Sunday, April 15, 2018

When I was Born There Were Two of Me


Ray Hinman (June 20, 1956-Jan 24, 2014.  

for International poetry month: A Tribute to my brother because he was a great poet.







My brother Ray wrote those words at one time, "when I was born there were two of me.". We did come into the world together. He was always there, I never knew a time when he was not there. As kids we were rambunxious, obnoxious, noisy, hyperactive, sarcastic. We were always there for each other. When we walked home from kindergarten bigger boys would pick on us because when they grabbed Ray I would cry, and shout "leave him alone!" When they grabbed me he would cry and shout. We always knew what each other meant by cryptic comments when  no one else did. We always looked out for each other's feelings.

In sixth grade the teacher read to the class an unpublished story by Mark Twain, from life magazine. That's when he set his sites on being a writer, He taught himself all about literature. It came from out of nowhere, he began spending all of his time reading, He would get home from school and go right to the books instead of football as had been his passion. In eight grade he gave an oral book report to a speech class on Goethe's Faust part I. It as brilliant the class as thunder struck. I was amazed at his erudition and his poise and his eloquence. People were coming up to me  all day and saying "I didn't know your brother was a genius."

That was crucial because we had dyslexia and early schooling was marked by failure and being treated like dunces (until they tested our IQs!). Spanked with boards for being lazy (by the principle--Texas schools of mid 60s). We could barely read, we hated ourselves and we shored each other up by mutual support. Then this literature thing turned Ray on to using his mind. He just got the idea he could teach himself and he began doing it. This was really in opposition to the teachers. He actually knew more at the end of high school than many of his teachers and I know that's true.

He was also brash and rebellious, sharp and critical of authority. We were both attracted to the "movement" of the 60s. Anti-war, we went to protests (this was 7-10 grade1971-72). An example of how Ray was in eight or ninth grade. We went to a  little private school ran by church of Christ. They had a big Dress code and we hated it. We wanted long hair they would not let us have it. One day we missed some school for snow (rare in Dallas). The school administration declared that we had to go for a make-up Saturday but to make it less odious we could dress any way we wanted to (except no short skirts on the girls). Everyone wore ragged blue genes and t shirts except Ray. He wore a suit and tie.

In the period that followed (72-77) he really was my hero. I resented him but also admired him. He was much more socially able and more successful in dealing with the opposite sex. Sex being the operative word there. Dressed like a hippie but not in a pretensions way. Ran around all over town with all kinds of women, getting drunk and smoking dope and going to parties, making his own -parties by the turtle creek or Bachman lake or some place. He dropped out of high school and moved down town. Took GED and scored one of the highest scores in the City.

In the high school years, 16, 17 he went on several hitchhiking trips. My parents were terrified but he was nota run away, He got them to sign a letter saying he had their permission because the deal was, he was going anyway. He did have stories from the road. He hide in the dark in the Rockies and watched a coven of some kind do something with torches and someone (he really didn't know what they were doing he just didn't want to be seen). He was shot at in West Texas and attacked by a ghost in Denver. He stood on a dark rainy highway in Oregon and did not see Bigfoot (said he never thought about it), He first went to Colorado, the up the West Coast to Vancouver, Then up the east coast to Toronto. That picture at the top on a park bench was taken in Boston on that trip, he was 17.

He was lean and strong and full of life and what the Bible calls "The pride of life." He was brilliant, he read a lot  of Nietzsche and decided he would become an ubermench. He told me once he knew he wasn't one but he wanted to force himself to be one anyway. He wrote prodigiously. After growing apart in high school--I had debate and he had hitchhiking-- we got back together in college. He started to community college took philosophy was on the honor Roll and my parents were elated. He was also at odds with them about being a writer. They wanted him to be able to support himself.  He just wanted to write. We developed a world around ourselves and our books. It centered on the coffee shop. Discussions were to us what water is to a duck. We discussed everything fueled by books and our own writings.

Everything changed in 77. That's when Ray had his break down. He saw the goddess Dianna fly past the moon while smoking dope on the roof at our parents home. He was never again free of delusions. Gradually over time he became like my child. By the time he died I had almost forgotten the strong rash independent young genius he was in his youth. He was lucid but developed a lot of delusional fears. We struggled through the maze of the mental health care industry for two decades before I realized they were nuttier than he was. In the end we wound up wild catting with nutrition and forgot the shrinks., He tried hard to make it as a writer. Every passing year grew that much more desperate; He finally quite trying the last eight years of his life. He was always going to get back to it.

I think the two great defining moments for him were the Central America movement and taking care of our parents. We worked as organizers in the central America movement from about the dawning of Iran=contra (85?) to the anti-climatic end of the Sandinista government in '90. Ray poured his heart and soul into it, s=he shown as an activist. Quoted in the Newspaper for some protest we organized (Dallas Morning News) "Ray Hinman, 31 year old Poet.." I said "hey you are officially a poet, says so in the paper." He said, "I am also officially 31, says so in the news paper." He saved a woman's life. Jenifer Casolo was charged by the Salvadoran government and her lawyer too. Both arrested a d tortured. Ray threw himself into calling all over the country to get urge t action alerts generated. When Casolo came to Dallas Ray was introduced to her as "The person primarily responsible for getting you out." The Lawyer was saved too.The other great moment was in caring for our parents. We basically ran our own private nursing home 2/7 for three years. Our mother had Alzheimer's our father had a big heart attack and then some kind of dementia.  He was invaluable in care for  them. I could not have done it without him. I could really see what he was made of then in his unselfish caring for our parents.

