The pelicans assembled excited all five
from their rooks in the dunes
at the call of the trombone,
blown by the stalwart man on the beach
whose sonorous tenor sound strove to reach them
and start them tropic-bound
blaring a mile to the north, a
mile to the south, miles west to the Delaware bank
wherefrom she came in ashy form
to her beloved shore
once more and no more, no more,
for them to fly by just then when
she would be melting into the salt sea
that perfumed her lively body for seventy-six years
from Long Island to here, Island Beach,
and World-oceans all around, too, the Great Lakes
and small lakes of Michigan, where the big-mouth bass
nibbled her bait, and the frigid surf by San Francisco
where her toes prodded for quahogs.
She burned and tanned and gathered in heat
smooth and dry while the crowd sweated.
Glad to oblige one of their kind,
the long necked birds passed serenely
above the astonished faces who
hardly thought that mysteries of nature
could be part of their life
Yes, death, for that's why we're here,
to invent a theory of death
especially for Jill de Grazia,
a cosmology to wince by.
You know the story of the universe.
It is extremely large, even infinite.
Being infinite, it can be deemed round.
Being round, you can go anywhere, indeed
everywhere, all at the same time,
And you need never stop, nor is there
reason to believe that anything has ever stopped.
So that if an animal is what moves,
the universe is an animal and
you go on forever, not
howling, of course, but kind
to your infinite equals.
Your million particles of ash increase
to trillions of dust, and then to whatever is
the smallest thing but that too is infinite,
so you are infinite and destined for infinity,
But somewhere you encounter gods, you must,
for if there are trillions of worlds, there are billions of gods,
and a god is something beyond what you are here.
Extending to infinity, for what will stop the gods?
Diamond in the forehead of this god,
quark in the breath of that god,
what work you have cut out for you, Jill
and what might you not do, dwelling
among the gods, and you must and will
meet them, keep swimming, or
whatever the spirit does in space--
you are not so awkward
trudging in the sky-oceans.
Who dares to say
that human iota cannot live
who help compose the everlasting divine.
We are so trifling when alive, our vaunted achievements,
our pleasures so small, hiding from ourselves
the knowledge irresistible, desolating,
so we kill each other in shame,
because the universe is infinite. Therefore even
when Jill was dancing cheek-to-cheek,
she had to live under the ideology of the past,
bewailing the human tragedy that the universe
is so large and we are so small,
but now she is both as large and as small as the universe,
without concern over brushing her teeth or
washing her socks.
Sheer electricity, if you want to call her that --
some of us do --
sheer existence, basic thing, companion to infinity,
and all that fashions it. Do you imagine
that Jill did not know this all?
How else can you appreciate
her making hash -- she cooked good hash --
of the readied words dying people use:
"awhhh, this cannot happen,
call the doctors, all the doctors!
the newest treatment, not now, ow!
Dear God, later, later.
I was not born to die, etc."
Artemio Cruz, bursting in agony,
would be muted by her words,
"Ask me any question, I
know all the answers."
"O.K. Hi'yah doon?"
So not Jill. So instruct the gods.
Here is the catch of the day,
maybe the catch of all time.
Clear the decks, oh Lords,
She is coming in for a landing,
here, there, and everywhere.
Prepare your patterns and paste,
in varieties eternal and multiform,
Gather her dust while you may.
You can make much of this one,
if truly the great sculptors
of the Six Days, and
on the Seventh she is a
most pleasant resting mate.
Make of her a rosebud world.
1) A funeral ode to my early and long-dear wife, Jill, written in late 1996. Copyright ©1997 by Alfred de Grazia.
My brother Sebastian de Grazia died from a brief heart attack on New Year's Eve while walking out in the snow from his home in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. His wife Lucia waved him good-bye as she turned back into the house. An hour later I kissed him goodbye as he lay, cold of forehead, warm of cheek still, on the table of the Emergency Room, and I lifted his eyelids for a last look at the lively piercing brown eyes.
He was eighty-three years old and carrying on a study of the institution of the First Lady in American politics. He was the eldest of four brothers and the first to die. He was buried at the Princeton Cemetery alongside his father and mother. For me, the loss of eighty years of memories, knowledge, common references, emotional exchanges was the Great Bank Robbery: stolen by death were hundreds of persons, a thousand street scenes, many a piazza, place, square; a thousand books and articles, an unending discussion of truth, beauty, power, peace and war, women, colleagues, secret alleyways and noisy airports, hundreds of songs to sing, duets with trumpet and piano and the jazz combos, shared "ughs" for the dandelion stew and cod liver oil of childhood and "ahs " for the gourmet cuisine of the countless tables of seniority.
