“Have you ever written a poem about hope?”—Manny Montesino
I checked online. Google doesn’t have an answer. There are some unsourced articles that claim he lives in Tokyo. He turns 66 on February 23, 2021; that’s 6 days from now. The life expectancy of a Japanese male born in 1955 is 64.7, but there are 72 children for every 1000 born that year who did not live passed their 5th birthday. I don’t think that there is a particular reason I should believe that Toshifumi Hinata is not alive. But the algorithm told me to ask this question soon after I’d discovered him and so it’s remained on my mind. You died tomorrow, three years ago. You were 63, you were also born in 1955. I remember that Kanye West was in the news one of the last times I saw you. You asked me if he really was some sort of prodigal, an artist of a lifetime. I said, “more or less, you should listen for yourself.” You listened to all sorts of music. Whenever you came to my house, I would make sure that something interesting was playing sometimes it was African Jazz, sometimes it was early reggae. At the time you were asking me about Kanye, you were already well into losing your vision. Increased cortisol can increase eye pressure and that can result in blindness. Around the time when the progression of your illness was the fastest, I had my jaw surgery. I spent 40 days and 40 nights with my jaws wired shut. It was the closest I’ve felt to Jesus. Of course, it was Kanye West who recorded “Through the Wire.” I went with a friend to a recording studio and texted him criticisms. It was your granddaughter’s birthday, we sat on the couch together, she ran around the pool. We joked that we could see no evil and speak no evil. Who could hear no evil? Now, I speak confidently; I have a perfect smile. The last time I saw her, I spoke about you; I’ll always do that. My grandmother is sick now. I think whenever something goes wrong, she thinks about you and how slowly a catastrophe can happen. First, it was just a loss of vision. Then, a doctor identified your illness and there was a course of treatment. We missed each other by hours at the National Institutes of Health, we were both patients. Our morbid sense of humor was always just far enough from death, we joked about who was the sickest, like Y2K battle rappers. You had brain surgery. You were kept for observation for weeks until your wife convinced them to let you go home. You died, covered in blood. You had the chance to see your son, but not your daughter. I was in Colorado when my mom called me in the middle of the night. A year can crumple like a car in a collision, you cannot uncrumple it. You cannot go back and search for details you did not pay attention to, a missed turn signal, a slick stream of water on the asphalt, hi-beams ignoring the red glare of a traffic light. I am searching for a metaphor that explains what it is like to know and not believe for an entire year that someone you love is dying. Ignoring death for that whole year was supposed to be a testament to our hopefulness. Now, it feels like a lie that you get stuck repeating for the rest of your life. You gave your sister an orchid before you died. It almost died this year. It survived. I want nothing more than to hear what you have to say about Toshifumi Hinata’s Reality in Love or his Broken Belief. I write more serious poems now. This is supposed to be a poem. But I am writing as if you can hear me and so why would I stop myself? The thing about death is that we hide the bodies, sometimes burning them. If you are physically missing, I can pretend that the silences you would have filled have always been there. I don’t know if you listened to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Kanye hasn’t really been in the news for a while. Donald Trump got banned from twitter. V is always smiling and still loves running in the grass. Your son got divorced and remarried. Your mother passed away. Some of this you must already know. This is supposed to be about hope. All I can say is that your death already happened, and tomorrow will happen again a year from now. Can I cobble together some image that inspires hopefulness? I am surrounded by the remnants of flowers:
Do you see what I mean?
There is a particularly sad song on Reality in Love called “End of the Summer.” I imagine that in most places it is a sad affair, the slow encroachment of a frazzling winter beginning, but in Miami the declaration is either existential or vastly overstated. But consider that Hibiscus flowers only bloom for a day before closing and falling off, preferring their own demise to the possibility of an ‘end.’ Consider all the times you saw something and took a picture. Consider that for millennia people had to trust themselves or the world to preserve something they wanted to see again.