A HARDSCRABBLE MIRACLE

by Mark Moody

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Read tributes to Chris Hewitt by Raymond J. Aguilera, Angie McLachlan, and Michael Perreault.

 

Chris's life was a sort of hardscrabble miracle, and after getting to know him for a while it just seemed as if he would go on. Hard to think of someone as a highwire act when they're in a wheelchair, but like any accomplished aerialist, he held himself up as if it was the most natural thing to do.

He was amazingly generous to me, and, I suspect, to others who took the time to get to know him. I'll never forget his wheeling into the classroom at the start of a writing class for HIV+ men at the Harvey Milk Institute, and introducing himself as the teacher. At the time I thought that if he could get it together to come and teach, I could sure as hell crank out a few poems.

He was a tough critic, and also believed in my work more than I did, and I know now that it was not out of pity for my being in cancer treatment at the time.

He was the one who sent my poems to BENT; he also sent some to Art & Understanding magazine, resulting in my first two publications. I sailed on that for a very long time.

Having survived the epidemic and its darkest days (thus far), so often the death of others not so close comes somehow in stride. My partner has lost three immediate family members this year, two of them in shocking ways, and it hasn't fazed me. But Chris's death hurts in a way that all my previous experience doesn't seem to help.

We connected around issues that came late to me and early to him: life threatened by the immediacy of illness, and the healing power of art. It still amazes me how art cuts through things. Rereading Chris's work on BENT, I hear it in his voice, especially this amazing passage from a piece called "Tenacity":

Never for a moment do I wish I hadn't been born, though I often wish I didn't have O.I., especially when I have a fracture. But therein lies the paradox: Because I am not my bones, not brittle like them, they are dear to me. They are the flowers of my soul. I must care for them as one would a garden. Somehow, my strength comes from them.

Sometimes I don't know how to survive, and then someone like Chris comes along, who might be crushed under his own weight, and lifts me up.

© 2004 Mark Moody

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BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/September 2004