of how very vicious they had been to him. I cry for you too. You've been a great friend Ma'am! And brilliant write, the longest I think!

    Hank

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  25. Sherry - this is outstanding. My condolences for your friend Marcel. No human being should be abused or suffer for who they are. This is a lovely tribute regarding friendships and also to Dave. Thank you.

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  26. There is no question in my mind that you are a champion Sherry. I'm sure Marcel is grateful to have had you in his life, supporting him. And still I know you always advocate for the underdog. Hope you don't see him soon again, but when you do, it will be a fantastic reunion.

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  27. Such a heartbreaking life, to have lived with such irrational (when is it ever rational?) cruelty and still a beautiful story of friendship and devotion Sherry. Our losses feel fresh for such a long time.

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  28. Oh gosh, how wonderful to have a friend who could just fall in step with you...such a rare gift you both shared...just beautiful such devotion. What a heartbreaking story how hard it must have been for him. Such a touching and emotional poem that has brought tears to my eyes and the lovely photo of Marcel his gorgeous cat... thank you for sharing this precious friendship!

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  29. Friendship can have many faces, but all of them are beautiful...

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