On the Eve of Departure

My really good friend Jesse, unofficial poet laureate of Portland, is moving to Denver tomorrow so he can begin to earn his PhD in Poetry at Denver University. It’s a wonderful sadness. Below is a poem I wrote and read at an outdoor poetry reading Jesse invited me to participate in this summer.

Poem for Poem

To approach Jesse in an ease of years,

Be the ball.

Be from Mountain View.

Be onstage naked, whirling in reckless solo.

Be in the check-out line reading your poems,

be all over town reading your poems.

Be able to turn nonchalance into the morning after.

Be unabashed in who and what you love,

fearless in letting them know it.

Be able to turn a black lab pup

into a horse.

Be student and teacher of your own metaphysics,

practicing your dharma on cushion and court.

Be Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, but most importantly


Be like a dog traversing the grass,

unplottable and invariably finding what you’re looking for.

Be on your way to Colorado to get paid to be a poet, jerk.

Next, on the edge of loss and becoming, settle into

the shot of bourbon

the line written with beard dipped in ink,

the gallop up a volcano,

the heaping plate offered graciously

the walk into tall grass.

At last you must give into quantum mechanics:

there are incarnations of Jesse you can know but will not see.

He’s picking mac nuts of religious fervor on Hawai’i.

He’s been chosen to replace Greg Oden.

He’s a guitar being warmed in the California sun.

He’s chewing on juniper berries and sand, pillowing his head on red rock.

He’s leaving this place for the sake of an honored fate,

gathering wisdom to his grey.

And if you have to choose just one, it’s this:

Turning 30 Jesse buys tickets to an A’s game for all his friends. After the game Jesse joins the line of children being admitted for a run around the bases. The gatekeeper is going to forbid him, but relents as long as he pretends to be a father to one of the extra kids. We take to the seats to wait. I imagine what it would be like, a slow trot along storied lines, gazing up into the eyes of the coliseum, the echoes of today’s game emanating from grass and dirt. Memories of games played and watched arising and falling away with each careful crunch of step, each base lingered over.

Jesse comes out of the tunnel, waves to us with a grin, and takes off at full speed toward first. He pounds the bag and has his shirt off midway to second. Rounding second he’s at full speed, five year-olds and their mothers scattering before him. This is a form of ecstatic prayer, a perfect hallelujah fuck you, a completely reasonable insanity. This is how you turn any age, this is the major leagues, this is Jesse Morse coming around third full tilt and barreling toward home.


4 thoughts on “On the Eve of Departure

  1. This is amazing. Amazing poetry, amazing stories, amazing (I can only surmise) person. I haven’t met Jesse, but damn, I love him already. Cheers for the move to Denver, brothah! Spread that kind of spirit around.

    • Jesse’s quite a dude, and as much as we miss him here, I am stoked he’s throwing a great big log on the fire. Thanks for reading Kalin!

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