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POETRY J DONALD MACE WILLIAMS THE ENDING LINE For Richard Phelan, 1921-2009 We stalked words through their cyberhabitat, But that stopped when this line appeared one day: Richard is not available to chat. Nothing I triedBackspace, Escapechanged that. The message, I saw, must be there to stay. We stalked words through their cyberhabitat And treasured those that had sides, were not pat, Would never have announced, even in play, Richard is not available to chat. I’m lost without our two-way samizdat. Now who will keep banality at bay? We stalked words through their cyberhabitat, Not one that he found ever falling flat. A subtle glow backlit his strings of gray. “Richard is not available to chat”: I can’t avoid the line. It sticks out at The very end of all we had to say. We stalked words through their cyberhabitat. Richard is not available to chat. DONALD MACE WILLIAMS, a former newspaper writer and editor and former professor of journalism at Baylor University, lives in Canyon. His poems have run in various magazines. A fund ww g or 877.355.1469 s4 , .s , .*;ke Welty. In his letters he continued to excoriate his Crawford neighbor, George W. Bush, as well as Dick Cheney, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh \(“the Bloated As a college student, I first came across the Albert Camus quote, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide!’ I continued to think about it, persistently, over the years, but basically in the context of a philosophical abstraction. In recent years I have been forced, suddenly, to deal with the reality of suicide in a personal way after my son and a brilliant friend of mine took their lives. I have tried, foolishly, to conceptualize what goes through a person’s mind during the last minutes of life. Can there be a lonelier moment for a human being: fully aware, knowing that in the next few seconds consciousness will be extinguished? It is doubtful that Phelan’s friendship with me or his friendships with others was on his mind on the morning of March 18. He was finished with life. He had taped a note to his pants lega note giving explicit instructions about cremation and how his affairs were to be settledand had shut his apartment door, then walked across the road to the nearby pasture. He was in the closed circle of his last momentslike a comet about to flame out in space. Perhaps he stood there a while, looking at his final sunrise, before he took out the .38 caliber pistol and pulled the trigger. Police found his body and the note. He was cremated in Dallas. On March 28, several friends and relatives scattered his ashes across a field of bluebonnets near Waco, as was his wish. John Donne wrote: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is … a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less … any man’s death diminishes me:’ After a half-century of friendship, I am diminished by the death of Richard Phelan. Elroy Bode is a longtime Observer contributor and the author of most recently, In A Special Light 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 17, 2009