What the Dead Have Done to Pass the Time
Stu Price played violin in a community orchestra, took pictures of the coast of Maine when he visited each autumn, and listened to Holst’s Planets while drinking black tea on winter afternoons. Jerry Rushlow owned a brick yard and a car wash. He showed Arabian horses and put his foot beneath the stirrups of riders who crowded him against the rail, dismounting them in the dirt of the show ring. Geraldine Nichols smoked Doral cigarettes, ate green grapes, and played solitaire at her kitchen table, standing up every few hours to empty a tin ashtray into a black Hefty bag tied to the handle of the silverware drawer. Bette Korowski spent a career scooping ice cream and weighing out boxes of chocolate at Truan’s Candies for the failing marriages of Dearborn Heights. She ate TV dinners in the back den with her son and watched Unsolved Mysteries followed by the 11 o’clock news every night. Ben Egan shot a gram of heroin every day for years. Some nights he would nod off in the Kroger parking lot where he’d stocked shelves in high school. The police would find him covered in wet leaves and take him home to his mother. Stephanie Proulx rode a chartered bus to the Windsor Casino every Wednesday, ate perch at the buffet, and played the nickel slots. At her funeral they said she had incredible luck. Father Solanus Casey fed the homeless in Detroit, and, according to his fellow friars, played fiddle woefully in his quarters at the Capuchin Monastery on Mount Eliot. I carry a prayer card with a picture of him in my wallet given to me by Joe Driessen, who went to church several times a week, who was dressed in a drab brown robe and laid out in a deal wood coffin, which is the custom of lay Franciscans. Guy Clark ate peanut butter crackers and smoked hand-rolled cigarettes while writing songs at his workbench. Some nights while my wife sleeps in the next room I play “Stuff That Works” on a black Gibson and quietly hum the words.
Cal Freeman is the author of the books Brother of Leaving and Fight Songs. His writing has appeared in many journals including Cutbank, The Journal, The Cortland Review, Rattle, Drunken Boat, and Southwest Review. He is the recipient of The Devine Poetry Fellowship (judged by Terrance Hayes) and Passages North's Neutrino Prize. He currently serve as music editor for The Museum of Americana: A Literary Review. He also regularly reviews collections of contemporary poetry for the program Stateside on Michigan Public Radio.
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