Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
Subscribe and Save up to 45%
That fat old geek
talks to evergreens.
That bald windbag
pees against the computer lab.
He blobs about the campus
like a joke on himself.
I might take his class
for laughs. They say
he really believes
dead people sing and certain women
glimmer. They say he sobs.
John Detro died on June 26 in Carmel, California. He was sixty. A poet and a respected jazz reporter for the Carmel Pine Cone, John was well loved by almost everyone he touched, either in person or through his work. He was a devout Catholic, and his theology was evident in his books of poetry, including St. Joseph’s Blues (St. Andrews Press). His poem “Bag of Wind” appeared in the October 1995 issue of The Sun.
John and I weren’t particularly close friends. We shared an apartment for nine months before he died because rents are so high in this part of California. We were both writers, and I’d thought that would make us compatible. Not so. But it isn’t easy living with someone under the best of circumstances.
John smoked himself to death. At one point, he was given two to five years to live if he stopped smoking. He didn’t. It hurts to see someone as talented as John throw his life away. I suppose, as a recovering alcoholic, he thought smoking was an acceptable alternative to drinking. Ironic, considering that smoking kills far more people every year than any other drug. This fact has been tolerated thanks to the huge amounts of tax revenue tobacco sales bring to all levels of government, along with the graft politicians accept from tobacco companies. We need more passionate discourse on this problem, which won’t go away, no matter how much the tobacco companies wish that it would.
Robert Bates’s letter about John Detro’s death from smoking [Correspondence, September 1996] fits the current trend of bashing tobacco. Of course smoking is bad — but why are we not equally able to bash the eating of animal flesh? John Robbins’s book Diet for a New America points out that since many Asians have adopted the standard American diet, their rates of lung, heart, and other diseases have soared, while their smoking habits have remained the same. Smoking is a scapegoat issue; while focusing on it, we avoid examining more damaging practices.