There are some people you meet briefly that, if you had had the chance, you know you would have liked to know them better. Three years ago in Chicago, I had the pleasure of briefly meeting poet Jake Adam York after a panel at Chicago’s last AWP, and warmth seemed to radiate from him. It was a shock to hear not long afterwards that he had unexpectedly passed away at the age of 40. I know that he had many friends in the poetry community, but I know him only through his work. His newest collection Abide was one of the first purchases I made at AWP this year.
I share here his poem “Abide,” first published in Memorious:
Forgive me if I forget
with the birdsong and the day’s
last glow folding into the hands
of the trees, forgive me the few
syllables of the autumn crickets,
the year’s last firefly winking
like a penny in the shoulder’s weeds,
if I forget the hour, if I forget
the day as the evening star
pours out its whiskey over the gravel
and asphalt I’ve walked
for years alone, if I startle
when you put your hand in mine,
if I wonder how long your light
has taken to reach me here.
Sigh. This poem is so tender, I actually sigh when I read it. What is most masterful about this piece is the way it uses its form (the extended sentence) to lead the reader to a revelation that seems perfectly genuine and natural, just like the voice of the speaker. The seemingly simple images are well-rendered – “winking like a penny in the shoulder’s weeds” and the evening “pouring out its whiskey over the gravel” – and every word bears weight.
This is no apology for eating plums from the icebox – this is an apology for being so lost in the temple of the world that not enough attention is paid to the miracle of being loved.
Please pick up any of Jake Adam York’s books:
If you want to write:
1. Write a one that is one long sentence that starts with a form of address (forgive me, excuse me, tell me) and doesn’t reveal who is being addressed and why until the last few lines.
2. Write a poem where you personify trees, crickets, fireflies, and the evening star.