portion of the artwork for Ellen Parker's essay

Hello, Goodbye, Hello
Ellen Parker

FRiGG is 10 years old. Spring 2003–present. We started with three: me, Sean Farragher, and Al Faraone. I’m still here, and so is Al, but Sean died last June. I’m not over it. This issue is for him, then, although it’s not the last thing I’ll do for him. I want to work with his family to get his writing into books. And, boy, is there a lot of writing. Sean says Taxi Murders, the novel he worked on—for, what? a decade? a long time—is 1.5 million words. Can that be right? Jesus, the guy makes Proust looks like a minimalist. The 1.5 million doesn’t even include his poems, of which there are hundreds. He arranged them all in collections, and there are maybe five of these collections. More? Mind you, these are not short collections. His daughter Kathleen asked me if I had room to store the paper copies of some of the words he’d written, and she showed up at my door with two enormous, overstuffed suitcases. Incredibly heavy. I couldn’t carry them upstairs by myself.

About a year ago Sean told me he had all his writing stored in the cloud. But I didn’t think he was going to die soon, so I never asked him, Where exactly in the cloud? And what is the password? God. It was just like Sean to ask me to help curate his work, to help arrange it and get it into the world, and then he dies without telling me where. I traveled to Missoula to see him in the hospital, and some of the things I wanted to ask him were, Where the hell in the cloud is your work? And what is the goddamned password? He couldn’t speak anymore, though. He had a tube down his throat. And by the time I got there, he couldn’t write anymore, either. All was not lost, though, because his son Ian knew how to find his dad in the cloud, and what the password might be.

Sean called himself a lyric poet. Say what? Before I met Sean, my knowledge of poetry was limited. I was a fiction writer. I was a straightahead writer of stories that I worked hard to make sure everyone understood. I didn’t want anything ambiguous. I would edit and re-edit and cut and rearrange and obsess. (I’m also a copy editor, which, if you’re a fiction writer, is sort of a shame.) Amid my OCD fiction writing, I saw Sean in some rooms in the short-stories wing of the Zoetrope Virtual Studio, and I read some of his writing, and I was like, Who is this guy? None of his words made any fucking sense whatsoever. This intrigued me. (I realized, eventually, that all of his stuff does make sense—just not in a way I was used to.) He told me he wrote for the way the words sounded, for the emotional impact delivered by the arrangement of the vowels and consonants, which—really? You can do that? One day I read one of his poems about a god on the planet Tolfs. Trippiest shit ever. Long story short, after having had my mind repeatedly blown by exposure to writing that sounded like it was channeled from some alien raised in another atmosphere and who might not use the same spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax that we use here on planet Earth, I became a different writer. Now my stuff makes no fucking sense whatsoever either.

Sean Farragher's original familyMuch of Sean’s life was unspeakably sad. His childhood was abusive, chaotic, crazymaking. No one came out of it OK. I used to say to Sean it was a wonder he wasn’t a serial killer. Instead, he became a poet. He saw a psychiatrist for a while, Menorah, and she told him his story was the worst she’d ever heard. Here is a photograph he once sent me of his original family. That’s Sean (then Edward) on the left, grimacing, leaning away from the father. It’s hard for me to look at the photo for long. It’s damaged. No one there is happy. All of them, in their own way, look stricken. There are ghosts in the background.

A lot of his life was beautiful, though, too. He adored his children, and their children, and his wife Zoe, and some women—womankind in general, really—and the Hudson River, the mountains of Montana, a few planets, and all rocks. Poetry. History. Psychology. Geography. Science. Art. He loved a lot of stuff a lot. He was so big.

Some of Sean is here, in this tenth-year FRiGG, and it’s worth a peek, I think. You don’t have to take it all in now, or at all, if you’re preoccupied, or disinclined. There’s still time, and all of us at FRiGG, all of the past and future writers and the staff, including Sean, have lots of words you haven’t heard yet. Stay with us.

Here is Sean reading a poem from his collection Mountains in Montana. He’s using his “indoor voice.” Usually he was loud. Sometimes when he was talking to me I would hold the phone away from my ear and I could still hear him just fine. Sometimes I would put the phone down and walk away for a while. When I came back he was still talking.

Table of Contents

FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 40 | Spring 2013