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  • Jeremy Pataky

Rest In Peace, Frank Soos

I meant to ask Frank to coffee when I was in Fairbanks last June… after I meant to call him for months… after I came to look forward to connecting with him whenever I could, over the years, from McCarthy to Homer, Anchorage to Fairbanks. I thought of him lots this last year and wanted to bend his particularly big, sensitive ear about some major changes for both of us. On that trip to Fairbanks, though, almost every minute I had there, after the long drive from McCarthy, was prescheduled. And I had another long drive down to catch a plane in Anchorage. So I left without calling. I kept going, back into the other kind of Frank Soos company I’ve kept over the years, too, the kind where his books are his proxy. But I would call the man soon, I told myself.

The other night, I returned to Alaska after a 17 hour travel day brought me home from a trip out east. I was back on the ground in AK for sixty seconds when I learned by text that Frank was broken and not expected to make it. Soon, he was gone.

“From this distance, we take the measure of the stars’ sharp edges, feel the cuts of their cold light,” Frank wrote in a tiny essay from Double Moon, a collaboration with Margo. “But up among them, what would we find? Loud bags of gas, light not so much around us but within us. And nothing. Lots more nothing than we are able to account for. Does this scare you? Not me. It is from this nothing that the stuff of our lives must be made.”

Frank’s reading and presentation in Kennecott back in 2010, I think it was, was something, as was the workshop he and Margo co-taught at the Wrangell Mountains Center in McCarthy. I pulled down the collaborative poem and artist book they coaxed from us (with us) that summer, named "Gravity". It’s a struggle to reconcile the news of his going with the memories and objects that remain.

Strange how, even within the centripetal force of grief, the mind reaches out to those it knows hold grief, too, inside the shared loss. Mary Odden, who Frank and I drove up to visit with in Homer at Kari’s place. Rosemary McGuire, who was just out here in McCarthy with her new book. Nancy Cook. Robin Child. A pile of 49 Writers folks and many others. And I think again of those Frank helped and mentored who proceeded him in way-too-soon death, too: Eva Saulitis. Jerah Chadwick. Sherry Simpson. Frank is super missed by many and irreplaceable, and the world and community of writers still alive and trying is lonelier now but better for the time he had and how he spent it.

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