[Rob Zseleczky, August 2010. Photograph by Elaine Fine. The blur is accidental. I like it.]
I first met Rob on Fordham University’s Bronx campus. Was it 1978? We were a year or two apart in our trek through “English,” and I knew him as a fellow traveler in the field. Rob was a poet and the editor of Fordham’s student literary publication The Monthly (which was not a monthly), and he liked and printed the poems I offered. Our paths crossed again at Boston College, where we both ended up in grad school in 1980. I saw Rob at an orientation for new grad students, at the end of a row of folding chairs: a familiar face! After the orientation, we had a beer, and we became friends, for keeps. And we both became friends (again for keeps) with Luanne Paulter, another grad student in English (now half of the duo Jim and Luanne Koper).
In recent years, Elaine and I saw Rob every summer when we traveled east, always in the company of our hosts Jim and Luanne. There would be much food, much wine, much laughter. The nights would run very late. Rob and I would always play guitars for a while. Rob was a brilliant guitarist — beautiful tone, beautiful touch. And when he played something like, say, “Fire and Rain,” it was note-perfect. Yes, he liked that James Taylor stuff. Our common musical ground was blues. A, E: buy your vowel, or key, and we could go on forever.
Rob’s generosity went on forever too. It was there in e-mails, in letters, in mixtapes and CDs. When our son Ben took up the guitar, Rob gave him much encouragement. When Ben began tinkering with an electric, Rob gave him a Marshall amp. Just a couple of weeks ago, I got an envelope in the mail with a cartoon torn from The New Yorker, “24-Hour Blues Cycle”: “My woman done left me, ran off with my best friend. / Well, my woman done left me, said she ran off with my best friend. / Details are sketchy at this time, so let’s go to Jennifer Diaz standing by in Washington.” How had I missed that?
In the last two or three years Rob’s poetry got better and better and better. I saw “To the Coin Toss I Lost” in an earlier version in 2011. The finished version appeared last year in the Concho River Review (Spring 2012). I have typed out the poem — no mistakes.¹ I take the last two lines to heart:
A poem for RZ
Another poem for RZ
Good advice from Rob Zseleczky
Rob Zseleczky on clutter and stuff
¹ Rob worked as a copy editor and proofreader.