There are innumerable ways of keeping the dead with us longer. We find them in photographs, keepsakes, old letters, clothes—in virtually anything they touched. John Egner gave us his art, and I suspect he might think that it is more than enough. He wouldn’t be wrong.
Still, we often feel the need for more time with the man. We can find him in our thoughts but they are as ephemeral as life itself. Words, however, can keep him here a bit longer. Words (for better and worse) fix things the way pins anchor butterflies, and, of course, the pins survive their specimens.
Does this mean words outlast the man? Not really, especially in John’s case, because his life continues in so many others’ lives. Words are our attempts at animating memories in the writing, knowing they will become fossils in the reading. So stubbornly I am collecting words that will keep John around a bit longer for me.
Dedicated (to family above all)
Fierce (in his loyalties)
Certain (when giving advice, especially if he believed it was needed)
Generous (it goes without saying, to his friends, but also to the community of Andes)
Courageous (fighting fires, including ours in Bovina)
Committed (to his art: structured yet vibrating with latent energy)
Righteous (in his politics)
Genuine (no hidden agendas, no artifice)
Constant (never wavering in his conviction that Noam Chomsky got it right)
Quiet (when others were not)
Large (with the advantage of height, his presence was that much more felt)
Chiseled (his face, sometimes confused with Christopher Walken)
Sociable (to a point—a great host but often the first to go home)
Determined (to leave the world his own way)
This, of course, is the John Egner of New York City and Andes, not the John Egner of Detroit, who I never knew. I leave it to others to flesh him out, realizing he’d laugh at the metaphor.