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Four Sonnets for Brian Barker: 1961-2008

December 28, 2008

Here is a sonnet for Brian Barker.

Brian sat behind me in school to look
over my shoulder and get the answers.
He always managed to be in my group.
That was okay. He was nice, and funny.
He wasn’t stupid. He just didn’t care
about Spanish or Math or English. He
reminded me not to take everything
so seriously, it didn’t really
matter,  even though I thought it did. He
was popular; I ran the school paper.
He called me Mrs. Presidente. When
we were juniors, a girl died in a car
crash. He was in the car. He found her body.
I was supposed to write about it but couldn’t.

Here is a found sonnet for Brian.

Brian Kent Turecek Barker, longtime
Santa Barbara resident, passed away
November 26, 2008.
The fourth child of Eldon and Lucy Barker,
Brian was born on December 5, 1961.
He grew up in Ventura, California,
graduating in 1980 from
Ventura High. A talented artist
at an early age, he studied art at
UCSB, graduating in 1987.
He worked as a draftsman with architects
and engineers. Brian was a kind,
generous, and loving man with a keen
intellect. Passionate about his
creative endeavors, he shared his art
with friends and family. He had a unique
sense of humor, a warm smile, an easy laugh.

Here is another sonnet for Brian.

Brian is the father of my nephew.
Was. Is. Not. Brian fathered my nephew.
That’s not it. Brian and my sister made
a baby. She kept the baby. He went
to college. She dropped out. She married Dave.
Brian discovered heroin. He fell
in love. Loving heroin made it hard
to love anyone or anything else.
There is more to it of course but the fact
of the matter is for Thanksgiving this
year, a week before his birthday, Brian
………………………………………overdosed
…………………………………………and died.

Here is a final sonnet for Brian.

When I tell them about Brian, people
ask me if it was suicide, do I
think it was suicide. The question shocks
me. I say no, he OD’d, and lacking
a note, how could anyone ever know.
What I do know is, when I saw him last
September, he had been sober since May
of the previous year. We made plans to
have dinner, maybe with my nephew next
time he came home. I asked him what he was
up to, what he was doing. He told me
his job was to stay sober. Sometimes all
we can ask of a person is to be
in this world as long as he or she can.

barker_brian_08_12142008_1They say it is a selfish act, to commit suicide, to choose death over life, to choose drugs over sobriety, to leave, to abandon loved ones. Last week, on the last day of fall, a room full of people gathered to celebrate Brian’s life: his creativity, his passion–a room full of people who will miss him. His friends, his sister, my sister, his brother, his nephews told stories about  good times, about sneaking on to the golf course to play, about going to an art museum together. What makes me saddest is that while we all knew him, some better than others, my nephew never got to know his father. Fortunately, Brian’s friends and family are embracing my nephew and filling him with the stories and love they had for his dad.

One last story: when we were on a trip to the LA County Museum of Art and hung up in traffic, Brian said, “Theoretically, you never have to brake on a freeway.” Every time I stop, I remember you, Brian, I smile, and sometimes I laugh.briansept08


41 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2008 3:55 am

    Very touching. Sad.

  2. December 28, 2008 5:27 am

    What an engaging face. Thank you for doing this beautiful thing. It fits my mood tonight – half-crazed, and that’s after a 12 step meeting, and also after filling in for someone who was to have taken the evening shift at the cold-weather shelter in town. It is really cold here tonight and it was a poignant experience to be with the damaged, the active addicts and alcoholics and the insane downstairs, and then with the recovering ones healing and repairing and helping each other upstairs in another room and to feel there that relief that comes with knowing one has made it home, that there is a place where for an hour one can feel at home in one’s own skin. Brian had some of that, which is more than most addicts get. It is important to remember he died of an illness that shortens the lives of the majority of those who have it. He had a taste of peace and hope, he knew the reality of grace and felt its presence. He would have done things differently if he could. No child sets out to be an addict or an alcoholic. His son will have to be told these things by someone who understands them, so that he can understand and accept that it was illness that took his father, not badness, not lack of resolve or moral failure. I would bet Brian’s greatest secret wish was to be the man and father, son, brother, lover everyone would be proud of. Most of us want to be that person, don’t we? But we lose our way and sadly some lose the possibility of finding the way back again. Rest in peace, Brian. I am glad his son is left with people who know and love him.

  3. December 28, 2008 8:48 am

    A beautifully made tribute.

