For Adelle: A Tribute by Jack Foley

The one who looked after me has gone
The one I looked after has gone
—Bertolt Brecht

Jack Foley

How do you mourn the absence of someone you’ve seen almost every day of your life and whose daily presence was always a comfort to you? We’ve all seen children in the midst of what seems to us to be some more or less trivial setback begin to howl and weep in utter despair and anguish. We learn to contain that childish impulse as we grow, but in an event like this, the child returns with a vengeance, and you experience what seems to be endless and bottomless sorrow.

Adelle and me. People came and went, but from the beginning there was love and a commitment to one another—a desire to promote each other, to help each other. That deep commitment was understood and held to by both of us, no matter what else happened. When I entered the poetry world, I never presented myself as “Jack Foley”: it was always “Jack and Adelle Foley”—though organizers often had trouble with that billing. My first book was called Letters/ Lights—Words for Adelle. It was accompanied by a cassette tape on which she performed.

Adelle was diagnosed with cancer on June 4; she died on June 27. During that short time I tried to be her caregiver, cooking, comforting, helping in any way I could. I was rather overwhelmed with things to do—things for Adelle (many trips to Kaiser), household things, things for the radio show. I wrote when I could but Adelle was the center of everything.

We often felt very close to one another even in the midst of this ordeal. At one point she apologized for being “grumpy” and asked whether I forgave her. I forgave her. She was in fact wonderful throughout: intelligent, brave, and loving. At times we spoke or interacted and she was just as she always was: momentarily it was as if this crisis wasn’t real. But there were other times when she was sick: “queasy,” unable to eat, fatigued. We kept up our rituals as well as we could.

I know she’s dead, but I also know that as long as I am alive, she will be alive. And if my work lives, she will live in it. And I know that her own work will be intertwined with mine. I am putting together another book of her haiku; it is tentatively titled, Early the Next Day. There are many beautiful poems that have not yet seen the light. I had hoped to edit the book with her, but that wasn’t possible. She writes in “Peaceful Walk,”

The water lapping
Against the stone barrier
The sun on my face

I wrote, “how can there be sunlight, and you not in it.”

~ Jack Foley


A tribute to Adelle Foley by Jack Foley part one at KPFA is 94.1 FM on July 6.

A tribute to Adelle Foley by Jack Foley part two at KPFA is 94.1 FM on July 13 .


These shows will remain available at the KPFA is 94.1 FM website –  in the archive. CLICK HERE for the direct links.