by L. Stewart Marsden
Cycling hard, legs in the air,
Working, grunting, pushing there
Until the moment has arrived,
Final harumpf — light the match — Beware!
A bright blue streak of methane gas
Shoots out and down his Hanes-clothed ass
And Billy Hahn erupts with laughs
and rolls upon the floor!
A Garrison Keillor look-alike
albeit younger, shorter, and not godlike;
Broad, flat face with black, tight curls,
Bright, shiny eyes — very childlike.
Billy lived his life with mixed emotion
Never letting on of the commotion
That churned inside like a raging ocean
He just grinned and joked and laughed.
And then one day I caught a glimpse
Of the anger and disappointment in him
And something deep and dark did begin
To churn and shake and roil.
I never saw Billy Hahn again
Till years had passed and my telephone rang,
“Billy’s dead,” said a friend. I figured he’d hanged himself,
But never knew for sure.
I wrote to his father, T. Marshall, and said
I was terribly sorry that Billy was dead
And he sent me the obit which I slowly read
And folded it, and put it away.
Billy Hahn and I roomed together our freshman year at VA Tech in 1968. His father, T. Marshall Hahn, was President of the university, and Billy and he were strangely reserved toward one another. In the spring of 1970, the campus was somewhat disrupted by various protests: against the war (Viet Nam); against racial inequality; and against gender inequalities. At one point, the English building was taken over and occupied by students and organizers from off-campus. T. Marshall brought in 250 Virginia State Troopers, in full riot gear, to “guard” the student body. Several Mayflower moving vans were brought in, and the occupying students were hauled off to various local jails to be processed. Bill and I bumped into each other during that event, and I could see in his eyes frustration and anger — aimed mostly, I suppose, at his father. While his obituary says he died of a sudden heart attack, I had heard he committed suicide.