The last time I saw Bob Sheldon, I was in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House protesting the Gulf War. I turned around, and there’s this little guy with that crazy curly red hair beaming a smile at me as big as all life. We hadn’t planned to meet there, but we did. Bob asked me if I had a place to stay.
“We’re all crashing at this house up in Maryland. I’m sure we’ve got some extra floor space for you.”
I worked at a Hilton in Charlotte at the time and had scored a free room at a Hilton in Tysons Corner, VA. When I told him that, he just laughed and said, “Don’t say that too loud. I don’t know how the other kids would feel if they knew that a couple of their fellow activists were staying in a room with a mini bar.”
Bob Sheldon’s murder occured 22 years ago today. For those of you fortunate enough to know him during his all too short life, we lost not only a friend, but a warrior for peace and justice. I thought it appropriate to include this poem today. Wherever Bob is now, if you subscribe to the whole afterlife thing, you know he’s causing some trouble. And laughing.
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Remembering: For Bob Sheldon
These nights pass in such long hours
even moonlight seems so still
you can almost touch it.
It won’t bite.
Can’t really hurt you.
Time again to be alone.
No known comfort exists here before dawn
and radio is the only sound
save the humming of a digital alarm clock
progressed past ticking.
There, I’ve said it, again,
but writing it down
feels too much like writing you off, brother,
Memory fails to bring you in focus
only patches of image come through,
your voice the only constant I conjure
your voice over warm sour mash bourbon
belly-laughing like a kid
on the beat up old couch on your bookstore’s front porch
before wandering out to catch a band
at a bar down the street to dance.
And we knew we’d always dance with you,
but a lousy little bullet got in our way
and you, shot in your head,
are just ash spread over some mountain now.
I would welcome any sound –
a click, a tock –
some signal of passage
other than the silent movement of constellations
and a fractioned sphere past my window
so slow, I barely notice
so slow, I sit alone in dark,
cigarettes my only light except hope
of a sun rolling up in the East.
Through my window, I’ll see it
knowing you can’t,
knowing you won’t.
© 1997, 2008, Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved.