Twenty years of teaching must sure amount to something. A new friend in cyberspace suggested I ought to have a journal by now. I agree.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
My friend Arlene
I have written about my friend Arlene Lawson a couple of times. For those of you who haven't known her yet, she was a Canadian/American who I have befriended when I joined Writersvillage, an online university for writers sometime in 1998. We had been online friends since then and our relationship was strengthened when she came to the country to visit my family. Our story is a living testimony of how the internet, in spite of the horror stories we've read or heard over time, can be a tool for lasting friendly relationships. For those of you who missed this story, you can read it here.
When Arlene passed away on December 8, 2006, a huge part of my being has been taken away. She was not only a friend but "she was my mentor, my muse in poetry, my confidante who always listened when I whined, laughed at my antics, my source of energy everytime I felt so-so, my fan who believed in everything I do, my patron who had taken me to places I would not have dared go". As if to add insult to injury, my mother who was bedridden and suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years, died two weeks after while my closest aunt (possibly the only one I have known) and best friend, passing on several months earlier. That was a very lonely year for me.
Yesterday, I was very happy to receive from our common friend, Bob Wands, a book of her poems together with pictures, which I think summarizes what she was when she was alive. Bob (her best friend) is co-owner with Arlene of an online poetry e-zine which also saw print called "The Country Garden Mouse", a namesake of her once -upon-a -time souvenir shop in Steveston, BC. During the memorial service, Bob "was given permission to extract from her computer all of her writing, and many of her pictures." Bob painstakingly sorted out these pictures that "have a relationship to the poetry, intending to chronicle ... from (our) many conversations - were the important periods of her life." AS a result, this book aptly titled, "The Real Arlene" is born. Reading this book reminded me of long conversations with her over the phone, the internet and during my stay in Canada.
Arlene is by far one of the best poets I have come across in my years of stay in the university. Just to show you how good she was, here is a poem she wrote about the most painful experience she ever had. In November of 1959, she lost her 23 month-old baby, Theresa, (she could have been the same age as I) on her lap when she was killed by a drunk driver. In this poem, we can feel the anguish of a mother who has cared so much for her daughter only to lose her so soon. The brevity of the poem and its simple imagery makes it very powerful for me. Here it is:
Pack away forsaken playthings. still damp diapers folded dresses
Wipes the final finger smudges from off the mirror?