My partner Stanley & I became friends with Ann & Jim McGarrell through Jonathan Williams & Tom Meyer (The Jargon Society), when Jim did the cover & frontispiece for my Jargon book of poems in 1995, VISIONS OF DAME KIND. We enjoyed a correspondence for a while until, a few years later; Jim visited an artist retreat in Virginia near Chapel Hill, North Carolina where we live. They came to visit & the friendship became more present in our lives. Ann (who translates Italian & French literature into English) eventually translated my poetry into Italian, & as time passed the four of us became devoted friends, and even collaborators in art. They encouraged us to use their house in Umbria, so in 1997 we took along three friends & visited for three weeks.
Jim was teaching at the same time at the International School of Art in Montecastello di Vibio – where they were also staying. They arranged for me to give a poetry reading there. I remember also that we were a little anxious because Ann said that their young daughter would perhaps be staying with us a few days in the tower in Umbertide.
Then, there was Flora. In her early twenties & yet seeming like a teenager in a way – adventurous, charming, a bit outrageous – but not "too". You could tell she was exploring who she was & how she fit into the world with a determined delight that was immediately captivating & convincing. I love most of all a photograph I took of her in five-inch Italian platform heels attempting to climb the rock wall of a the Abbazia di Montecorona, an 11th century abbey turned restaurant. Flora instantly became part of our McGarrell mythology. Our deep love.
We remained in contact & watched as her art evolved & her engagement with the world widened. Luckily we visited Ann & Jim in Vermont in September of last year. Who should open the door when we arrived, but Flores? In his NEW self - all wondrous & happy. He had just had a one man show in Hartford, CT to great acclaim. It was exciting to talk with him, & see him, & observe his being – his be-coming. Flo was so photogenic (as are Ann & Jim) & I took some spirited photographs of him, & of him and Ann. That impish smile – that total giving to the camera somehow consciously "showing" but also intimately pure.
We learned more about his devotion to Haiti & one evening the five of us watched Maya Deren's hypnotic film THE DIVINE HORSEMEN – on Haitian voodoo – which Ann had taken Flo to see at the age of eleven – & which transfixed her imagination from then on. His devotion to Haitian culture & the people of Haiti were vital tools in his search for sustainable art, earth-friendly imagination, & the spirit & rituals of the earth, of sex, & sexual identity. We were intrigued by his choices in manifesting his sexuality, & were anxious to watch the unfolding of his plan to have a child. What a child it would have been!
We're all fortunate that Flo, like the ancient god/goddess s/he was, continuously gave birth. Even in death he generated (think begat, think family, think people connected throughout time by generative force) a civilization of descendents – witness the outpouring of words and images from his human family.
My first note to Ann & Jim after I heard that Flo had gone. "What a blithe & sure spirit he was – & what tremendous good he did, & what a GOOD GOOD FUN TIME he had. I know from conversations with him how grateful he was to have two parents such as you - role models for how to be human, but also for your creative forces passed to him not only genetically, but through the genes of your spirits."
Jeffery Beam, Hillsborough, North Carolina