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Steve Cannon’s Parting Words

were usually, “Here take $20” or “Take this $40”
which was to pay for stuff at the bodega
I read to him late Saturday afternoons, and, as no one was usually due to drop by till Sunday, I got the supplies before I cut out
I took the money, at first
He was getting a pack or two of American Spirits
and they didn’t come cheap
When he stopped smoking, sometimes
I volunteered to pay, depending
There was one turkey sandwich, with lettuce, tomato and mustard
and “heat it up”
One ginger ale
2 black coffees
2 Hershey’s with almonds
1 sweet roll, any flavor, for breakfast
and 2 black coffees

On rare occasions, the words were:
“Go by the chink’s”
where I would pick up a shrimp and broccoli

Other times, he would say,
among the parting words,
“Get out the brown jacket”
This was when he was going up to Lincoln Center
to meet Mary Chin
and hear some jazz

First I called the car service,
then got the coat,
his cologne;
keys in one pocket,
wallet in the other

Maybe his most frequent parting words
were the ones I heard at the nursing home on Houston Street
when I came in with Yuko and Dalachinsky
Chavisa and Bowery Bob were already there.
Steve was in bed, hurting, and he
asked us to roll him over
When this finished, the guy sharing the room, asked to be rolled over too
He said, he’s been trying to get a nurse for an hour
(That’s the kind of place it was)

Steve was in a lot of pain
Bob went off to talk to a nurse
He came back cowed. The staff
said they needed a doctor’s approval to take any action
but it was Saturday and the doctor didn’t work weekends

Steve died that night.

But we didn’t know what was coming when
I leaned way over and shook hands and took leave
“Hey, Jim,” Steve said,
“thanks for stopping by”

–Jim Feast


7 thoughts on “Steve Cannon’s Parting Words

  1. This is a fine tribute and a moving poem about the remarkable Steve Cannon! It captures him in many of the moments we shared with him on our visits to E3rd and E. 6th Street. So sorry he suffered at the end. He left us so many great memories of reading with the old professor.

  2. I am enraged…..She was lying.
    There’s ALWAYS a Doctor on call.
    Our beloved Steve did not have to die…..

  3. I’ll always remember the last days of Steve C… yes, he was a gentleman.. he “thanked” us for coming to see him… it is like a dream that this happened only a year ago…

  4. Excellent piece by a true friend. Steve was the centerpiece of a big, loving, diverse, and raucous community. Your poem/tribute is a reminder of how much our community lost and how much we have to thank Steve for, for bringing us together and offering his home for communion.

  5. Thanks for stopping by my dear!

    That was the usual end.

    The beginning was: Tell me what’s going on in your fabulous life. I need an update. Update. Bring me up to date, and hand me (a cigarette, the coffee).

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