I met The Klute 20 years ago. I was just starting in poetry slam and he was just a few years in. We didn’t like each other but became good friends after I grew up a little. We tortured nerds at Nerd Slams with our trivia expertise. He was a good poet, but a better person, which I feel matters more.
Below I hope is what The Klute has become now that he’s shed his mortal shell, doing what he does best. I wish I had more words to say but I’m still in shock, like all of us.
News travels fast in Phoenix. I'm not even in Phoenix proper anymore, barely Maricopa County. But word came to me this morning that Bernard Schober had passed Monday morning during a hike. He'd had heart issues a while, so this was not surprising albeit still very upsetting. I remember how bleak things had felt in his last hospital stay, to the point where my son Ace sent a video saying "I love you" just to be safe.
Klute, as he was known in our circles, was someone Ace and I frequently ran into around town. I had met him after being booked on the same live talk show at a theatre called Space 55. From there, I'd run into him stopping into the Nile in Mesa for a vegan goodie, finding him at breakfast with friends. Or Ace and I would see him at one of a number of comic cons, library cons, book festivals, or zine fests. In fact, I had helped organize PHX Zine Fest in its first years, and Charissa Lucille from Wasted Ink Zine Distro was one of the first people I shared the bad news with. They asked me for some thoughts to place on the PZF site, right around the same time I was talking with J. Bradley about doing the same for Meow Meow Pow Pow.
Jesse hadn't known that I was friends with Klute, nor did I know the same about Jesse, until this morning. That's how far the man's reach has.
And how deep an impact, that we all want to use the power of our words to honor someone who was so skilled with words himself. His sense of humor and his sense of right and wrong went hand in hand, often used to challenge politically abhorrent people online, or advocating for what was most important to him. He was as funny as he was passionate, and he could use that to eviscerate someone rhetorically, or champion the people and causes he cared about. He was a vocal defender of the environment, the ocean, and sharks in particular, and he backed his talk up by going out to explore, document, and report on everything happening on those fronts.
He never stopped believing in the power of words, and more importantly, the power of a person who gives a damn and shows up to do something about it.
The small print and zine scene, the slam poetry and spoken word community, the scuba diver and shark conservationist and environmentalist movements, these are all tight knit groups and Klute was an important part of each of them. I think he would be humbled at the outpour of emotion for him today, and tributes which will certainly continue for years to come.
Klute had seen a man die in a grisly boat accident during one of his last dives. The experience shook him, and his account of it had shook me. He wrote about it in the last poem published on his blog, which I'll reprint here, and leave as his last testament - although the friends and people who loved him that he has left behind will be testifying to his kindness and goodness for ages to come.
Death At Sea - Klute
or a Great Hammerhead Responds to the Sinking of the Fricka, April 16, 2022
When a sailor dies at sea
some of your kind
say they become dolphins.
The human belief
that dolphins are beneficent
is based on their smile
but when you see it
you are not caught in a gleaming beacon of friendship
the cetacean is no Lisa Frank rainbow swimmer;
they are the grinning monster under the bed,
and you are staring down the Joker’s knife.
They joyously ride the bowplanes of a ship
the way a siren uses a tuning fork to test their voice.
Every boat that leaves the harbor has an escort,
a pilot to guide you through the treacherous waters,
because once free, you belong to them.
And they know.
They can echo heft of an iceberg,
smell the intensity of flame,
count the grains of gunpowder that can
dance upon a pinhead.
Why they do it, we don’t know,
a rumor’d bargain struck long ago
to enrich Neptune with a chain of souls
they carry men to the Reef of Tolls.
Their smile knowing,
a permanent smirk
knowing that a death at sea is not a joyous moment
for a future of surf and a seafood smorgasbord.
It is the grief of widows and orphans,
lawyer’s pens scratching paper
the tick-tack of typing out press releases
telling everyone the search will end
While dolphins play,
Despite all our teeth,
we have no grin.
Vilified for honesty,
our mouths are open to enrich us –
food for the body
or food for the blood.
In this Blue Eternal,
these heavenly waters,
there is nourishment
but it is work,
no deals with decrepit Gods
who died long ago.
We are all Old Salts
having passed in the sea
from one form
This one now that I borrow,
will return spiraling to the trenches and claws,
is a scale held by Neptune’s sister Themis
with each of my eyes as far away from the other
that seaworthiness allows.
I see all.
I sense all.
The justice of Gods and evolution
flowing through me
So when you saw me speeding along
I was racing towards to dying.
While you hovered,
exhaling nitrogen in miniature bubbles,
tragedy enflamed my every synapse in
already knowing the outcome.
By the time you had arrived,
die was cast,
red and unflinching.
I was there to take the tally,
So if a dolphin must ferry a man’s soul
as part of the Trident holder’s take,
decoration for the god whose skeleton
fringes the shore of the World Ocean,
know we were there to see it transform
faster than the smilers can carry it away.
The body hauled on board
I continued on currents,
Mourning is for living of the land.
For me, death simply is.
It was unfair,
Crane’s Open Boat
on Winslow’s Gulf Stream.
Unlike most sharks
who either believe in only the infinite chance of Evolution
or the benevolent grace of a violent Sea,
I believe in your God and
This tempest of blue is just another of their tables
In the hold of a pirate’s bark that will never reach its destination
until the Sun has flared and my home has evaporated into stellar mist.
Each of them cheating at Liar’s Dice,
playing for souls.
Whether as solitary glimpses under a blaring star
or in great packs that create shadowplay,
we will always swim to a dying ship,
there to witness.
If Judgement is to come,
our heads will tip
let the gods, both living and dead, know
that a soul was there,
and if it needs to be carried
we will do it
as neutral as we can balance
in the uncertainty of a shipwreck
when death comes at sea.
When a sailor dies at sea
some of your kind
say they become dolphins.
Our kind believes
they become something more.
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