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On March 14th, 2014, came this completely unexpected message:
I wonders for years what happened to my friend from PLU. If you recall and are the one I am thinking of, we sat around one evening writing poetry.
I still have a copy of your booklet of poetry somewhere in my storage
Wow! I had totally forgotten about this first chapbook of poetry. I had sent Vernon a copy by registered mail as “poor man’s copyright.” Not that my poems were worth stealing. I just wanted them to be protected by copyright. I trusted Vernon to keep my poetry booklet in his safekeeping. Little did I know how worthy Vernon would be of my trust.
Later this year, Vernon wrote again: “I did get up to my storage yesterday and ultimately did find the copy you sent me as copyright protection. It is entirely intact and unopened since December 17, 1971, when you sent it to me.” The package arrived safely on May 10, 2014.
The booklet of poems was entitled, “Pomegranate Brain” (1971). I know — weird title. Psychedelic. But those were the days of “hippies.”
Frankly, most of the poems are a little embarrassing to read. But there is one poem that brought me joy as I read it again after all these years. It’s a poem about a looseleaf, cartoon diary that I used to keep:
I draw a cartoon man.
He appears every day,
Watching the way I sketch him.
I made a cartoon man.
He laughs and he cries,
As the ink melts into paper.
I know a cartoon man,
Who lives every day.
His plot is still uncertain.
I follow a cartoon man,
Who has no story.
But he never goes away.
I love the cartoon man.
He tells me things I know,
In the way that I need them most.
Yet he is always honest.
Cartoon man, I’d cry without you.
I’d die if you weren’t here with me.
We are old companions.
And nothing will keep us apart.– Christopher Buck (1971)
I stopped drawing. So “Cartoon Man” and I were kept apart for over 40 years. Yet Vernon’s trustworthiness brought us back together.
Trustworthiness, that universally-admired virtue, counts as one of the most sterling qualities of human character. In fact, the Baha’i writings describe trustworthiness as the foundation of all virtues. Baha’u’llah writes this about trustworthiness:
Verily it is the door of security for all that dwell on earth and a token of glory on the part of the All-Merciful. He who partaketh thereof hath indeed partaken of the treasures of wealth and prosperity. Trustworthiness is the greatest portal leading unto the tranquillity and security of the people. In truth the stability of every affair hath depended and doth depend upon it. All the domains of power, of grandeur and of wealth are illumined by its light. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 37.
Later in this moving passage, Baha’u’llah personifies trustworthiness as an angel of Paradise. Think about the people you trust, and you’ll likely agree that they have definitely developed an angelic quality.
Vernon and I went to Pacific Lutheran University, but we took different paths. He ended up becoming a dedicated Scientologist. I became a Baha’i.
I asked Vernon about our poetry. He reminded me that we wrote two poems together. Here’s one of them:
When I awake,
Colors spray into my eyes,
Leap happily into my heart —
A fresh start,
A new day in disguise.
– Vernon Corban & Christopher Buck (1971)
“Cartoon Man” came back to life because of my friend’s singular act of trustworthiness.