Jeffrey Mercer was inescapably mad. He may have set the record for suicide attempts, psych ward stays and detoxes in Albany, NY area. His death this week lightens the taxpayer's load not some little.
It has punctured me and I am bereft.
Not one of Jeff's friends can rightly say we didn't expect this day. None of us could guess how we'd take it: There is no such thing as relief when a friend dies, even if they've become a big pain in the ass. We grieve. I grieve the loss of the boy I met as a teen, a skinny long-haired skamp from the 'burbs, who managed to get to my house in the crime-ridden section of town and back, just about every day for a while. We paid a lot of attention to one another back then; he more to me. He was very intelligent–on an elevated order–something I only truly appreciated much later on. He didn't get to be a Lieutenant cracking Russian code on The Berlin Wall because he was a stooge and an ass clown. Although an unfortunate incident with LSD landed him in Leavenworth on a dishonorable discharge. It was a set-up, for sure. But why did he keep a half-hit of Window Pane in his wallet? That's what sunk him.
Why he wasn't killed on those 3 mile trips to my place and home, stoned, drunk? – I don't know. He some times said "it was because I knew Franklin." Meaning, that the thugs left him alone because I was part of that ramshackle 'hood he frequented. Most likely it was just luck and that he never had a dime on him back then and it showed. Later in his life he got mugged quite frequently. He'd gotten old; needed a cane. But not back when we were mad boys.
Christ, does it hurt to know he is gone. I am scouring his poetry on Lit.org, a good little site. He scoffed at anyone's attempts to be a capital-A "artist"–and like ee cummings, he wrote everything in lower case. He pissed me off regularly when my writing didn't meet his mark.
I found this today (below), one of his last entries on the site. Its foreboding did not catch my attention at the time: Jeffrey had died a lot, already. So if he sensed death in the autumn, he was just being one of us (granted, 55 year-old men sense autumn differently ... and yes, go on, older people, too).
Sadly, for me, for his friends, he didn't sense death coming in Late Autumn, after the color was stripped from the trees and winter came in and bit down and meant business. What can I say? His buddy Larry found him, very dead, a few days possibly, "he was so stiff, Franklin,"– his cane tossed at his side (it had failed him on this last falling)–on his way to go somewhere by all appearances–headed for the door.
"He was impeccably dressed," says Larry. Well, Jeff was fond of his clothes later on in years. The cane was a necessity–his back was shot and his legs were ruined by alcoholic neuropathy.
He never stopped loving, joking, fighting the wrongs I share with him (one last was keeping unnecessary antibiotics out of Butterball turkeys, but that is absurd–he also fought every form of organized lie he encountered, and little lies as well). His mind did not go when–he was sober at least–and my last few exchanges with him hurt me the most: Lately, he said didn't want to die the way he lived.
In the end, nature decided otherwise. Here is the last poem I know he wrote and published on lit.org
fractured poppy 11/04/2013
poppy! the park from my window's adorably popping
the fall, it's alarming full autumn
the trees glistening, gleaning
the sun's growing shine losing them into being
and the leaves are unfailingly dropping
we shoe them and the rustle
abouting and a 'whying
makes us think and so we doubt
nature's bounty, it pops and percolates
death is a beautiful thing, our grace
– Jeffrey A Mercer
Much love to my dear friend ...