“For Richard Marius, My Teacher: In Memory”

Hands clasped, folded like prayer
on the desk.
No notes
because you needed
We traveled from Augustine
to Teddy Roosevelt in a semester,
pausing only to hear Abraham Lincoln
squeak out the Gettysburg Address
in a high-pitched voice you said
probably resembled your own.
“He wouldn’t have made it in poltics
today,” you announced.

I called you at home
begging additional time for an assignment
(if you can believe it) on the Enlightenment.
You asked me what I was
having for supper, concluding that
it couldn’t be better than
the cornbread you’d just made
and were crumbling in a glass
of sweet milk. Knowing my
Tennessee roots, you knew I’d
know the difference—sweet and butter.

Years later
at one of the numerous
conferences we attended,
you told my blond son, named
for an angel, how his daddy
was your student once
and how my boy owned the selfsame
smile as his father had then.
You shook your head at what
I could only guess to be the years’ speed
and all the insignificant choices
that suddenly seem ominous.

Richard, I could extol you
for your breadth of knowledge,
keen insights, or sly wit.
But I choose to remember the time
you stunned me by talking
with your fingers to an old
deaf man repairing shoes
in a shop on Cumberland Avenue.
“I taught myself to sign one summer
between chores,” you explained—as if
boredom were an excuse for concealing
good heartedness.

Maybe that’s what it comes
to now—your good heart—the same
one that once offered me
a benediction in the aftermath
of several family deaths
that cling in memory
like the last leaves of autumn.
“Bless your heart,” you said
without a trace of self-consciousness.
I couldn’t have been more grateful then,
nor could I feel more privileged now
than to repeat my good teacher’s
words in kind:

Bless your heart, Richard.

Bless yours.


Edward Francisco’s beautiful tribute to Richard Marius was originally published in his book of poems Death, Child, & Love (2000, Walker Publishers).
You can also read Edward Francico’s thorough and insightful review of Marius’s book Reading Faulkner here on Appalachia Bare.


  1. beautiful

  2. A beautiful tribute. While you have an impressive range of poems, both in style and content, your personal poems, the ones that touch close to home, are the most accessible, moving and powerful for me. Thank you, Eddie, for your willingness to put it out there for us.

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