Lunch Ticket’s inaugural poetry editor and MFA graduate, Daniel G. Reinhold, died unexpectedly in the early hours of Tuesday, April 21, 2015, while sitting up working at his computer. He died as he lived his entire adult life, engaged with art. Daniel had been a member of the Antioch community in one way or another for five years, touching the lives of countless students and faculty.
Daniel was an artists’ artist—a painter, writer, and poet. In all his media, he infused color with pathos and humanity. His brilliant, vibrant paintings of animals and objects, the surprise of his surreal and absurdist poems (i.e., Icarus eating only chicken because chickens cannot fly, a man who replaced his broken heart with a piñata, a woman in a hospital selling thought balloons to the Thought Police), and the truth-telling of his memoir, were each populated with people and animals, storytelling and engaging loss.
Other younger artists may complain about what art “costs” them in their “outside” lives. For Daniel, there was no “outside” of art. Everything real could fit inside that sphere of his creating. He made a series of digital art, titled after the times he spent “on hold” with various corporations. He sent all his friends an annual rhino holiday card. Daniel’s commitment as a working artist spanned four or five decades and many geographies. During the half-decade he spent connected to Antioch, Daniel shared his move from Ithaca to New Orleans, the construction of a house and studio there, followed by his marriage to Patty (the love of his life with whom he had passionately, triumphantly reconnected), the generous and embracing family they had recently formed together with a young adult son, Lionel, and later with Daniel’s mom and two dogs. Daniel and Lionel planned and took trips together, traveling up to Northern California after Daniel’s MFA graduation, and into many corners of Louisiana.
Over the years that Daniel and I knew each other, we participated in and shared any number of meaningful conversations about writing, his writing, and community engagement around the arts.
In the last conversation we had in early April 2015, we tossed around ideas about the purpose of art in a life. Was art a stay against oblivion? A method of consciousness, a way of being present here and now? Was the purpose of art to be famous, to have a poem in the New Yorker? Then Daniel suggested that art mattered most to him in the quirky honorable communities of practice that form around its making. He told me that while he worked hard on his poems, and was proud of his craft, and would love to have a poem in the New Yorker one day, it was more important to him to let his art mix and mingle with the art of other people, to show up to readings, even when he felt shy or it was hard, to appreciate the way art delivers us to one another.
Our wireless connection was spotty. We had set the appointment to ‘catch up’ a week before. But Daniel liked to take artist field trips at the last minute, exploring the Mississippi Delta and its eddies, pulling off into the little communities of Louisiana to write or sketch. So on this morning, he’d decided to take a drive; in fact, we often talked while he was driving across bridges. And so it was that I last heard his tentative, dragging, thoughtful voice against a backdrop of seagulls and car sounds. He had pulled into the parking lot of a general store. The water was in front of him. I heard the light on the water glinting against his thoughts.
In the weeks since his death, there’s been an outpouring of very personal grief from the Antioch University Los Angeles creative writing community and the Lunch Ticket team. It turns out that we each thought some memory of this very private man belonged to us alone. One person’s Daniel had noticed when she felt lost and called her over and introduced her to someone who became her best friend. Someone else’s Daniel had pointed out how to do an annotation in their first term in the program. Several people’s Daniel had recognized a need and had begun the MFA residency’s first twelve-step program. And Daniel’s mentors (I among them) had shared Daniel’s thrilling creative process, and had planned with him how his memoir could be finished, his poems make it out into the world.
Uncertainty and discovery, dogged discipline and shame and suffering, are part of what living as an artist implies. Daniel exampled for so many of us what it could mean to make adequate room for ourselves, for a self the size of an artist’s—not only under duress, but as a day-in, day-out commitment toward self-gentleness. In spite of life’s challenges, he was unendingly positive—returning again and again, in full awareness, to a brighter palette. A kind man, both in art and life, he treated others with tenderness and steady compassion. Something about the space Daniel moved through always increased the possibility for truthfulness in other people.
At his graduation from the MFA program in 2013, Daniel left me an encaustic painting of a sailboat, its vivid yellow sail high against a complex red sky. It hangs to this day in my office. Although we never spoke of it, I think he knew that I’d see it as a life boat. I think he wanted me to have one.
So I like to think of Daniel up there on a bridge. His work is still down here, all around us. Light is glinting off the water. I miss him. I miss that beautiful, positive man who knew all about the shadows, but never loved them or stepped willingly into them. I miss his color and his light.
I need his voice in the darkness.
by Daniel G. Reinhold
The all night pawn shop on Alvarado Street
offered me a hundred and fifty bucks
for the piece of the moon I stole
on that first fragile night we met
after the sweat lodge above San Miguel.
I was passionate about selling it,
driven like a junkie on a mission from God,
sweaty and fidgety, shaking like a leaf
(pardon the cliché I am delirious)
searching for an answer to a question
you had asked me in despair.
You seemed troubled by the enigma and the paradox,
the terrible ennui and angst of the fallen,
angels in the rough you call them,
prisoners of their own desires.
I am indignant and yet pious
as I barter with the pawnbroker.
I want two-hundred and fifty bucks minimum
for that stolen piece of moon
He says two-hundred bucks tops.
It is a Mexican standoff.
(Again pardon the cliché. I am now forsaken)
You have become ambivalent,
deliciously ambiguous at best
after those two years we spent in Algiers.
We were once motherfuckers for the cause,
troubadours of the tenuous night,
succubae for freedom.
I was never a pantheist or a panhandler
though I sold myself for silver and gold.
(I am no Judas.)
All this rigmarole started when I poisoned you
with botulism and grace.
It was before the cabaret
and the hurdy-gurdy man was pissed.
(He was always pissed)
Light a candle made of earwax and alfalfa,
let it burn until its flame expires
and then I’ll promise you anything,
I’ll promise you our little piece of moon,
I’ll promise you anything,
I’ll promise you rain.