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On Paul’s 80th Birthday

Paul’s 80th Birthday

We went to the Cape for my friend Paul’s 80th celebration. This afforded the opportunity to play on Thumpertown Beach before attending his party. It was wonderful to see him looking so happy, and to reconnect with some of his lovely friends whom I have met along the way.

Eighty is a milestone, and Paul gave a speech that began somewhat morbidly. His is a life that has seen both devastating tragedy as well as brilliant accomplishments and victories. Fortunately, his speech morphed into a more humorous exposition. He was his irascible self, exactly the man we had come to know and care for. If his words weren’t exactly uplifting, seeing him be fully Paul, with his foibles and his lovableness, was an affirmation of the core of the human experience. We are here to be imperfect. And to be loved.
I also owe Paul a debt of gratitude for modeling for me what it means to be an author. I was born to be a writer, but until I got close to Paul, I didn’t have a clue to what that meant.
So in honor of Paul’s 80th, I post herewith a poem I wrote for him more than 20 years ago. I still consider him The Good Man.


for Paul

His face conceives of the sun, gilded by flycasting

For manifold days off the crooked finger of the Cape,

Often around the jettied mouth of the Pamet.

Along those teeming shoals lie blue barnacled oysters, buried

Littlenecks, razor clams, one shard of whose sweet sharp

Crescent slit open my foot in the ebb tide. He sat me down

In the bright ankle-deep water, then trudged off

Across a glittering gilt sandbar, an oasis sculpted out of the flux,

For a band-aid and antiseptic wipe. Two terns

Fed each other, even the greedy white gulls, his favorite

Harbingers of humanity, for once stood peacefully watching

The wind ruffle in from the Bay.

Back home in his tower

(He built it on the earnings of years raking muck up

To publicly expose the threatening unseen)

I showered first, while he watered the pink tomatoes,

Curly beets, tiny triangular hot peppers and fragrant basil,

All fertilized by fish mulch, before he washed off

The luminous sticky sand of the day’s

Adventure. It took him an unhurried hour, maybe longer,

To nurture his green creatures to his satisfaction,

This general succoring in the prosperity of time.


by Traci L. Slatton

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