  4. December 28, 2008 9:24 am

    thank you domino, rick, and paul.

    rick, as i read your comment tears pour down my face. i was so filled with doubts about this piece. i don’t know what to say except the wind blows the chimes and it sounds like church bells and thank you

  5. December 28, 2008 3:43 pm

    I don’t know what to say except….I could feel you, your grief, and your love in this tribute.

    May his existence in the “great beyond” and the next life be filled with joy and peace.

    -Nicole

  6. December 28, 2008 5:23 pm

    that’s a lovely tribute…

  7. December 28, 2008 6:43 pm

    The words written now, those wonderful sonnets, a trio that all speak true and then truer. Your poems are incredible, and Rick’s, oh Rick’s, are sweetness. A gift to your nephew.

    Peace to your family and friends.

  8. December 28, 2008 8:29 pm

    thank you, crafty, nicole, and deb for your kind words about the sonnets as well as for Brian and those who loved him..

  9. December 28, 2008 10:17 pm

    My husband fathered my two boys..he died of an overdose back in 1982…though it is apparent it was intentional. He left me behind and never saw his beautiful son’s grow into maturity. Yes, he was a troubled soul but wow, as they they say, (a permantent solution to a temporary problem). I realize nothing always feels that way and we can certainly dig deep holes. Having said that, my sympathy goes out to you- Have a Blessed New Year-

  10. December 29, 2008 6:36 am

    ((hugs)) Artpredator.

    Really wonderul poems. I wish they were fictional, but I know they’re not. As the wife of a rapid-cycling bipolar man (for 16 years – a long time for bipolar marriages) I have a completely different feeling about suicide or OD-ing than the regular public. To watch the torment my husband goes through (Not all the time, but enough) I see suicide the same way as a person leaping from a burning highrise. When pain is that extreme, there’s not really another option. And may God preserve us from walking a mile in those shoes.

  11. December 29, 2008 6:50 am

    it sounds like you both, julie and gmarie, certainly have a more personal perspective on this…

    that’s a wonderful analogy, julia, about the burning building, and i intend to keep it in mind

  12. December 29, 2008 6:54 am

    I would like to post a link to your four sonnets on my blog. do you mind?

  13. December 29, 2008 7:05 am

    no i wouldn’t mind, rick, in fact i would consider it an honor for you to link to this post.

  14. December 29, 2008 10:28 am

    Though people think people committing suicide to be cowards but do they know how much pain is undertaken by a person before he commits suicide. Brian was such an unfortunate person and i wish that he has a great after life. I pay my online tributes to his noble soul.

  15. December 29, 2008 2:11 pm

    I feel like I knew Brian just from reading these poems. They paint such vivid pictures including the good and the bad. Hope the writing of these helped in some way to ease your grief. They really are superb!

  16. December 29, 2008 3:51 pm

    My heart goes out to you… A very touching piece.

  17. December 29, 2008 6:26 pm

    What a beautiful and complex eulogy in poem and verse for a complex human being. In the photo I see both kindness and sadness in that face and much love. My sympathies on the pain of such a tragic loss for you and your family.

  18. December 30, 2008 12:09 am

    I feel like I’m peeking into private moments…these poems are so moving and deeply personal.
    And yet they speak to the universal feeling of loss–that inability to process, to accept, to understand the “why.”
    Your poems are a balm to these wounds that we all share. A beautiful tribute.

    (I came here from the “poetry train”)

  19. December 30, 2008 12:29 am

    on-line, i realize your links are to a service which you sell but i wanted to let you know that i appreciate the thought and care you gave to your response, and i recognize that it is a special service that you offer to people to provide a tribute to people who have died.

    cocoyea and raven–thank you very much for your comments.

    linda, i am glad through my words you are able to see brian, a talented painter with pen, pencil, and esp brushes, capable of observing and painting with exquiste detail.

    angie, so glad you see the universal in the personal–that was my concern– that it was too personal, and not “poetic” enough.

  20. December 30, 2008 2:58 am

    Dear AP,

    As a new visitor to your blog (I think because of Poetry Train) I was going to say hi and chit chat, but this serious post freezes my insides to upset stomach soup. All I want to do is reach out and hug you, your nephew, and others directly affected by Brian’s death.