There were more struggles involved in fights criminals disguised a mortgage company who stole our house and living in our car for a short time. This all took it's toll on Ray, his fragile mental condition. The last few years we found a cozy rent house, parents gone, just Ray and I and our little dog Arnie (black and tan coon hound but the tan parts were white).  He loved drinking coffee in the kitchen or on the back Patio and reminiscing. We lost the fire for the great intellectual discussions we had thrived on. He lost the fire for writing he was no longer building for a career as a writer, he was feeling like a a failure and reminiscing about what he loved in the act of trying to be a writer. Nursing his delusions. If only he had written those into novels. He did get the one collection of poems published I think he really just rested in that one accomplishment.

The last Day he was upset because I kept trying to convince him to go to the hospital. He wanted to be at home. He thought I wanted to get rid of him. I told him I wanted to stick together and be old men together, He seemed happy and was perked up. I made him a cup of coffee he drank it and smoked and said it was the best coffee and smoke he ever had, He wanted me to help him to the bathroom and on the  way he had to sit down, He began roaring like a lion, spewed stuff out his mouth and I saw his eyes roll up in his head. I ran for the phone and called 911. By the time I got back he was gone. I was shouting "come back!" After the coroner left I spend hours alone shouting  "Ray! Ray!" I sat out on the patio for days just reliving our times there and trying to find peace about it. I eventually realized he was just tired of conflict he made the choices he did for that reason. He was tired of being mentally ill and tired of struggling to make it as a writer in an illiterate society that no longer understands literature.





Some of  his best poems:

"The Ex-Missonar Learns Mexico,"

After the rain we came into the low
country, the hills unrolled beneath us,
pitted with aroieas, green aloe vera plants concealed basins where water stood;
hidden from high ground like secret lakes.
We climbed from our horses and looked into
a pond, our faces shining against sky
and cloud.

There is nothing holy about hidden things;
chance has it's own way of breaking monotony
as one mile slinks
into the dust of another, but in this place
(out of mill ions allover the desert)
what seemed so dry from the trail's rim lay entangled with fertil ity, floating
in a bath of sky.

For years I had learned the desert from train windows, it's beauty no more than swirl ing dust, but when our faces rippled over brown roots,
dark as cinnabar, shooting into leafy green ... the vistas around us rose in vapour and begged



for a drink, in the distance a vulture called, and hundreds of zacadas; the hil Is rose
above us like domes.


"the Shaman Considers His Craft." 


Did I say footprints?
Did I say each puddle reflects a world? I use to see distinction in things other people instinctively ignore.
The bird in the bush could sing his door wide, and with windows
there to open
the wealth of those deeper places could catch the thrush's warble and gl itter white fire.
But then I got to naming things, and relating one thing to another.
The tracks for instance, no longer just a trail to follow, an extension or some place where the mystery of places might echo a brittle birth.
I had to know that beauty--decode it,
like a song. The thrush's song, the broken tracks, the I ittle brown splotch that is the bird upon
it's branch, it had to be a destiny, a metaphysic or sympathy breaking down haunted tomes ...
levels of Justice and fate.

I had to know what made the haunted real,
to know how these doors open, one into another so that bird sails freely
and his fire pierces through the bush, the puddles that are sl fck as sl iding glass,
and know much more than being carried by a song (his song from his landscape) into a scape not mine and not his.
And at that point, that beauty that became so brittle as I went downward
(through the landscape his beauty built into the scape not mfne and not his)
I missed the whole haunted meaning of fire and magic both.
And I was left there, as if I stood before a maze of bushes all grown with doors.

Whitman's Ghost Takes a Tour of the City

The goddess sits in the axhandle park:
she would give more grain, but corn won't grow
in our streets.
The trees can lift their arms skyward,
but their hands and hair sprout flames.
Indidolons time,
when the old shade goes loafing (though evening
can't come any closer). Could he manage disembodiment
before now, the fire of the flower would still
be there by chance.
But you, knowing the richer reds
and deeper blues appear briefly at dusk
then withdraw into their own flame...
He goes out at evening, shirt long, baggy as a coat,
his white beard flows from the sack-like face,
the outstretched hat-brim;
he has made himself bewildered: Where are the poets
chanting to the multitude? The headlong, vulgar, robust
freedoms of the crowd? Is there only you?
Bleating out this quick-flaring image? You chant
the gawk-shuffle, art-patter, and wonder how the plant
ever let you in. The inferno of the city blazes
around us, we detail its hidden lights.

4 comments:

Mike Gerow said...

Great post ... with a beautiful title!

:-)

Kristen said...

Thank you for sharing so much about your brother. Such remarkable people, both of you.

Joe Hinman said...

thanks guys. I appreciate both comments.

Ray deserved so much more out of life than he got. He set his sights on doing big things,m he had talent he did not use wisdom, neither did I.

Starhopper said...

Joe,

Unfortunately, Wheeler is not insane. I wish he were, because that would excuse much.

No, he is just a run-of-the-mill standard-issue white supremacist. Probably has a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in his front yard, right next to the Confederate flag. People like him cannot be reasoned with. They're like the right wing ideologues who hover around Victor's website. The only truly important thing to them is the hatred they are fixated on (either of people of color or liberals - take your pick). I'm rather surprised at Wheeler's claims of being a Catholic. Is he not aware of the generations of anti-Catholic bigotry that once filled this country? For him to do the same to others is downright shameful. Had he lived 100 years ago, he would have been the target of the same ignorant hatred he is showing towards (for example) Mexicans today.

But the thing that really burns me up is when this type of person claims to be able to infallibly discern the intent of God in scripture. All they are really doing is projecting their own prejudices onto the writing.

(By the way, what do you think of my blog?)