Grandpa James "Jim" Wesley Dunn

February 26th, 1929 - January 23, 2019


Careful, grandfather:

on this last visit, anything you say

I may attempt to turn into poetry.

How much of what we say gets canonized in verse

depends not on our own significance

but on the skill of the poet.

I am not so good with words

to make mundane days

become magic.

But I watch your gaze

trace blank page space

in between us.

You only asked one thing of me before:

that I tell you what you could pray for.

Now, you leave me, after my third of your ninety years,

with one inheritance.

Now, eyes fogged over but no less locked on mine,

you make what will be your last request of me,

for the moment

and for the remainder of my own stay:

“Would you pray?”

And so the Great Poet rests his pen on the paper

in between us.

Here we share the one bond, the one chain, the one trust

that can free us.


At the speed of light

no time passes.

When I was little

(you prayed for me)


was measured in seconds.

When I grew


became months.



will mean years.

When you meet him, face

to face,


will have been a lifetime.

When you shift a gentle turn

into light

no time passes.

I will see you again



What great illusion you have left:

your body frail, in a futile attempt

to hide the herculean soul

buried in your chest


You pressed the issue of consistency,

set the standard: be faithful, stay.

“Walk humbly with your God” as if to say.

You quoted verses endlessly,

were tested, tried, steady-handed, you testified.

“Walk humbly with your God” you implied.

I left you today, soon to leave.

I drove back into dusk;

you forward into dawn.

I will walk humbly with your God

when you are gone.

battering down the gates of heaven

towing your son,

and his sons,

and their sons

close behind

(a few brief decades).

This struggle beneath all struggle,

the war for the foundation of a person:

here it is, well-fought.

Here you are,

and here am I,

going where you went,

following where you follow,

meaning what you meant.


For as long as I can remember,

I will not forget you

because you remembered me.

The day you pass away,

God will suddenly have too much free time.

For as long as I can remember

you have spent hours every day in prayer.

My mom has always credited my faith

to your prayers.

I don’t even know what I owe you.

No wonder death for you

is a small change of pace,

a wrinkle in time,

a wink in place.

I do not know exactly what he told you already.

But I picture something like

“Let’s continue the conversation over dinner.

My place.”