    Ironically, I learned a few hours ago that an extraordinary friend whom I was once close to but with whom I had fallen out of touch, died a few weeks ago and I do not know the cause… That personal news is only mentioned out of a plea to try to understand that suicide need not be viewed as a “selfish” act nor as others have also said a “cowardly act.” Yes, those left behind are devastated. The person who takes his or her own life is not intent on hurting anyone. Usually, it is a last resort from emotional and/or physical pain so unbearable, those who have never experienced suicidal urges, cannot fathom. It is a desperate release about which I could write reams of poetry and paint canvases crying with “Why, oh why?”

    Your sonnets weave his life with love, honesty, frustrations, and hope. Yes, I see hope for you, your nephew- a hard journey but there sounds like love and support.

    Hugs,
    GeL

  21. December 30, 2008 4:05 am

    Reading this wrenches out the guts. Words can never be enough.
    But your sonnets are wonderful tributes.

    Glad that you are sharing it with us at poetry train.

    Hugs!

  22. December 30, 2008 4:12 am

    this is the most beautiful tribute i have ever read. thank you for sharing.

  23. December 30, 2008 4:58 am

    thank you, GeL, guatami and floreta. i’m glad these tributes are effective (altho my intent wasn;t to wrench the gut!)

    it does seem at times that words are never enough, certainly not to sum up a person’s life. but i had to try and write something…

    i realize now that as much as i am writing about brian, i am also writing about a foster brother i had who OD’d on heroin when i was 10, trying to understand. i have yet to write about him. i may never find those words.

  24. December 30, 2008 11:47 pm

    Wonderful memories and a great tribute, i like the way you did this!

  25. writetoday permalink
    December 31, 2008 4:03 am

    Your three sonnets are a life time of memories that allows us to peek into your friend’s and your life with him. Thank you for being brave enough to share them with us, I understand the stigma that surrounds suicide and addiction. Everytime someone opens themselves up like this I believe they can teach one more person a little bit more about suicide and mental illness which will help those who are hurting. Thank you, and take care of yourself and your loved ones. My heart goes out to you all.

  26. Janine permalink
    January 3, 2009 9:24 am

    Couldn’t sleep. Decided to google Brian’s name and came across your sonnets. My heart began to pound in my chest as I read them. I just returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon. Brian and I had talked about taking a road trip out there between Christmas and New Year’s. Instead, the night before Thanksgiving, he died. I decided that I still wanted; needed to make the trip. It was cold, snowy, lonely, beautiful, cathartic, and huge. The canyon is so overwhelmingly enormous…it’s like Brian, in life and death…so immense. Observing the canyon from above, it was hard to fully feel the reality of it…like Brian’s death–too big–I cannot grasp the reality that he is gone. The night before he died, Brian read me a book and at the end of it he told me, “it gives me hope.” He is the most extraordinary person I will ever know.

  27. January 3, 2009 8:48 pm

    Janine, I am glad you found this site; I forwarded the link to Kyle and Irvin so they could pass it on to you if they felt they should.

    I am so glad you went to the Grand Cyn; it is a very powerful place. This year, it is unusually full of snow and that would have made it extra special–and full of contrasts.

    A friend handled a huge loss by piercing his year to symbolize the loss and then filling it with a stone. He also wore a ring to represent the circle, the cycle of life.

    Right now, we are at Joshua Tree with Kyle, and he is discovering for the first time a place that was very special to Brian; he sees why.

    Keep in touch, and thank you for sharing your heart and your experience here in the comments.

    copied from a comment on the post “how i became the art predator” part 2
    January 1, 2009 at 12:31 am e

    Hi Art Predator! I am glad we met after all these years at the cafe the other day. I love your website, very current and creative. I would like to share an early memory of Brian Barker. I have known him since we were in kindergarten together and the years of grade school, junior high and high school…he was an original and always clearly himself, never tried to be anything or anyone else. He was picking his nose in class in grade school and our teacher asked him to stop it. He replied “Well, everyone does it when they are alone, they just don’t talk about it!” He was truly right out there with his opinions even at a young age.
    Suzanne

  28. January 4, 2009 5:58 am

    Oh, I have no “right words.” I just read your reply to me (and a few others). To lose your foster brother that way, when you were so young, of course Brian’s death is a serious reminder. I wish that weren’t so. I’m so sorry.

