Ken Yerro Ilio was an excellent and passionate photographer, a teacher and a friend. I got news this morning that he has died. He will be missed.
Ken was one of the photographers I hang out with when I go to Chicago. He was a regular participant in our “Dink & Click©” photowalks. He was kind, generous with his knowledge, fun to be with, and indefatigable. I know he walked me into the ground more than once.
On one of our long jaunts throughout the city of Chicago, we stopped somewhere for a drink and a bite, and Ken told me/us some things about his family, including that his dad was a poet. Does anyone else remember this conversation? Or might it have been just Ken and I?
In any case, because I love poetry, I asked Ken if his dad’s poetry was available online. He wasn’t sure, but told me it had been published in a book. So I made note of his dad’s full name. When I got home, I searched online, found the book*–an old, worn copy, as it is no longer in print–and bought it. I love it. So here in tribute to Ken, is one of his father’s poems that just seems appropriate right now.
St. John in Chicago on Holy Saturday by Dominador I. Ilio It isn't grand nor funny at all how he Could steer his self among these bobbing heads, Like flotsam, in this tormented urban sea Whose currents pause and whorl where traffic speeds. Is it believable that in the dead Of night he walked the whispering gloom of the Deserted park, a hill where all have fled But his Lord he heard speaking from a tree? All along the choppy miles of the Loop He treads his aches on uncomplaining pavements, And whets his loneliness by peering on Tall, enormous shop windows that mirror groups Of merry Magdalenes hurrying by. And won–– Ders if alone he bears this world's bereavement.
Maybe part of why this poem moves me today is because Ken bore his own big bereavements in life… but went on living with joy and passion.
*Six Filipino Poets, edited by Leonard Casper. January 1955. Benipayo Press and Photo Engraving, Manila.