My desk was next to Jerry’s when I first worked at the newspaper. He was the editor of the paper’s Spanish section. I was the copy editor then.
My co-workers warned me Jerry was talkative and easily encouraged. They were right. He talked my ear off about everything and anything, from chupacabra to his beloved Sea Hawks, although he stopped nicely when I said I had to concentrate on my work.
Jerry found out I was Portuguese. He’s Hispanic. We talked about the similarity of our family traditions. I joked centuries ago his people and mine each owned half the world thanks to Pope Alexander VI’s Line of Demarcation. He liked that.
Then, because I was new he wrote me a calavera poem. These poems are a tradition of Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos, celebrated Nov. 1. As Jerry explained, they poke fun at the living.
Jerry wrote mine in Spanglish, a mixture of Spanish and English commonly used in Taos. Here is the calavera he wrote for me. Two hints: Sebastiana is a nickname for death. She is often depicted driving a cart. And, “losing my goats” means “losing my mind.”
Joan Livingston, Se le Fueron las Cabras, Adios
“Pero, it’s my job to verify todo esto, all these,
Are you really, ¿who esto escribió?”
“How dare you doubt me, your Comadre Sebastiana,
In my cart ride many from el Portugal.”
“I’m sorry, perdón, sólo I must be losing my goats,”
“Te ayudo, my dear, to find them again,
Jump into my carreta, for an eternal ride we shall go,
Vamos, it’s time, my turn now, lost goats y todo,
Mi deadline you have met.”
Jerry wrote that calavera five years ago. Every year he made one up for the new hires in the newsroom and published them on the Spanish page. Last year, at my request, he wrote one for my agent, about a near-death experience he had hiking in the snowy Rockies with his dog. Spencer loved it.
Jerry died this July, six months after he retired as the Spanish editor. He kept stopping by the newsroom until a couple of days before his death to talk, of course. I miss my friend now that he, too, has traveled to the other side. Adios.