Albert Huffstickler (1927-2002) was a renowned poet within Austin and in the international small
press scene. He started the Hyde Park Poets Series, sponsored various workshops, presented
readings, and began to travel with his poetry. He won the Austin Book Award in 1989, with the
publication of Walking Wounded, a book based on a stay in a convalescence home following
back surgery. Also in 1989, the Texas Legislature passed a resolution honoring Huffstickler for
his contribution to poetry in Texas. And in 1997, a tribute to Huffstickler opened the Austin
International Poetry Festival. Huffstickler has published hundreds of poems in journals throughout
the world, from the academic to the underground. In his later years, Huffstickler began to work
actively as an artist and had shows in Houston and Austin. He spent his last time on earth in
Austin, where he regularly presented readings at various venues, kept up with a wonderful
network of friends, and continued to write. Huffstickler passed away following a period of poor
health and complications with an aortic aneurysm. His poems are presented here with the
permission of his daughter, Elisabeth Huffstickler Fraser. Information about the poet used
courtesy of Felicia Mitchell and taken from her website.

Claiming the Dead

They asked him if he
wanted the body. He said
No, he didn't want it.
They said Somebody's got
to claim it. He said Why?
They said So it can be
buried. He said You mean
they won't bury it if
nobody claims it. They
said Well, after a while.
He said Well, there's
no hurry. They said Well,
most people want to
claim the body and
give it a decent funeral.
He said Do you think
she gives a damn? They
said We can't make you
claim it. He said Then
I'm not going to. Any
business we had ended
when she did that. I'm
not mad but I was never
anyone to clean up after
anybody else and I don't
intend to start now.

- 1991

The Song

My brother and I sang and sang
growing up, sang love songs from
operettas, sang pop, sang country
western. We didn't think about
it, we just sang because we liked
the way the sound came out of us,
didn't think about the words, just
sang because it felt good to have
music come out of your body and
we tied our feelings to the music
and let it all go like a kite
sailing up, up out of sight. No
use asking us why, we just did
it, just sang and sang. And
sang our way then into another
time where music was scarce and
it was harder to find the music
to tie the feelings to. I don't
remember when I stopped singing.
Jack stopped when he died, not
forty yet, still a young man.
Tonight I sit and think about time
and music and where people's lives
go and it's night and there's a
small breeze and I think about
people like Pavarotti and Louis
Armstrong and Ray Charles, singers
who can put people's joy and
sorrow into music and sing it
for them and I believe to my soul
that there is no more wonderful
thing to do in this world than
to sing and that of all the things
in the world a man can do, there
is no more honorable occupation.

- 1998

The Lost Poem

My father carried a poem with
him all through his internment
in Cabanatuan prison camp in
the Phillipines, carried it
with him for four years, showed
it to me one day folded and
refolded, print blurred, coming
apart. I, in my teens, not
thinking, nodded and went on
and forgot. Years later, I
tried to recall what poem it
was, even a single line of it
but it was gone. The years
go by, my mother�s dead this
long time. There�s no one to
ask. So I ponder it. And
ponder motivations, what drives
us, ponder what drives me still
to write with the same intensity
after all these years. And ponder
the lost poem. Perhaps that�s
part of it: I�m driven to create
that poem I can�t recall, the
poem that carried him through
four years of Hell and home
again. Or perhaps I�m driven
to write a poem that will serve
someone else as well. It�s a
nice thought anyway: my poem
in someone's pocket, bent and
faded, nourishing him, healing
him through his own private
Hell. A man could do worse
with his life. I evoke my
father�s image, our eyes meet,
he nods in agreement, starts
to speak then turns and walks
off into the distance, bearing
the lost poem with him.

- 1999

i dream of rivers

i dream of rivers now,
rivers in the night flowing,
starlight reflected in them--

i dream of rivers
and i dream my death
floating in some lost inlet
under trees, face lifted skyward,
moved by the waters.

the face is that of a man
who has arrived at certain conclusions,
is no longer afraid,
the face of a man who understands
what part beauty plays
and what part silence,
a man who is not afraid to decide
and who does not hesitate to revise.

i dream of rivers
and my imminent demise

- 1970

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