  29. Janine permalink
    January 4, 2009 7:44 am

    I’m so glad that Kyle is getting the chance to experience Joshua Tree. I remember you saying at Brian’s memorial that you were planning to go out there. I was actually there yesterday at Jumbo Rocks campground. I drove home from Arizona via Joshua Tree and made it just in time to watch the sun set at Brian’s favorite campsite–beautiful, windy, cold, full and empty. Have a safe journey.

  30. January 4, 2009 11:54 pm

    that is sooo cool that you were there when we were there too!

    nature is the best healing ointment for me, always

    and thanks, GeL…

  31. friend of Bill W. permalink
    May 14, 2009 1:41 am

    I miss Brian. I knew Brian. Brian knew recovery. Brian was not obsessed with death. Death was obsessed with Brian. Late stage chronic addiction took many of our friends before him. Brian had an ability to open the eyes of the ignorant. Including myself. To see things in a way that we refuse to see them. He was so anti-commercial. Eccentrically fasinating. Robert Goulet, bowling shoes, bermuda shorts and a wooden golf club. “Perfect”, he would say. That was Brian. You could not figure him out. He did not want you to.

  32. Friend of Bill W permalink
    September 11, 2010 3:09 am

    Thinking of you today my ol fren. I miss you. I hope you are well. I hope where you are is where you always wanted to be.

  33. Eve permalink
    May 2, 2011 9:15 pm

    Thank you Art Predator. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful man. So much of what has been written here reminds me of Brian. I can hear him drawing out the word “perfect” and interjecting his theory on freeway travel while stuck in traffic. I have not seen Brian since we were both 23 years old but the admiration I have for him continues. I have always thought the sharp edges of life might prove too cutting for his soul. It gives me comfort to believe the peace that eluded him in life is now his.

    I love you Brian — I always have. You’re one in a zillion. I remember the time we admired the place where the mountains touch the sky – this is where I find you now.

  34. May 2, 2011 10:11 pm

    Thank you Eve, for taking the time to compose your thoughts and your feelings and sharing them with us here.

  35. kairn klieman permalink
    September 24, 2011 5:08 am

    gwen, three years later and me seeing this finally. Wow.. did I even know about Brian’s passing? Very moving, very intense.. beautiful and sad..
    kklieman

  36. December 6, 2011 4:50 am

    Happy Birthday Turecek. YOU’RRRRE FIFTY! YOU CAN KICK! STRETCH! AAAAAND KICK! In your yellow golf slacks of course. I know you’re laughing with me somewhere. In the last three years I see you every day. In the lenticular clouds, on a rock formation at our hang out. I hear your voice in a robert goulet song. You said “we’ll get there, be patient” but you went and now I feel joy in the images I see that remind me of you. This is for you mon amie. Happy birthday doll face.
    your monkey

  37. September 25, 2012 5:36 am

    I was roommates with Brian and his girlfriend Kim in 1991. I just decided to look for Brian online and discovered your site. I have some great photos of him from back then. What became of his artwork?

  38. jennifer green permalink
    January 19, 2013 12:06 am

    Heyppraisal, Brian and I were together after he and kim broke up and I became friends with KIm. If you have any old photos and are open to sharing them I’d love it! We spent over ten years together and I miss him madly. Who knows, we may have crossed paths at elsies or jimmy’s. . I have some of his old canvases and sketches. I hope to hear back from you. thanks!

  39. January 19, 2013 12:18 am

    Hi Jennifer… I do remember you! I would love to get together. I’ve got photos of Brian and Kim and some of the group. Would you be interested? Email me at geekbride@gmail.com

  40. January 19, 2013 12:44 am

    I think it’s so cool you’re connecting this way. I bet his son Kyle would enjoy seeing photos of his dad, but Kyle’s working in Japan until mid-March 2013.

    best, gwendolyn

    ________________________________

  41. Jeanne Mohle permalink
    August 9, 2015 2:39 pm

    So sad to read this. I have been thinking about Brian these past few weeks.Thinking it was him when a cool skinny guy walked by. I had the pleasure to have met Brian when I first moved to CA. I was shy, but befriended by the cool guy in the cowboy boots and plaid shorts I met at working at St Vincent’s. It was probably my 1968 Dodge Coronet and a love for everything classic that bonded us. I was so lucky to have been his housemate and hopefully absorb some of his coolness. I miss our crazy cool parties. I miss you. Rest in Peace Brian. I hope you are in a cool place listening to Sinatra and Goulet records, driving huge 1960’s cars, and sitting on orange vinyl couches enjoying a cocktail.

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