Beloved on the Earth – A Poem in Honour of, and Two Poems Written For, Ross MacDonald R.I.P.

Beloved Friend. Ross MacDonald (April 4th, 1945-January 19th, 2024)

Late Fragment

And did you get what
You wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
Beloved on the earth.

Raymond Carver (1938-1988) from A New Path to the WaterfallAtlantic Monthly Press, 1989.

He was a big man. Broad shouldered. When I hugged him, not easy to get my arms around. But, my oh my, it was easy for the arms of my heart to get its arms around him. Ross MacDonad, dear friend of more than twenty years.

The day I heard Ross recite Raymond Carver’s poem Late Fragment was a somber day. The day of the funeral of the fiancé of one his beloved two daughters. The funeral of a young man who had bravely, whole-heartedly, journied through illness as Ross did before his death this January. That day Ross was celebrating the life of a man who embraced life and his dying with a whole heart.  Ross’s assertion through Carver’s poem was that there was a completion to this young man’s life even though he died far too young.

And for me this poem becomes now an ever so apt epitaph for man who in his honesty, his fierce regard for truth in himself and others, in his unflinching generosity, untouched by sentimentality, stood tall among all whom he walked among. And, and how, fiercely he loved. Gave himself to others he cherished and believed in. I count myself lucky to have been loved fiercely by him.  How in that love he held me accountable to him and to my better self. I can insist, as Carver’s poem insists: Ross was beloved on this earth. And I trust he felt that same way as he faced his death a few weeks ago.

So much of what counted for him in his time here is captured in this excerpt from his obituary published recently: While his material achievements were significant and far reaching, he dedicated his life to quietly helping others. Ross valued his privacy and that of the many that he helped. Much of his giving was anonymous. His passion was building up young people, especially in their journeys to sobriety.

Ross once shared with me he had lost or forgotten the poetry inside him. But for me nothing could be further from the truth. He had a poetry of being that sang inside him with the clarity of an ancient gong. And so often he would surprise me with a poem or talk of a poem and I would remember not to forget that he held much to himself and in that moment I would shine with the gift of his sharing what mattered deeply to him.

Ross’s beloved wife Susan mattered deeply to him and it is here an unspoken grace enterered our relationship. One I share with deep respect. Ross and I had been dear friends for quite a few years when Susan, my second wife, and I divorced. Later, she and Ross dated and then married. The strange movements and moments in a life. Ross and I weathered this. We remained held in friendship, in brotherhood, and in the last few years of his life the flame of that friendship grew and deepened.

The last time I saw Ross was here at my house when my beloved son Alex married his beloved, Heather. It was such a day of utter joy for me. My first wife, Catherine there, looking radiant as her son Alex said his vows, as Susan, Alex’s stepmother, conducted the marriage ceremony and Alex’s other stepmother, my beloved wife Somae, and I looked on in such happy witness.

And during this time during Alex’s marriage celebrations Ross shared with me his loyalty to this poetry blog I have written since 2010. How much it meant to him. He may never know how much this meant to me. Now, Ross could seem brusque at times especially if he diagreed with you about something but I hope he will not mind that now he is in one of the blog posts of my poetry blog.

In the days ofter Ross’s death I wrote many poems to him, part of a series of poems I was writing everyday in January. I based this series on titles of sculptures by an Iranian Canadian sculptor. So when Ross died unexpectedly during this series I stayed with borrowed titles and I was grateful for the surprise of the poems that followed. Here are two of them in memory of Ross.


Poet and the Beloved

I imagine Rumi’s Beloved. Then I say:
beloved, beloved, beloved. Then I say:
cherished, cherished, cherished. Not
Rumi’s Beloved but one of the small “b”
beloveds. Each an echo of the bigger “B”
Beloved. Today a beloved, a body, be-
came an echo and something fades out
of hearing out of reach. Again, this need
to make a meaning out of death. But do I
bother? And this death, its thunderclap,
what I cupped into morning’s ear and asked:
do you hear? And I heard nothing back.
And I cupped it into the ear of night
and night answered back: I am midwife
to light. Choose to believe me or not.
I whisper back to the ear of midnight’s
dark: it is not light I seek but my beloved’s
face, his large hands, his barrel chest.
Night’s silence is a blade’s impossible
kindness, carving an emptiness as womb
for sorrow and grief. Beloved deceased.

Richard Osler, previously unpublished, January 2024

Poet and Nightingale

         That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
              In some melodious plot
       Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
            Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

—John Keats from Ode to a Nightingale

If I sing could it be bitter grief resting
on a bare branch, singing back to me?

Singing back to me, could bitter grief
be something as small, as light, as a bird?

