They arrive after a long flight from tyranny, from oppression from the nightmare of endless fear, from hunger, from faith denied, from the bottomless depths of poverty, scarred memories etched in their souls, hoping for an ending as much as wishing for a new beginning. They have been here, a new generation, raised on the stories, versed in the painful history, still residual anger born of love for those who fled, without the pain of experience, who can forget when it is others who now wish only to arrive to the freedom they have known since childhood
So, Bly, you have finally gone and joined the parade, holding out the longest as though that was a badge you could somehow carry out with you.
Take consolation that you bested Ginsberg and Corso and even outlasted Ferlinghetti, though he was giving you a run for your money.
And Plath, well she was the first, far too young everyone said, but now I am left with the newer generation and I miss you old timers, who did not need to experiment to find your truth and share it, but I understand your reluctance, for I am all too rapidly, if unwillingly preparing to join the parade as well.
My granddaughter is intensely concerned with the growing loss of species, and rightly so, and I share her fears, though I feel largely powerless to do anything.
She has the faith of youth, a belief that she and her peers can, with work, effect a lasting change, climb up the slippery slope which we have cast them down, and save other species from a fate nature never could have intended.
But she cannot fathom the losses that I have seen, things I knew rendered extinct by her generation, and that of her parents, the cassette player, the typewriter, carbon paper, and stationery and a writing desk, to name only a few, but at least the haven’t outdated my Blackberry.
(for Allen Ginsburg) You died quietly in your bed friends gathered around the cars and buses of the city clattering out a Kaddish to a God you had long ago dismissed as irrelevant. We would have expected your to howl, to decry the unfairness of it all, but you merely said it is time, and slipped away. Who gave you the right to depart without leaving us one last remonstration against the insanity that surrounds us, one last censure of the fools who we have so blindly chosen to lead a generation into a hell of our creation. You had your peace but what of us left behind, what can we look forward to in your absence save the words we know so well, can recite by heart that no longer beats in your breast.
First appeared in Living Poets Vol. 2, No. 1, (U.K) 2001 and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum vol .30, Nos 1-2, 2006
Years later on, having walked calmly away from my former faith, I am left still pondering where you find the words to describe, to teach the unspeakable, and how you use them to reach children who have no right to know the unspeakable, but who must, lest they later speak it. It was a generation ago for me, two for them, three now for my own grandchildren but the losses they know are staggering: Las Vegas, 9/11, Manchester, Sandy Hook, and on and on and on and on and how do you help them grasp the number six million, 10 million, when they have but ten fingers, shielding their eyes from the horror.
They lie in the field uprooted slowly desicating in the harsh sun, the fruit they might have borne trapped in the dying flower, the seed of another generation denied. It was not supposed to be like this, the sun should have fed them, the soil nourished their souls, their stalks growing thicker, drawing ever more life from the earth.. But here they now lie, torn away left to wither, and we mourn them, and the loss of what might have been. The question how we or those like us could so callously disregard life, and know that this part of our nature will never be easily overcome.
Like the Anasazi’s sudden departure from his cliff dwelling I too snuck away, with hardly any trace from a life no longer in clear recollection, only faint images survive, of hours in the City Lights Bookstore reading Corso, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, then buying the slim volume “Gasoline” not because it was my greatest desire, but its price. Now the worn volume sits nestled between Wilbur and Amichai, a fond memory, like an afternoon in the park in Salt Lake City the tarot spread out before me whispering their secrets for the slip of blotter, the small blue stain bringing an evening of color and touch and that momentary fear that nothing would again be as I knew it to be. The Anasazi knew the arrow of time had flown, had passed the four corners where I lay in the street another senseless victim of a senseless war, while Karl held the placard demanding peace, until the police urged us to move along, and offered the assistance we were sworn to reject. Now the corners seem older, more tired of the life that treads on them daily, on my path to the Federal Courthouse to argue a motion where once we spilled the red paint the blood of our generation. Now there is a wall with their names, a permanent monument while we, like our Anasazi brethren, are but faint memories.
First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.
He strains mightily to hear the sound of a wolf. He knows the voice of coyote well, and here they are ever-present. But wolf is a different creature. He knows coyote will try to take the shape and voice of wolf. But an elder such as he can tell the difference. Wolf is his totem, and each day the man knows he grows closer to death. He wants to speak with wolf one last time, out here, among the sage and jackrabbits. He wants to sit with wolf and stare at the thickening moon and leave the wolf his story to impart to another generation.