Tuesday, March 15, 2022

In memory of poet Richard E. Brenneman


By Doug Holder

The first time I went to the Boston Medical Center was in the 70s, when it was known as Boston City Hospital. I was a college student, without medical insurance. Back then we all knew we could get a hospital card and get free medical treatment there. I hadn’t been back until now, 45 years later-- and it was for a profoundly different reason. My poet and friend Richard E. Brenneman was in the intensive care unit at the Menino Wing of the hospital and gravely ill. I didn’t see the Richard I knew--a 76-year-old- man with an unstoppable font of boyish enthusiasm for poetry, books, and scholarship. Richard was attached to tubes—he at times seemed to recognize me, but all he could emit were halting, pained breaths-- his eyes wide open with some sort of recognition. Richard found our literary group “The Bagel Bards” late in his life. He was a retired Boston civil servant, who lived for years in a small studio apartment, in a rapidly gentrifying South Boston. Richard hinted at the hard times he had—being a diminutive, gay man in a hardscrabble section of the city. He was a solitary man, but he found friends and community with the Bards. He had a distinct Midwestern twang (He grew up in Missouri) and wrote finely, crafted poems about everything from art, travel—to lonesomeness in the city. We became a family of sorts for this man. He reveled in the eccentric nature of the group—the cast of characters-- the sometimes-vaudevillian nature of our meetings. He was invited to parties by one of our members—and he was like a social butterfly—happily engaging the old timers and the young intelligentsia alike. I knew when I walked out of that hospital room I would never see him again. I have been in many Boston Hospitals recently. And each time I try to walk back to my home in Somerville. Richard has taken his final journey… and my journey home has been through the winding streets of Boston—traversing the alley ways—the long-forgotten Brownstones of the city, the tar rooftops of the Back Bay where I watched the Boston Marathon run by. There is poetry on my journey-- and there is poetry in Richard’s... and there is poetry in yours...


Shadows of images come to mind
of which the scenes are lost,
projected on an inward screen
to haunt me, and then drift on
down the passages of time.
Fragments of images come and go,
and moods and metaphors
rustle through the mind
like pages quickly turned.
The heart feels once again
memories of love, desolation, hate
like the dry crunching leaves
from a forgotten fall
blowing across the deserted paths
that have been left behind.

— Richard E. Brenneman

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful poem about a poets heart.
    Richard's was gentle.