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The gift of Moody’s friendship

Tue, Dec 11, 2012

Brittany and Roark

Years and years and years from now, my great, great, great-grandchildren will stand up in front of their third-grade classes during a presentation on the “past and greatest poets” and say, “My great, great, great-grandmother was good friends with the late, legendary poet, Roark Moody.”

And then my grandchildren will quickly forget about me and get onto Moody’s unending list of accomplishments and his astounding body of work… a collection of poetry that I was blessed to have read so much of even before he shared it with anyone else.

Almost every week since I first started at StreetWise in May 2011, Moody would come to visit me at the office. I love that I could always tell it was him when he’d come down the hallway by the distinct sound his feet would make firmly pressing into the carpet floor, the gentlest of all giants. He’d gracefully saunter around the corner into my office and coolly greet me with his usual, “What’s up, Brittany?”
“Moody!” I’d gleefully proclaim, “Have a seat, my friend.” Before we’d get to work on his poetry, we’d do our usual catching-up. I’d vent to him about whatever little stresses I was trying to tackle. Then he’d tell me about some of the things he did that week or new people he’d met. And he always asked how my mom was… that’s just the kind of guy he was. The guy who not only cared about you, but also cared about your whole family, right down to your mom. I loved him for that.

Then he’d plop his old laptop onto my desk and let me take charge, the computer nerd that I am. We always got a good laugh about his PC’s unpredictability; sometimes the mouse ticker had a mind of its own or sometimes his external flash drive would appear and disappear. So it was always a big hoopla getting the poetry off his desktop. But once we finally transferred his writing onto my computer for editing, it was that much more satisfying because of the hoops we’d have to jump through and laughs we had along the way.

Let me say, not only do I feel absolutely honored to have had the chance to read this brilliant man’s work, but I got to experience the poetry with the poet sitting and smiling beside me.

I got to hear his commentary, see him smile or laugh when I got to a really good part or witness the haze and painful memory in his eyes when I’d read a poem about his days as a soldier in Vietnam.

Knowing this, it was really hard for me to accept the fact that Moody and I will never get to read his poetry together, side-by-side, again. I can’t tell you enough how terribly sad I am by the loss of my friend. But I realized that Moody isn’t gone and he hasn’t really left me, because now he’ll always be there when I read his poetry, ever-present in everything I do. Now he’s the full embodiment of the universe that, for years, he tried to decipher through his writing and soul-searching. And he’ll always be with me.

Last January, I lost my Uncle Mike to a very bad accident. As my family and I tried to cope with his death, Moody stepped in to comfort me. He asked if he could write a poem for my uncle, something I could share with my whole family. So I wrote a few pages of what my uncle was like and gave it to him for inspiration.

Well, weeks went by and I didn’t want to ask Moody about it, because I didn’t want to pressure him if he had decided not to write the poem about my uncle anymore. Then one day, he pranced down the hallway into my office as he always did, sat down in his spot beside me and pulled out three sheets of paper, adorned with his handwriting. Moody had not only written one poem for my Uncle Mike, but two. He wrote one free-verse piece and then another two-page sonnet. It was absolutely brilliant and that night, my family shed tears over the beautiful gesture given to my Uncle Mike… a beautiful gesture by an amazing friend, Roark Moody.

When I shared the news of Moody’s passing with my family, tears were shed again, but this time for the poet himself. I was feeling so sad, but then my grandma said, “Brittany… now Uncle Mike can thank Moody in person for what he wrote.” I now see Moody and my Uncle Mike together in their place of peace, sharing stories and becoming friends and watching over me as I make them proud with the life I’ve been blessed with, the life that they helped to make better simply by being there for me.

This poem here, ironically entitled Life, is very special to me. It reads, “Life is a rough game, There are no rules to follow, Just keep on livin.'” The week before I had found out Moody had passed, I read this poem of his on our StreetWise CAN TV show that Friday, the day before he died. I think this was meant to happen. This was a lesson that Moody wanted me to learn… life is a “rough game,” yes. No one can prepare you for what you’re going to face. You’ll lose people you love and sometimes go up against unimaginable pain. And if you try to search for those answers to “Why me?” you’ll drive yourself mad. This poem reminds me that no matter what hardship I encounter, I’m going to “keep on livin.” Because that’s what my Uncle Mike and Moody would want for me, so that’s just what I’ll do.

So now I have some goals… (1) Write a poem for Moody. I thought about writing one to put in this issue, but I need to take the same amount of time for Moody as he did for the special poem he wrote for my uncle. I want it to be inspired and incredibly special, like he was. (2) Put together some sort of a book of his poetry. I know he would have wanted that. Plus, I would always tease him, saying that some of his pieces were a bit too “risky” to feature in StreetWise Magazine. So I’d say, “Moody, I’ll help you get a poetry book together and we’ll include some of the most provocative and evoking material you’ve got!” He loved sparking social commentary about topics of race, poverty, gang violence, veterans issues and more. So I owe this to him. (3) Make a donation to both a veterans program and a program that supports writing skills for youth. Of course I’m grateful for the sacrifice Moody made for his country and he was so proud to have done it. And I know Moody would like it if I made a gesture to help more kids get involved in writing poetry.

The last time I saw Moody before his surgery, I hugged him and said, “I love you, Moody.” That was the very first time I said that to him, even though I always felt he was like a father-figure to me. Looking back, I wish I would have told him that more, because I feel like I’ve lost a member of my family. I’m lucky to have had him in my life and I’m lucky to have had so many good memories with him.

I’m going to complete these three goals and make him proud of me. And what’s really given me the determination is knowing that he’s always by my side. And I’m going to do away with my sad attitude, because Moody’s life is only something that should be celebrated. After all, he’s given me so many gifts and taught me so much during our time together. He sparked my new fondness for reading and writing poetry. He taught me to always revere our veterans, because of his sacrifice in Vietnam. Moody taught me the importance of dedication; he would be out selling StreetWise rain or shine, always equipped with a grin and a jovial “StreeeetWise!” for all. I would actually pass by him almost every day going home from work and I will surely miss our tradition of fist-bumping before I descended the stairs to my South Shore Line train. And I think my favorite lesson Moody taught me is to always smile at everyone, show love to even strangers, and cherish every relationship, new or old, as he did.

By Brittany Langmeyer,
StreetWise Director of Marketing & Design

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