Two pictures here string out the affectional tie through time. One is of Bussie holding the Babe by their cottage at Glen Park, Illinois, in 1920. The second is of Sebastian leaning jocularly upon Alfred by 1 Battle Road, Princeton, in the year 1999.
Sebastian was strikingly handsome. He was a clotheshorse, too, to make matters worse for the men around. He cut a fine figure in many a drawing room. He attracted women easily, and married three remarkable women for long periods, Miriam Carlson, Anna-Maria d'Annunzio, and Lucia Heffelfinger.
Miriam tendered him three children; Anna-Maria two. He managed a benign, sometimes neglectful paternal domination that worked as well as, or better than what most of us fathers were achieving.
He studied at the University of Chicago, taught there, and contributed heavily to Chicago's preeminence in Political Science over the years. The Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University was his Lyceum for decades, the Isle of Capri his retreat.
He wrote several notable volumes, many articles, never a one that could be decried a pot-boiler. He wrote The Political Community and the Errors of Psychotherapy. He wrote of Time, Work, and Leisure. He wrote A Country Without a Name. He compiled and edited an anthology of Chinese philosophy. He wrote a life of Machiavelli, a work whose style alone serves up a model for humanistic composition, and whose story was beautifully organized and faithfully representative of the founder of modern Political Science. A Pulitzer Prize happened upon him for this work, Machiavelli in Hell. Much was said of Sebastian's early life in my books, The Babe, and The Student; more is to be heard in the forthcoming biography of friends and relatives.
The last words of Sebastian's Machiavelli in Hell nudge our contemplation ever more close to the theotropic triumph of our lives and the pyrrhic victories of death.
The place jokingly called hell by those who know is a corner of paradise, a garden for God's elect, well presided over not by a fallen angel but by Pluto the Rich One, brother of Zeus and Poseidon, the Giver of Wealth, possessor of a beautiful wife - "woman beautiful above any woman in the world" - traveler to earth and back, and benign spirit of an academy, a garden of delights, a place for the society and conversation of liberal spirits.
As for Niccolò, he laughs and says that on earth his friends have composed an epitaph for him.
When Carl Michael de Grazia was born, who, aged forty-eight, has just died, his was the Hospital of Stanford University, California, and my professional colleagues were mostly bachelors or childless and amazed at our having this sixth child, our third boy. We were "Cathless," I explained: Catholic and careless. Furthermore, with car crashes and wars, boys were needed.
Carl was a troublesome child, most pleased when riding my shoulders along the great beaches. He was tense, nervous, and skinny. (Fat Carl was a latter-day transformation.) He ran fast, played baseball well, and swam like a snake. He often quarreled with his sisters and brothers. He was disobedient, yet his mother, Jill, never struck him, and his father, me, clapped him barely once a year, and shoved him sometimes to get him going.
He was started off as a Roman Catholic child, then turned agnostic, yet saw himself many years later as upholding some semblance of the Faith. Unlike so many Americans, he never sought relief from his anxieties by joining zany cults or clutching at mad schemes.
In adolescence he was surly, willful and cantankerous, while his aggressions and depressions were restrained, as they would have to be all his life, by medications on and off. He never smoked or favored alcohol, nor did he indulge in drugs for pleasure. He asked for little, was generous, never snitched or spoke ill of others. He was a burden, but a light burden, carried readily in a family so large. As his grandmother Catherine was prone to say to the brood, "For all your faults I love you still." It was not a family whose members declared early and often - or as often as they should have - their mutual love. Carl's music helped. Even when practicing scales on the piano, he sounded good. His teacher said when he was ten, "Carl can't play a bad note." He had a great touch and ear for music, heir to the De Grazia talent in that profession, and would have become a child prodigy had he been coaxed and coached more. I find in my diary an entry when he was twelve years old, remarking that Carl had played far into the night. We found him a piano when the family briefly lived in Florence. When he spent a summer on the Island of Naxos he struck up his piano by day or night, and the Greeks liked to hear him.
He taught himself the guitar, then began to play the mouth organ and guitar at the same time. He graduated from Princeton High School with a mediocre record, but had learned a lot from his family and from his music, so he had no trouble being admitted to the famous Peabody School of Music in Baltimore, now of Johns Hopkins University. He graduated in composition, proficient at twelve-tone creations. He mingled classical and jazz styles smoothly.
