You might notice something about today’s poet’s last name, and that is that it’s the same as my last name. That’s because today’s poet is my cousin, who is also a poet. We have an enormous family with very, very few writers in it. He and I are about six years apart (he’s younger), and technically he’s my second cousin, though in a family as large and, in some ways, as tightly-knit as ours, that isn’t really distant. We weren’t close when we were children, but we became friends as adults. He had been living on the east coast for years when I met him again, back home in Houston, at his father’s funeral.
Our aunt came up to me after the service in one of the rooms of the funeral home where the mourners were having a sort of mercy dinner and told me, “You know, your cousin Justin is a poet, too. You should go talk to him about that.”
“Oh, no,” I replied. “I don’t think this is the right time for that, do you?”
She leveled her patented I-know-better-than-you-and-am-going-to-tell-you-what-I-know-because-I-love-you look at me and said, “Frankly, today,” and she gestured around the crowded salon, “I think he’d rather talk about anything else.”
“Okay,” I sighed and gingerly walked up to him. I waited for him to finish the conversation he was having and when he turned to me, I said, “Hi, Justin. I don’t know if you remember me. I’m your cousin Angélique, and Aunt Barbara told me to come and tell you I’m a poet.” Then I shook my head. “We don’t have to talk about this now.”
“Oh yes, hello, that’s wonderful,” he said with genuine kindness. Then he gently took my elbow and gestured to a nearby couch and said, “Please, come tell me all about yourself.”
The last decade, we haven’t lived anywhere close to each other and see each other only now and then, but I consider him a close cousin and a dear friend.
Here’s his official bio:
Justin Jamail is from Houston, TX. He lives with his wife, the playwright Amber Reed, in Tokyo.
Four Negronis in Singapore
When one thinks that recorded human history
has taken not more than seven or eight weeks,
and that even our sun, though an immense ball
of party talk, is a pygmy beside most of the furniture,
the figures of remotely viewed people begin to dwarf
this country’s houses into comparative insignificance.
The farthest source of commentary
that can be seen with the naked eye
this afternoon is a faint splotch
available in a few university libraries
so far away that its import takes a million
episodes to traverse the intervening glasses
of cool relief and fan-conditioned conquests.