In Memoriam, Raymond L. Boyington

09/1941 — 08/2022

Copyright 2022, Jack A. Urquhart

A Prose Poem for Ray:

From the beginning, you waited for me;
You waited a lot
staying put long enough
for me to understand
how well suited for each other
we actually were:
both of us backwoods born,
waiting like faithful Quakers 
for the simple gift
of finding ourselves
in the place just right.
A born teacher, you were patient,
understanding that with repetition
comes confidence;
and so you showed me,
again and again,
that you could be trusted --
an waited for me to know
that it was true.
Worldly wise, you recognized
the necessary boundaries
of personal space,
and remained unobtrusively close
through the best of times,
through the crushing grief.
You knew that silence and space
can work wonders,
And you waited to touch me
until it would mean the most.
And then later, tarrying 
on a lighter note,
you took your time again,
permitting only an inscrutable
gap-toothed smile,
as under your tutelage,
I matriculated from boxed wine
to the buttered joy of Chardonnay,
aged in French oak,
from the plebeian satiations
of chips and dips and salsa,
to the voltaic charged thrill
of oysters on the half shell.
"Why settle for table salt 
and grease," you said,
"when here is the briny essence
of the eternal sea,
a nougat of slippery bliss
on a mother of pearl bed --
just waiting to luxuriate
at the center of your tongue?"
A true gourmand of the heart
you waited for me to develop
a taste for these finer things;
Waited for me to get
what it means to accumulate
a thousand favorite recipes,
to pour over a list of ingredients
like a born-in-the-bone scientist
determined to crack
the physical and chemical
mysteries that would unlock
culinary magic.
It took me a while to understand
that food is more
than sustenance.
But you waited for me to get it,
planted a kiss on the top of my head
like a gold star -- when there at table,
spoon in hand -- I finally did;
when the little epiphany
that this is more than a meal;
this is pure love,
deliciously served, artfully plated,
on an everyday dinner service
just for two.
And then, amidst the terrors
of those last months,
you found the will
to wait for me again --
you summoned the strength
that would allow me
the chance to wait on you.
A mere one-hundred days
and change was all I had
against decades
of your patient love.
And so, I sang to you at the end. 
I was all I could think to do.
Just sing to you
from my bedside pallet
through that final night
so you'd know
you weren't alone.
The words to "Simple Gifts"
turning, turning in my head
hoping desperately
for the both of us
to  come  down  right.
And then, at dawn
when I tip-toed
momentarily from your side
to summon more of your favorite tunes
(rendered more pleasingly on key)
you slipped silently away.
Twenty-four years you'd waited,
waited for me to catch up;
And there it was --
the first and only time
you couldn't.

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About jaurquhart

Jack Andrew Urquhart was born in the American South. Following undergraduate work at the University of Florida, Gainesville, he taught in Florida's public schools. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was the winner of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Award for Fiction (1991). His work has appeared online at Clapboard House Literary Journal, Crazyhorse Literary Journal, and Standards: The International Journal of Multicultural Studies. He is the author of So They Say, a collection of self-contained, inter-connected stories and the short story, They Say You Can Stop Yourself Breathing. Formerly a writing instructor at the University of Colorado’s Writing Program, Mr. Urquhart was, until 2010, a senior analyst for the Judicial Branch of California. He resides in southern California.
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