Small and light as a bird a prayer lands
in me as if inside the cry of a newborn.

The cry of a newborn is no stone pillar
but how it holds the weight of a prayer.

The weight of a prayer, could it be a poet
might sing it with full-throated ease?

With full-throated ease could a poet dare
to pray for a Nightingale’s lift into song?

A Nightingale’s lift into song, could it hold
grief’s weight in a prayer for a dead friend?

A prayer for a dead friend, could it be sung,
then hang in the air, light-winged as a bird?

Light-winged, a bird, his spirit calls to me,
his own Nightingale, its full- throated ease.

Its full-throated ease, spirit of my friend,
do I hear: true friend do not grieve for me?

Richard Osler, previously unpublished, January 2024

I so appreciate that in the poem directly above Ross entered the poem so unexpectedly. Truly. And that there and then he said to me through my poem: do not grieve for me! Such a Ross thing to do and say. I love you so my man! Miss you. I celebrate you. And grieve you, too!


  1. Ted Spear
    Posted February 25, 2024 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Nicely done, Richard. A beautiful tribute for a beautiful man.

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted February 25, 2024 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Dear Ted. So moved to see this. Thank you. means a lot to hear from you. That you read the tribute.

  3. Posted February 25, 2024 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Such a powerful tribute to your good friend, Ross, Richard. I didn’t know him at all, really, but you paint him so eloquently with your words. My guess is he would have approved.

  4. Richard Osler
    Posted February 25, 2024 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Huge thanks for this Donnie. You are another hugely loyal reader of the blog. Means a lot.

  5. Cathie Kernaghan
    Posted February 25, 2024 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry for your loss Richard. He was clearly beloved by you. What twists and turns in the healing connections within your family. I would have loved to have met Ross. And in some ways, I did, through your poems in which your relationship with him is very much alive.

  6. Richard Osler
    Posted February 25, 2024 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Bless you Cathie. You have witnesses this journey with Ross through my poems and our retreats. It means a lot.

  7. Chris Bullock
    Posted February 25, 2024 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Carver’s “Late Fragment” has been a touchstone for me for many years. Like his, my journey has been towards belonging. And I was drawn to Carver originally by his story “Cathedral,” which is about, among other things, male friendship. I appreciate the fierceness and tenderness of your poem celebrating this.

  8. Richard Osler
    Posted February 25, 2024 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much Chris. Will find and read Cathedral. So appreciate your comments.

  9. Mary Ann Moore
    Posted February 26, 2024 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Dear Richard, such a beautiful tribute to your dear friend Ross. May his memory be a blessing. It sounds as if it very much is. Such gorgeous poems.

  10. Richard Osler
    Posted February 26, 2024 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Oh MA – Life. So glad you are in mine! Hope you Zoom sessions rock!

  11. Posted February 26, 2024 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this Richard.

  12. Richard Osler
    Posted February 26, 2024 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Dear Ursula: Huge thanks for taking the time to write a response. So moved by the responses to this post. Felt I had no choice but to write it – tender or not!

  13. David Anderson
    Posted February 26, 2024 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Thank you Richard.

  14. Richard Osler
    Posted February 26, 2024 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Dear David:So thoughtful of you. This response. If anyone understands loss you do. And more than most. Sending big love to you and Shauna.

  15. Donna Friesen
    Posted February 26, 2024 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful tribute and a grief so deep. Thanks for this Richard. Your journey with Ross become ethereal—your ear cupped to night. Such tenderness in this post and in your deep friendship that will always be with you. Thank you!

  16. Richard Osler
    Posted March 19, 2024 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    You are a steadfast and beloved friend. thank you.

  17. Geoffrey Cowper
    Posted February 27, 2024 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    All lovely Richard and well done in memory of a special person. Strange movements and moments in a life. Ross would have loved that phrase!


  18. Richard Osler
    Posted March 19, 2024 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Big thanks geoff. Great to see you recently. Twice in three months!

  19. Andrea Pennells
    Posted March 1, 2024 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    “He had a poetry of being that sang inside him with the clarity of an ancient gong.” Yes, dear Richard, this was Ross. This, with a change of verb tense, is also you. Both you and Ross are beloved. I feel blessed by your friendship – and forever uplifted by you both. Thank you for sharing these moving tributes to our memorable, mutual friend.

  20. Richard Osler
    Posted March 19, 2024 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Thank you dear Andrea for your friendship and these beautiful words. Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply.

  21. Posted March 1, 2024 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Dear Richard, my condolences to you on the loss of your dear friend. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing your inspired poems. Much love to you!

  22. Richard Osler
    Posted March 19, 2024 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    And huge love back to you dear Mary.

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