Jeffrey Louis Casline
I’m Smart enough to know any relationship is in two parts—whatever the two people came to have together, they both contribute to. How I remember my brother Jeff… He pushed me and I pushed back. I learned to fight from my brother—and all the times in my life I fought, I didn’t give in, he has some credit for. I want to let people know he was a warrior. He did not dwell on the wounds he took. He was not a victim nor did he play one. These LAST WORDS come from a Cheyenne warrior’s death song. Each warrior would have sung his death song as he went into battle.
Farewell, my friends
From the sacred places the god’s come for me
Will you see me
But when west goes the dark wind
When north comes the swift grey clouds
Rain falls, covers the land
Showers pass and the thunder peals
There is the voice of my old friend
My father, my husband, big brother, grandfather
There is his voice
You will say
I think Jeff would understand and get a kick out of me reading a warrior’s death song at his burial.
Raymond Carver—a workingman’s poet—straight talking, no nonsense—called the ending years of his life “the gravy”. He had trouble and trials yet at the last period of his life—he married a wonderful woman and he saw and appreciated everything he had. Raymond Carver is buried at Ocean View Cemetery in Port Angeles, WA. The inscription on his tombstone is one he wrote. A number of my poet friends think it the best epitaph ever written. Jeff had his gravy years. A big bowl of gravy.
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
Jeff’s daughter Chandra already included “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” in her memories of her father. When we were little and all the way to high school we shared a room and starting when we were toddlers, we’d kneel down by our beds every night and say this prayer. Later we’d say it when already covered and the light turned off. My daughter Liz said when our dad, Papa Louie, would babysit her and her brother Tom, he would have them say it. As an adult I thought it a little weird that you would say a prayer about dying in your sleep. Now with Jeff dying in exactly that way, passing in the night while asleep, I see it in a whole other light—a peaceful poem, spiritual.
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the lord my soul to keep
If I die before I wake
I pray the lord my soul to take
Thinking about Jeff, how he lived his life and how I will remember him: I though how often he loved the sound of a roaring machine of one kind or another. I wrote this poem for him.
IN THE ROAR
for Jeff Casline
Car engine roar revved up
Round a whole circle
In the high school parking lot
Roar of turbine start-up
Spinning cylinder building speed
Pressure loud shrieking out of release value
Fire the grid, electricity like lightening
Racing up the wires
In an Arab country of sand.
Speakers take up the back seat
Cobbled wires to the 8-Track
Ears bleeding from the noise
(not quite, but loud with a capital L)
Stones, Janis, Creedence
Windows open to the night air
Let them hear me coming
Five miles from home
On the bike in envelope of sound
Down this hill then up
Broad even turn to the left
Lean into the wheels
Body full of the movement
Full of the roar
Accelerating out of the turn
Yelling in the wind
In a dream the noise the noise of dream
Top down, convertible humming a shiny tune
Corvair noses pass on the outside
Into the roar he goes
The roar a suit of clothes
Like a second skin, aura of his essence
Corvette breathes in more gas
Engine strains against fluttering valves
Breaks pass all of them
Road so open up ahead
July 8, 2011