I think of you in C-SPAN,
I think of you in my walkman.
I feel your enthusiasm in Lionel Hampton records,
And I hear your iconoclasm in court records.
You kept them company.
You provided endless verbal slaughter.
They kept you in coventry,
But devoured what you had to offer.
You were the man they loved to hate,
Catering to a people yearning to discriminate.
Yet despite the abuse others expelled,
Your most formidable enemy was yourself.
With destructive vivacity, you dissembled yourself.
Physically, over twelve cups of coffee and a pack of pall malls a day;
Mentally, over your lost opportunity one thousand miles away.
You defended yourself against slanderous review,
So why did you surrender self-esteem in solitude?
The scars on your face and in your heart,
Be them earned by cancer, alcoholism, failure, or nihilism,
Were not hideous, but a work of art!
You considered yourself ugly;
Tall, gaunt, wire-thin.
But to me, your entire person
Was something exquisite to believe in.
Fast talking, outrageous broadcasts, glorious debate --
To think that the Democratic primaries were only a few months away!
They despised you, though you already knew;
"Liberal, atheist, maniac, dirty Jew."
But despite their rage,
Their demons unrestricted,
No one could have predicted
The rampage of those faith convicted.
You dressed sharply, a true showman.
That city slicker look, windowpane jacket.
Well-dressed when bullets tore through your abdomen,
Facing those whose loathing was far from tacit.
I wish I could have been there.
I wish I could have written to you.
I wish I could have thanked you for all that you do.
The cosmos has not granted me that chance.
No use pondering happenstance.
You live in my schoolbooks.
You live in my thoughts.
The life those men took
Cannot be erased with gunshots.
I mourn your absence as a page mourns Wenceslaus,
Yearning to usher his last praise upon warm ears.
But my heart espouses lessons you've embossed;
I'll tread in your footsteps for years.
Your Earnest Student.
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