Some people may think, "Shock? He was 91. It was his time." This makes sense from a logical standpoint, but Bradbury's work often left no room for logic. Even though he was over 90 years old, I was starting to feel like he would outlive me. He was a constant in my life, even though he didn't know I existed. I watched Ray Bradbury Theater as a kid, read "There Will Come Soft Rains" in 7th grade, read some of the Ray Bradbury Chronicles comics as a teen, and got my first taste of his book-length works when I read my uncle's old miniseries tie-in mass market paperback of The Martian Chronicles while visiting my grandmother in the hospital after she had broken a hip. Over the past twenty years, I've become more and more familiar with his work, and noticed in The Halloween Tree, a book for kids, and in numerous poems and short stories that he did not seem to fear death. He wrote several poems about Death, and even a novel called Death is a Lonely Business. If he was afraid of death, he seldom showed it in his work.
I recently reread From The Dust Returned, and complained that its boy protagonist sounds too much like the adult characters when he spoke, though the truth is that all the characters sound like Ray Bradbury. I thought it was a distraction, but he was a fantasy writer. In fantasy, the sympathetic characters should have a wide-eyed sense of wonder and experience in the amazing. He lived through so many changes, so naturally his style has such a voice that rubs off on all his characters. The next time I read it, I'll likely appreciate the characters' dialogue much more.
After reading the news, I felt like a part of me had died. I wanted (and still want) to unleash my sadness by crying, but have yet to do so. I recalled his poem, "Why Didn't Someone Tell Me About Crying in the Shower?" and felt it was a good idea. I took a shower, but no tears came. I suppose I'll have to watch The Sci-Fi Boys again for that to happen... or perhaps read some of his essays in Bradbury Speaks again. Perhaps I'll do both.
I reread some of his poems, such as the aforementioned "Crying in the Shower," as well as "Death as a Conversation Piece" and "We Have Our Arts So We Won't Die of Truth." I felt a chill go down my spine when I revisited "Somewhere a Band is Playing," though. I don't want to type these poems in their entirety, so as to inspire my readers to buy his books, or borrow them from a library or friend and discover their power as an entire book of his poems, but the last stanza (if you can call it that; very few of his poems are divided into actual stanzas) is as follows:
"Somewhere a band is playing
Oh listen, oh listen, that tune!
If you learn it you'll dance on forever
and yet June...
and more... June...
And Death will be dumb and not clever
And Death will lie silent forever
In June and yet June and more June."
Ray Bradbury died in June, which is the most sadly ironic thing I've ever head. But anyway, that's some of his poetry. I'd like to close with two or three of mine:
6 and 6 is 12:
That's the equation of grief.
Today we lost Ray.
"Take me home," he said
to Mars, and he's gone there. I
hope it's as he dreamed.
I'm both sad he's dead
and grateful for tales not read.