A Rebuke of Irony

Deaf Beethoven.
Blind Monet.
Mute Granger.
Man of the pen.
Disciple of Algren, Sandburg, Norris.
Contemporary of Royko, Kup, Mabley.
Bereft of his words,
Trapped for his own safety, mentally to paw aimlessly through the grimy politics of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s Chicago like Degas – yes him, too, blind  – wandering the streets of Paris.
He was, I know, no Beethoven.
No Monet.
Not even Degas.
But for Christ’s sake, in addition to everything else, he published twenty-eight novels.
Twenty-eight!
And he had his voice, the flat baritone,
The laugh that echoed across a crowded room like  the clap of an oar across a glassy lake at twilight.
And sure, he had his Frankie Coolin, with its “120 reviews and sold pretty well.”
“But you can’t make a living on novels that sell pretty well.”
And his November Man and the not-good-enough movie he didn’t get to see made of it.
I have of him but morning chats,
My desk a stop among many  on
His slow carom through the newsroom,
A purposeful stone, not carried on the current
But seeking it.
Remembering DeLaSalle and its mark on the city,
Mining for intimate motives,
Auditioning lines as though they weren’t auditions,
Sorting through snarling labyrinths of intrigue,
With not so much truth as truths the object.
Sanding down the menacing and complicated teeth of neighborhoods
Mixed with the smells of onions, ether, bread dough, oil …
With stubby fingers, the South Side gruff, the drinker’s rud
And the simple sentence.
Subject, verb, object.
Subject, verb, object.
Noun, action, acted-upon
Raw life. No modifiers.
Who needs so many words?
Not him. Not this gentle scorner of the tongue-cluckers,
This rough-hewn urban mongoose,
This Neville Flynn hip deep in vipers.
But he needed some.  Must he have lost them all, waiting
For indifferent Death to find him in Its time
With no regard for his?
As a child at odds with loneliness, he had not asked for so many.
But some.
He could do with the spare. The Hemingway. The Hammett. The Chandler.
Yet in the dozen, yes dozen, final, isolated years, he was denied even those.
Deaf Beethoven.
Blind Monet.
Mute Granger.
Irony cannot be shamed. Rebuke it anyway.

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