This afternoon, after a long and painful process, Dennis Grunes died. He was afflicted with serious effects of diabetes for some years, and slipped in a roller coaster fashion into an ever worsening state. My friend Jane Wilcox, here in Portland, after I had, when leaving for Korea some 5 years ago, asked her if she could help him, took on this task with far more than any requirement. For the last five years she visited him, taking him meals, to go shopping (no small chore in his condition), and looking out for him, along with a few others. Dennis, perhaps irascible by nature, or perhaps pressed that way by the ever diminishing state of his health, was not exactly easy to get along with, but Jane managed to take that in stride.
For years Dennis kept a blog, posting carefully done reviews on films he watched, with a strange kind of discipline, despite the worsening eye-sight which forced him to stick his nose literally to the TV screen. Despite the increasing handicaps he faced, he wrote concise intelligent commentary on what he saw, his last posting being in April of this year. Afterwards his health slipped rapidly towards this afternoon’s denouement. See http://grunes.wordpress.com/.
Dennis’ book, A Short Chronology of World Cinema is available here.
And here is a poem which Dennis wrote, sent to me this morning, the day after he moved on:
~ A poem by Dennis Grunes
It came down to a matter of hands,
a brisk twist, the snap of neck,
a race against the stars.
Who knows why we thought we could gauge the depth
of the darkness. Everything seemed on the verge of light:
an optical illusion, as we tore at the dirt that buried us.
One by one stars fell.
Scraps of indecipherable speech littered the silence.
We all froze,
unable to picture anything we were used to.
Mind you, we tried, each with the strength of an angel
against the resistance of a traitorous God—
one more losing battle,
another hock in the soup pot of victory.Time dissolved into time out.
There was a gathering of sorts, a stomping, a dance,
an hysterical beetle or two cold as stone against the eye.
An irate fever seeped into the heavens,
relieving the burden of heavy artillery
on the backs of ants.
There wasn’t time for debate.
There weren’t words for debate.
It was a night like any other,
a sense of possibility closing in.
The last moon shot out,
sealing blindness; our mute mouths
sweetened earth. For us, no more war,
only soft, safe, narrow sleep.
The sun would not sleep, however.
It raised a reddened face, charged like a bull,
searing flesh to bone,
repeated itself, repeated itself,
endless fire power on a tall, blank, shrieking field.
Help us. Bring on calm that we can take for peace.
The ground is soaking wet.
The sky is dark again. We go home.
I wonder: Will there be signs and green grass at least,
something familiar to tell us where we’ve come to?
Thanks, Jane, on my behalf and Dennis’.