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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