I want to keep this space Chris-centric (I’ve devoted other spaces online to my feelings and my grief), but I did want to share an edited version of the tribute that I read at Chris’ ceremony.
I expect that I will continue to grieve him, miss him, love him, write about him, and hear him in music for the rest of my own life, but this is one small piece, for now.
This is an edited version of the tribute that I read at Chris’ funeral/celebration of life on February 29, 2012.
I loved my brother even before he came to be gestated in our mother’s womb. I was five years old when she got pregnant. I was so excited about it, and I was beside myself with joy when my father told me that I had a little brother, that he’d been born at 6:02 p.m., and that his name was Christopher.
At the beginning he was my baby, whom I held and cuddled and cared for, then he became my little pal, the three year old who was star and co-star in all my plays, the consummate professional who never forgot his lines. When he got a bit older still, more than my brother, he was my friend, my buddy, my confidante. We took turns playing straight man and funny man. I know that since our childhood he’d gone out into the world and touched an amazing number of people, and though I was happy to share him, I always thought of him as mine first.
I’ve spent some of the past few days going through our emails, instant messages and texts, most of which are really hilarious but unfortunately entirely inappropriate to share in this setting. If you know my brother you can imagine the content. You’ve probably had similar exchanges with him.
I will tell you about our sign-offs, which included such monikers as champ, pal, sister/brother, and reimer/baby reimer. There was also:
Peace out Governor,
Back to you in the studio Barb,
Our relationship was collaborative, creative, emotional, intellectual and intertextual. We always riffed off each other really well. I always thought we’d collaborate on a big project, some day, and I’m saddened that we never had that chance.
Along with creative and artistic talent we also shared the strain of mental illness; sensitivity and artistic ability often go hand in hand with susceptability to mental struggle. We’re both very hard on ourselves, perfectionists about our work, and have suffered through bouts of depression. In these times, though, I like to think that Chris and I understood each other’s suffering. We certainly always did whatever we could to lift each other up and to try to talk each other through it.
I’ve also spent some of the past few days going through Chris’ notebooks and journals, and I feel that, though I may have been one of the closest people in the world to him, there was still so much of him that he didn’t share even with me. He did quite a bit of writing that I don’t think he ever shared with anyone.
My main artistic medium is writing, which I’ve done all my life. I’ve been publishing professionally since about 1999. I’ve had the opportunity to edit several magazines and folios and to read quite a bit of emerging writing. In my brother’s notebooks in the past few days, I’ve found poems that are better than 95% of the emerging writing that I’ve come across. I’m blown away by this, and humbled.
Chris also wrote little scraps of fiction, countless playlists for music mixes, as you can imagine that he would, and some writing that looked like the start of a screenplay. He had the names of philosophers, musicians, dancers and artists scrawled throughout all his notes. He also appeared to be trying to work through philosophical problems and performing investigative work about what it means to be an artist and about the kind of music he wanted to create.
I’d like to share a prose piece with you that I’ve found in some scraps of undated paper.
Every time mother came home screaming father would calmly pluck out her eyes and get them in the bread box until she felt safe again. Her elbows would chatter but she knew it was for the best. This made the drive to Mexico very arduous.
—Quick, come home quick! Bundle her in blankets and rosy the cheeks! All the doors are open. Stop coming unnanounced.
The argument here being that the yellow was almost gone from all the lights, and on occasion the sun would move like birds. At noon it would scatter it’s very own self, spread across the entire sky flapping and chirping. The beauty of these noises was only overcome by the blinding white light and desert heat that pierced the facade of each citizen.
The light, they said, would surely kill us all. At least until nightfall. Then we would all stand up like a shout. Dancing.
The movement throughout the streets was like a score; our life in the house was all played out on the street every day, but we very much pretended not to notice. I always thought sister was the fire hydrant, and I was the sky. I never mentioned this aloud, but would glare it in my head at her, over the morning cereal, when I was feeling cranky.
And each time we fell in love, the world would go dark and light very fast. Like blinking. We once had a litter of puppies. It was night and day arguing, they couldn’t decide between themselves whose moment it was. Little brother had a short spell of convulsions. We brought him water. Sister panicked and was sent to rip sheets, and boil water. When brother was feeling well we all drank tea and named young dogs the names of old men and ships. Large boats with painted women guiding the way. Showing how unimportant we all were.
Sister was a ship. I felt bad about her panic, so I told her so. She kissed my cheek and we built a tire swing for ourselves. And others, if they wanted to use it.
We would build trees in the winter out of old clothes and wigs.
We would build trees and then climb to the top.
I now think that Chris was possibly a better writer than me, though I find many similarities in our phrasing. But in the spirit of love and sharing, I’d now like to read a short poem that I wrote for him, circa 2000. It’s called knee. The context is that he had something called Osgood–Schlatter disease when he was about 14, which is an irritation of the patellar tendon during growth spurts.
weave Chris to a creeping vine. a spurt of bone tears tendon from the old country. divert guitar strings in a snowstorm or a linear kneecap. stop growing when osgood leaves. beer is thicker than water. stretch always kneel to pray or.
(This poem, which I didn’t read that day, is about Chris as well, and the difficulties my mother had in carrying a baby to term. It’s “about” a lot of other things as well, which Nicole Markotic expertly analyzed in the current issue ofOpen Letter, but it’s also “about” Chris as a simultaneous Christ-child and St. Christopher figure from the St. Christopher myth: In the myth, Christopher tries to serve Christ by helping travelers cross a dangerous river. A little child asks to be ferried across the river, and as they cross, the river grows more swollen and dangerous and the child becomes heavier and heavier until Christopher can hardly carry him. From the Wikipedia account—though I’ve read others— “When he finally reached the other side, he said to the child: “You have put me in the greatest danger. I do not think the whole world could have been as heavy on my shoulders as you were.” The child replied: “You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but Him who made it. I am Christ your king, whom you are serving by this work.” The child then vanished.” Thus St. Christopher, or Christ-bearer, although the Catholic Church has since disavowed the truthiness of the story and de-sainted him. Cuz they’re like that).
to reproduce nineteen hundred catholic embryos. containment vessel sometimes harbours fugitive organs. my uterus sits sideways but not a revolutionary angle. if he hung three days bloodless defer the lining. adjust midway angle, don’t assume oval. womb not recommended for dinner by three out of four.
to finish the term take cortisone and tylenol. Joanne endures lupus antibodies. assume squatter’s womb, then murder. undulate nine months and two months and three months and squeeze the membrane. wait six years to bear the christ child over the river. tilt sideways. collect the umbilical cord. leave.
I’m going to finish with a thought I found in another of Chris’ notebooks.
A branch of a tree can find water, but a tree is still a tree.
I am a tree.
Yes, Chris, you are a tree.
Thank you for being here today to honour my brother.
Love previous, during, after, now, later, forever, always–