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The Poet of Hamburg Street (for Frank J. Dunbar)

(for Frank J. Dunbar) By Richard K. Olson I’m at my desk again, the stars are shining, and Frank, you’re right, they “are the tips of torches of all those who are lost in the dark.” You often joked about the clutter on my desk. Well, you should see it now. I’ve piled my work up neatly and cluttered up my desk with poems of yours. There are coffee-cup rings on some, beer bottles stains on others. There are poems on envelopes, and scraps of paper. It’s obvious your poems have been well-lived in. I’m rereading your poems now, Frank, and I swear, I’m back walking in the old neighborhood: down South Park Avenue, past Harry’s Leader Drug Store, Mary’s Home Cooking, Adolph’s Tavern, to Hamburg Street. The corner is crowded: Tony, Smitty, and Johnny Z are there. Then I spot you, and I’m not surprised. You’re in the doorway of Jimmy’s Barber Shop a jug of hard cider to your lips, and Rita, she’s standing next to you, her arm around your waist, and the wind, Frank, it’s doing that certain thing to her hair that you never could get enough of as The Rolling Stones come on the radio and you both come out of the doorway, start to dance and laugh and sing along. Everyone is laughing and clapping to the music. And I can almost hear you whispering to Rita, “Tonight we’ll never die, tonight we’ll live on for a thousand years.” A thousand years? It was sixty-one for you, Frank but some nights can seem like a thousand years when you’re lost in the poetry of life and memory like I am lost tonight, reading poems of yours, watching friends all gather around you as you and Rita dance, and everyone is clapping. I hear it now, in the silence of my room, a night of a thousand years. Contributor’s Note: RICHARD K. OLSON will join fellow poets Gene Grabiner, David Landry, and Tim Raymond in “Frank Dunbar: The Poet of Hamburg Street,” a celebration of the poetry and life of the South Buffalo native who died unexpectedly last April, from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at Waterfront Memories and More Museum, 41 Hamburg St. in the Old First Ward.