On Life and Death, and Poetry : A tribute to Michel Dallaire

Life

I haven’t really written in a vey long time. I’ve instead been painting with decisions, and actions, and the joys and sorrows of a new routine sought and earned.

A man died this week; a man I once called uncle, then mentor, friend… and now since his departure from this place where we are bound in the physical I’ve just been calling memories of him to mind as often as possible.

Michel Dallaire. A cherished French Canadian poet and author. A brother. A son. A mentor. So many titles are laid at his feet by those that had the good fortune to have crossed paths with him and have been inspired by that crossing.

His crossing of my path happened at the most opportune of times for me at least. In the middle of my teenage angst. I met an uncle, a poet.

A family reunion full of aunts and uncles and cousins so far removed they may as well be in a neighbouring province or country. Me, in this crowd, extremely uncomfortable. Michel. A side room, door cracked open. He’s playing piano. We talk. And talk. Exploring the canvas of thoughts and ideas.

During those teen years, I was thankful to be able to interact with someone who I felt understood the thoughts that raced through my mind late at night. We corresponded, for a while, back and forth in a poetic chain through which we self published a little booklet of poetry. His and mine. I was euphoric to have gone through that process with him. For him to help me step from the constraint of rhyme to which I had bound myself prior. Free verse. Free.

I’m ever grateful for his influence, and also for the messages and conversations from time to time over the years since his leaving my immediate family.

Death

I learned of his death online through Facebook, as one does these days. Suddenly the world did not have a Michel in it any longer. It hit me rather hard.

Through the day, in waves, I came to think about what gets me most of death. It’s the culling of possible paths. It’s the removal of possibilities. My future no longer contains any direction in which our paths will cross again. His thread, cut short too soon, has ended and I have only the memories I have of him to sift through.

It’s the same reason I have trouble being decisive at times. Deciding and acting removes possibility, and while I know full well the flaw in this thinking when it comes to refraining from decision, in the moment it almost always feels better to leave all future possibilities on the table.

Yet we cannot, and truly live. We must act and decide and grow and cull and foster and tend.

And Death

I haven’t written in a long time, and the guilt of that hit me hard when I learned of Michel’s passing. A man who inspired me so fully towards writing I thought for sure all paths of my own would continue that writing no matter what.

Since 2013 I have been deciding and acting and growing my path towards a destination that I have achieved. A job I love, a wife I love, a son I love, a home I can afford (and love), and a countryside to explore.

All of those decisions led me away from my frequent writing. They led me far away from the comfort one has in such frequency of writing. No confidence have I had in my writing for some time now.

Out of practice. In a community of software developers in a job that I love, I’ve feared opening myself up to my old ease of vulnerability in writing. I’d killed that free spirit, to some extent, in favour of the certainty that vulnerability not presented can not harm.

And death.

Michel. Thank you. I know I’ve expressed in words over time how much your presence in my life at that time so many years ago and since has meant to me. It doesn’t change the fact that I had planned to continue thanking you for many years to come.

I will miss you. I will miss the possibility of seeing you again. I will miss the possibility of introducing my family to you.

I want to make a bold statement now, that I will wake up to the muses and daemons when they call late at night with words whispered in my ear. That the wind will give me pause again, the moon, the sun, the waves on the bay. I would have, once, made such a statement.

Unfortunately, I do not know if I will answer those calls or not, when they come visiting. I cannot make such a statement.

Life Again

I will post this, though. These words. Mostly unedited and raw. A little vulnerability in my sharing of your impact on a large part of my core. It’s how you found me in the beginning.

Maybe more words will come to me. More poetry beyond the laughter I can sometimes evoke from my son and wife and others around me. The kind forged of emotion and words and hopefully some of the echoes of your imprint on my spirit.

Thank you, always. Thank you.

Your friend.

Shane

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