Peter Beutel

My friend Peter is dead.

Here was a man with a heart.

Here was a man who typed thousands
of words every day
with one finger.

Here was a man who understood
the fatal black energy
sticky from the earth’s belly
that powers our ignorance.

Here was a man who endured my moods
which may be the most colossal feat
I can list here.

Here was a man who said to me:
“You can write”
then expected me to do it.

Here is a man who travelled the
length and breadth of the English
language, then came back to the
humdrum world of party tricks
and souvenirs

Here is a man who gave me a dictio-
nary and expected me to use it
which I did and now I’m travelling
the English language too and I keep
finding his footprints wherever I go

Here is a man who exploded with
pride in his gardening
who taught me to crack the earth
who kindly guided me in the
supernatural conversation with
soil that makes lettuce grow
lettuce that becomes salad that
you feed your friends to tell them
that you love them

Here is a man who shed tears for
wolves
who fed a raccoon through a
rip in the screen door next
to his desk

Here is a man who loved the animal
in cats
gave them the names of Roman
emperors
let them stalk their empires
freely even if it killed them
which it sometimes did
but that’s life and they were
animals and he loved the
animal in them

Here is a man who was a viking
without being a barbarian
who locked forearms with
his friends instead of a
touchless wilting handshake
who hugged like a bear because
he really loved you
who never gave up on a friend
who stormed through armies
of knowledge to emerge hurt
but wiser, because he knew
as much as the next guy
who dried as many tears as he
shed
who cooked for 12 even if he
was all alone
who kept milk in the fridge
even though he hated milk
because his friends took milk in
their tea and what if they
surprised him with a visit?
who spread out feasts for the
birds, happy to watch them happy
who knew some terrific insults
who taught me not to shout to the
drowning from the riverbank
but to jump in and convince
them to swim

Here was a man who was my friend

for Peter Beutel, 1955-2012
14 March ’12

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Peter Beutel

  1. Mariclare Cole

    hi ben. although i only met peter maybe twice or three times, a long time ago, i have scratchy, vague memories of him. i remember this photo of him i have somewhere. he’s laying back in his chair and smiling genuinely into the camera. that always struck me about that particular photo. that i didn’t really know this man, but that i can tell without a doubt that he is sincerely a warm person. it radiates through the photo. your poem brings these memories to life and it has stuck with me through the day. i feel like i know him better and more thoroughly through reading you words.

  2. aoifemc

    Hi Ben,

    I never met Peter but I remember you talking about fondly over cups of tea him way back when we lived together all those moons ago. So sorry to hear that he passed away. You’ve described him so beautifully here. What a wonderful tribute.

    So sorry again xx

  3. Rojan

    This was a lovely poem/post. I used to chat with Peter almost every day for my energy articles. It’s funny how you can connect with a person so well even on the phone. He was such a hard worker, and so astute. After I moved overseas to report, he and I stayed in touch. He always sent the most touching emails, greetings and keen observations. I only just learned of his unfortunate passing. (I’d actually wondered why I’d never heard back from him and was planning to send another email this week when I heard)… He is sorely missed.

  4. Wow, this was beautiful. Thanks for writing it and sharing it.

  5. Laurence

    I went to school with Peter. Highgate in North London, England. Bill his dad was the ABC correspondent here in the very early Seventies. nIce guy, and let me into his secret society which had a silver jaguar lapel badge as a sign of membership. What was his life like? Did he marry or have kids? I remember his sister Robin.

    So sad, far too early

    Laurence

    • Hi Laurence,

      He wasn’t married, but he had lots of very good friends, who were always around. He made himself fairly indispensable in the community where he lived. He’s obviously best known for his work in the oil industry, and his daily reports and television/radio commentary on the subject were highly regarded. He also lectured at Norwalk Community College (after taking so many courses there for fun that they asked him to start teaching), and he quickly endeared himself to just about everybody who met him.

      I only met his sister Robin at his memorial service in Connecticut, but his family are lovely people whom he told me lots about in our many conversations.

      It’s really nice to hear from you; I knew Peter went to school in the UK for a while. For some reason that I’ve never been able to fathom, he was a huge supporter of Everton FC. The Highgate connection does nothing to demystify this fact for me, though!

      • Laurence

        So nice to hear from you. Going round to his parents’ house in a very expensive road in the swanky Hampstead area of North London was a treat in a very sad London of 1970/71, deeply hit my economic recession (sounds familiar). They had Coke and an American-style kitchen and a Mercedes. It was incredibly friendly, all very Dick van Dyke show, but in the very best way. His mother was gorgeous and ultra welcoming, and I remember Robin was a real character.

        He was a very expansive personality and included everyone he could in his club and activities. I don’t think I ever said goodbye as I believe Bill Beutel got asked back to the States during the summer (I’m guessing ’71, when Pete would’ve been 16) and I was away – in America coincidentally – so in a non-Internet age he simply disappeared from my radar.

        On coming back to school in the Fall my friends and I suddenly discovered girls and partying and Peter remained (and remains) part of my very last childhood memories.

        I wish I’d contacted him when I first came across his oil industry stuff a few years back, but an important lesson …carpe diem.

        I imagined a completely different life for him: I imagined he’d be a TV presenter and replicate the big family, but he obviously gave everything to his friends, his mum and siblings, and to his chosen industry.

        I will always remember him well. If any Beutels read this, I’d love some shots from the Highgate/Hampstead years if you have any.

        All the best Laurence – thanks for this lovely blog

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