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Rafael Torch, 1975-2011

Rafael Torch

Rafael Torch’s work in Contrary:

Ebb and Flow: Part Two. The End. No More. Finis.

I sit on my hotel bed and say some kind of prayer, an eight word utterance I’ve imagined seemingly out of nowhere in the last few days in order to keep at bay the worst I can imagine. I say it when my body seems to fail me with a grand fatigue and deep depression […]

Ebb and Flow: Part One

In the great applauseless, 3 a.m., early gray of suburban Maryland, there’s just the steady drone of the streetlights outside my hotel window. I’m only an hour ahead in time zone but I feel miles and hours away from home and Emily, who has stayed behind because she can’t fly because the baby will be […]

I’m No Preacher

I’m no preacher nor am I a teetotaler, but I know that the fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous states that after “we’ve admitted to being powerless over alcohol”, and after we came to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, and had made a decision to turn our lives over to It, however we knew […]

Scene From A Marriage: Bobby’s Plight

“I’m afraid of dying.” She moves over to me and rubs my bald head, bald from the intensive, 21-day experimental treatment I’ve undergone to try and choke my deathless cancer. “I don’t know when I got to be so afraid again, but here I am.” “Things have changed, right? I mean, things have changed. Our […]

Love like all the stars in the sky

My mother told me just this morning (Friday, June 17, 2011) that I should write something about how my affliction with cancer is really an affliction that the whole family has in some way. I believe her. I believe it. She says, “You should write that because we’re all affected. Maybe I’ll try my hand […]

Everything’s got the shine. That’s been my point.

I was telling someone that my current experimental treatment was like the experience of being in a car crash. It’s the only way I know how to describe it. Sometimes I think it’s not even the crash itself but the treatment I just had was like the moment right after collision and right before the […]

The Strange Half-Life

It’s all vague dreamless nights. Nights when dreams are squashed by the intensity of sleep, a forced sleep brought on by pharmaceuticals and anxiety. Mostly, if they come, dreams haunt me before sleep befalls me — in the weird space between the closing of eyes and REM; and then there’s a long quiet nothing as […]

A portrait of boredom and boredom’s agents

The boredom. It’s the boredom of disease. I stare at the objects of my room to no end, until they hurt my eyes. Like I think my eyes may have grown sores on them and have broken and pussed or have broken and are bleeding. Like even closing my eyes hurts and so, hence, my […]

Paging Stevie Cavallero

My co-workers greeted me in the faculty lounge of the Las Vegas private school where I teach American literature with hugs and slaps on the back, as if I’d just finished a long, grueling race, a race I’d run with such speed, made up with such endurance and stamina, that I’d broken records. We stood […]

A brief tribute to Rafa:

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Dirge Without Music”

“Because education played an integral role in Rafael’s life, preferred form of remembrance may be directed to a scholarship fund for his son, Rocco James Torch.”  Rocco’s scholarship fund is set up through The First Midwest Bank. Checks to be made payable to Rocco James Torch and mailed to:

First Midwest Bank
FBO Rocco James Torch
220 W Main Street
Morris, IL 60450

Rafael’s obituary in the Chicago Sun-Times.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Pete December 19, 2011, 10:34 am

    I didn’t see anything on the funeral home site specific to the scholarship fund, so if you get any more information on that please post it here. I would very much like to donate.

    • Contrary Magazine December 20, 2011, 2:54 am

      Thank you so much, Tari, for reaching out at this most difficult time.

      And here is the information about the scholarship fund for Rafael’s son Rocco:

      Rocco’s scholarship fund is set up through The First Midwest Bank. Checks to be made payable to Rocco James Torch and mailed to:

      First Midwest Bank
      FBO Rocco James Torch
      220 W Main Street
      Morris, IL 60450

  • Tari Torch Sweeney December 19, 2011, 5:56 pm

    I am Rafael’s mother, Tari. We will miss Rafa intensely and forever. But, we know how wonderful he was with his students, and how much they loved him….and how much HE loved them! I have always felt that I knew them because he spoke so much about all of them. It has been joyful and wonderful to hear them speak about him. Many funny stories. We love remembering him with laughter and fun. The past four years have been difficult. Thank you ALL for caring, and writing.

    Carolyn, a very close friend of Rafael, has spoken about the following scholarship to us. It is a very worthwhile opportunity to help young writers begin to fulfill their writing dreams. The information about it is below.

    There is a scholarship at Southern Illinois – Rafael Torch Young Writers Workshop Scholarship. It is given to students who are actively interested in writing, and they attend workshops and the scholarship is their assistance. A number of donations have been made to this. The information is as follows, from an email sent to Rafael’s close friend, and fellow teacher, at Cristo Rey High School, in Chicago (Carolyn/Caro is her nickname). Note: SIUC is Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, IL

    You can tell anyone who wants to donate to the Rafael Torch YWW
    scholarship the following:

    Send a check made out to SIUC to

    Ms. Pat Eckert
    Division of Continuing Education
    703 South Washington Street Carbondale, IL 62901-3964
    in the check’s memo line have people write “YWW Torch Scholarship.”
    That’s all they need to do.
    Allison J.

  • David Alm December 20, 2011, 6:46 am

    Terrible news, but a relief to know his suffering is over. Still, terrible.