Riverfest is an annual Cincinnati celebration of the end of summer with a half hour long fireworks show on the Ohio River between Ohio and Kentucky. For years, my good friend Danny Miller and I would attend a fireworks party at one of his friend’s house for food, fun, and a great view of the fireworks. Danny died several years ago and I stopped going to that party. However, I still go to the fireworks on occasion, usually with my current exchange student. It’s always a pleasant reminder of my friend and I’m glad I can also share it with my host son.
Here is the poem I wrote for Danny’s memorial service.
What thoughts I have of you today, Danny Miller.
I need not shop for images, my memories supply them all.
I see you walking across the campus, greeting almost everyone
With hugs and handshakes. I see you in Landrum, at the bulletin board,
Holding an article or alumni note with one hand, stapler wielded in the other.
I hear your voice in the hallways, asking students how they are
And shouting words out while we play the online game in the rare breaks you took.
I see you in London, walking silent around Stonehenge, joking with students
On the tube, sitting in the train to Oxford, grading a handful of papers
With our students scattered around us. I hear you call out to the group and make
Them pose for pictures, you the only one still using film in this digital age.
I know which way your beard is pointed, what you have shown me.
I call you friend and remember the annual fireworks picnic and our brunch
And Christmas concert ritual. I call you father, and remember how three students
in two weeks once told you they had your son for class.
I gave you a father’s day card that summer but from then on
you said we were the Miller brothers from English.
I call you courage teacher, for you helped me to come out, to be gay and proud.
You showed me that I could be who I was and that it was okay.
I need not ask what America you had or what choice you will make once you reach Hades’ realm.
When Charon quits poling his ferry and you step out upon the shores of Lethe,
that river of forgetfulness, you will say to Queen Persephone, “No, thank you,”
to the cup she offers, for you, you have a life worth remembering.
And then you will turn To the spirit standing next to you, put out your ethereal hand, and say
“Hi, I’m Danny Miller, where are you from?”