- For Jim Foley, October 18, 1973 – August 19, 2014
When I think of Jim I think of the low, humid desert where the last veteran from Spaintalks to his hands about what he reads in the paper: the monarch butterflies are dying.
And it’s true, the sky is empty as it is on most days. I remember watching themas they pulsed like an erotic, alien skin, unfleshed, one atop another, dying
and breathing forth, like a single body, a giant diaphanous wing made of dust and skyin the shade of the eucalyptus, the gaunt white trees under which the earth is dying.
The metaphor might appeal to you: planted for paper by the Spanish, eucalyptus growby killing everything beneath them. Some days, I can almost hear the Chumash dying,
taken without a trace, paintings of spirals and suns linger on the red wallsof ocean caves like the shells of insects: may we all be so beautiful when we are dying.
Jim, you forced of me one thing: that we aren’t invincible. That we are growingold. That one can kneel before an alien sky, and grow younger while you are dying.
There are no apologies in nature; only coincidences and springs and long streetsin the shade of trees that do not know of what they symbolize: we are all dying
of something, yet when I think of the old man who fought in Spain, I know that weare a country sleeping on and on, and — for the lack of all you lived for — dying. [End Page 539]
benjamin balthaser is assistant professor of Multi-Ethnic Literature at Indiana University, South Bend. He is the author of Anti-Imperialist Modernism: Race and Radical Transnational Culture (forthcoming), and a book of poems, Dedication, about Jewish victims of the Cold War blacklist. His work has appeared in American Quarterly, Minnesota Review, Another Chicago Magazine, and elsewhere. Balthaser was a 2003 graduate of UMass-Amherst’s MFA for Poets and Writers, where he met Jim Foley.