About 25 years ago Chris Chester and I were figuring out how to be poets as a way to remain human, both and often together. We met in bars and coffee shops, read our scribblings to each other, were mutually disgusted, played chess or debated the concerns of finer poets.

Chris was fascinated with words and word jugglers, how tone could change mood; Chris took Camus’ truly serious philosophical problem to heart, and together we listened and laughed to how “It’s Hell to be Poor,” and prodded the shy and forlorn to vet their souls at the open mike.

Chris died of cancer on April 17. He was 54. He was the author of Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a Life Gone to the Birds which won the 2003 Oregon Book Award for nonfiction.

A Bum Proposal – by Chris Chester

With bodies and minds exquisitely garbled,
you slump in your leavings and fermented clothes
to dream of an Eden
of dumpsters with club cars.

Missing teeth, legs
and bits of your ears,
you are slack-jawed,
bleeding from the scalp,
non-vertical even while standing.
You were the drunken rabble,
the groundlings, the inadvertent sinkers
of wooden ships;
O, receivers of knife wounds,
you are local color.

So, I think you should be paid,
applauded in your work
for the skills you bring
to the pageant of dying.

Picture and poem from Chrischester.org, a great memorial website by Chris’ nephew Marc Mowery.

The Sorrow and the Sparrow: The Life and Death of Chris Chester – by Inara Verzemnieks, from May 21, The Oregonian. About the nicest obit I have ever read.

Life with Feathered Tenants – Oregon writer’s memoir engages – Eugene Weekly, 2002

From the University of Utah Press

Providence of a Sparrow – from Powell’s

Chris Chester RIP – from Stoney Moss