But we could not delude ourselves. Out of 200 million Americans, besides a few hundreds who write music for movies and advertising, there are only a few dozen who make a true living at serious composition. Nor would his shyness and temperament let Carl become a teacher. So he looked for employment where his high level of education might prove useful, and this would be, for two decades, in the State Government of New Jersey
It took a long time before he came to like his work, but he settled into it finally, and learned to enjoy many of his colleagues and the job itself. Even if he could be ironic about the bureaucracy, he was proud of the civil service, and worried if he had to miss work. His computer network was a living human, to hear him talk.
He continued, as from childhood onward, to suffer depressions, which kept him on medical prescriptions. His mother Jill was his only close friend, counselor, banker, fixer, wailing wall, and meal ticket.
He lived a quiet life outside his work, listening to music a lot and once in a while composing a song. He was reticent about his creations, and nothing of them survives. Tapes that he recorded a year ago in Seattle have either been lost or cast away by him.
After talking about marriage for a long time, he married late. His wife, Terry Trainor, and Carl were friends, lovers, then a married couple. Carl was fair and understanding. Terry was affectionate. Terry and Carl stuck together through thick and thin.
To sum it up, Carl had made his major compromises with life. He was on course. Until his last illness, when a cancer struck so heavily, he was becoming more adjusted and happier than he had ever been. We were anticipating, and I think Carl, too, the times when, no longer a public servant, he could return to his first love, music.
In his last days, hardly able to communicate with the outside world, Carl called for , and could listen to, the consoling tones of his enchanting Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who, as he knew, had died younger than himself.
We have lost Carl, with his bright blue eyes, we have lost his quiet friendship, we have lost all expression of his special talents. But - so they say - "The Angels sing!" The heavenly choir is now his own, everlasting.
Time plays tricks on us. When I learned that death had come suddenly upon Earl Milton, my memory trudged back to our first meeting. Then it came to me poignantly that our collaboration had extended for more than half of his life. From that first occasion onwards, we were collaborators on various projects - notably the book, Solaria Binaria: a History of the Solar System according to the principles of Quantavolution, and an Encyclopedia of Catastrophes that have afflicted Earth over the ages.
Earl was 16 years my junior, but always my equal and friend. We enjoyed hours, days and years together, puzzling over problems of cosmic importance. There passed in review through my mind all the work we had expected to complete, another half a life, which, alas, neither he nor I will achieve.
Yet think what he accomplished! His fame was modest in proportion to his achievements. And it will take more time for his work to be recognized and accepted for inclusion in the body of science. Yet we who were lucky enough to know it well, could see that he had ingeniously plotted the role of the electron in the tiniest and grandest events of the universe. He cast electricity and electromagnetism as the principal players in all the forces that composed and activated the world and mind. His theories would even transform gravitational laws and phenomena into electrical processes. Rare among scientists, he comprehended and contributed to studies in mythology and psychology. When we came to study the origins of life, his knowledge of biology and elementary forms was a boon. Chemistry, spectroscopy, mathematics, and astrophysics were his strongest cards, and he played them with astonishing dexterity. If these seem already too many to handle, I must add that he often discarded them when they were not filling out a suit that he was playing, and he would add other fields of knowledge to his hand.
Earl Milton leaves us a thousand and more pages of manuscript that we shall do our best to bring into the light. Hundreds of letters also convey ideas of value and, too, of love. Anna will help, Anna whom he loved so much, and of whom he would write to me, as part of his many letters that dealt with our work and that carried his sharp criticisms of the parades and charades of academia, bureaucracy and politics.
He, with Joan, who had mothered their child Davin, were devoted parents, perhaps too concerned, we thought, when the little boy walked along the concrete wall of a fish pond at our place in France. Too concerned over his schoolwork, too, perhaps. When Davin met Anna, and the two studied each other, they gradually found a common understanding and affection.
What do these remarks have to do with a memorial for the deceased? Well, they are true, and they bespeak a real life, and Earl would have liked me to dwell upon them. He was a family man and a sociable man. He drove on outings whenever he could, nursing along a specimen of Volkswagon camper as old as any vehicle on the road.
We need not tell only of his research and writings, listing titles and journals, one after another, as if there were nothing else going on. That is why we should not either overlook the fact that he was an exciting and popular teacher, and in demand as a radio commentator on scientific controversies, and on unusual phenomena like eclipses and comets.
Earl Richard Vincent Milton made a difference in this world. Yes, we are all such tiny creatures in the ABSOLUTE far reaches of space and time. But, RELATIVELY, we can hope to amount to something.
Earl Milton, an intensely human person, of high sensibilities, of quick intelligence, a communicator with a friendly disposition - - Earl, I would say, helped us amount to something.
Alfred de Grazia