Monday, November 02, 2015

My brother, Robert W. Hopper 1945-1997

November 2, my brother's birthday, is almost over. 
He was almost exactly 10 years younger than I am--
the next to the youngest of our Seven Siblings. 
The word he coined for our tribe was "simblings" after he misspoke 
during a telephone conversation. We wound up using it evermore, 
or at least as long as we could talk to each other. 

The picture above is a sample of my mother's propensity for trimming photographs. 
(To reduce them to their essence? For use in a collage or assemblage? All of the above 
and other things, too. It used to drive me nuts, but now I kind of miss it.) 
In this example, it does serve to emphasize Rob's sweet, open and pure gaze. 
He was and is so important to me that is would be difficult to describe. 
He was always supportive of my poetry, and even began to read poetry himself. 
Then he audited a course in poetry with Richard Howard.
When he was dying, he gave away all his books except for three books of poems.

This is Robert in the air. 
I don't think he was leaping onto the rocky shore of the Monterey Bay,
maybe just avoiding the spray? 
My mother liked this photo and made a collage of it with an advertisement 
featuring a similar photo. But this is all that got scanned, 
The colors are very faded, so that it almost looks black-and-white. 
It was taken when some of my family visited California 
after my husband and I moved here. in the late 1960s. 
The shorter girl on the rock is our daughter, Kimberli. 
The other girl is my youngest sibling, Marjory Ann. 
Robert used to take a different school bus to protect her 
when she was small; they always had a very close relationship; 
I am sure this began when our mother was ill when Marjory was a toddler. 
On the day of this photo, our little clan had driven 
along the Seventeen Mile Drive to show off the ocean. 
My mother and I were both here with our cameras. 
Who took the picture? I cannot recall. 

Robert was a Professor of Speech Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. 
The poem I have chosen for tonight concerns a trip by a group of people 
who cannot hear and are being taken out for an excursion. 
This type of Speech Class was not the kind he taught, 
but I know he would have understood and liked this terrific poem,
which I found today looking through David Wagoner's collected poems.

The Excursion of the Speech and Hearing Class

They had come to see the salmon lunging and leaping

Up the white spillway, but the water was empty.
Now one young girl lingers behind the others,

And slowly, her thin arms held out from her sides,

Alone on the riverbank, she begins to dance.

Her body moves as the salmon would have moved

In place, holding that place in a soundless calm

Under a soundless frenzy of surfaces

Against a current only she remembers

To welcome, to break through, to gather again.

The wind and the river pulse against her face

And under her feet. She listens to what they know

And moves her lips to find the mouth of the river

And the mouth of the slow wind against her mouth.

The source of the river and the source of the wind

Have taken her breath away. But the others come
Shaking their fingers, opening and closing
Their mouths, to take her back to another silence.

David Wagoner               born 1926

David Wagoner, Traveling Light; collected and new poems, University of Illinois Press, 1999, page 184.

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