Tim Reynolds, Paul Blackburn and the Archive for New Poetry

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Tim Reynolds, Paul Blackburn and the Archive for New Poetry: Now Online

I met the poet Tim Reynolds back in the early 1980s. He was working as a word processor for ARCO in DTLA and living in a SRO hotel not far from the Japanese-American Museum and the Temporary Contemporary. I don’t remember how I met him, though I do remember the first poem of his that I ever read, in the September, 1967 issue of Poetry magazine.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=30713

I was 19 years old, and it still makes me flinch to think of what a hapless ephebe I was. Not that I wasn’t trying. With floundering attention, I had stood in the aisle of the library at Southwest Community College the previous spring and read John Berryman’s 77 Dreams Songs, all to no avail; I had not been able in any way whatsoever to figure out what he was saying about a character named Henry. This particular issue of Poetry, whic contained work by Jean Garrigue, Galway Kinnell, Josephine Miles, Aram Saroyan, Richard Tillinghast, and Richard Eberhart, was not much more penetrable. It should come as no surprise that the only poem in that issue that really interested me was entitled “Going Home” and was dedicated to Mick Jagger.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=30713

When I finally did meet Tim in person, I mentioned this poem and he said to me that he had not known which of the people on the cover of the Out of Our Heads album was Mick Jagger. He had thought that Brian Jones, who was in the lower right hand corner, was Jagger. “Going’ Home,” of course, was the last song on Aftermath, an album that appeared a year later.

In the years after reading “Going Home,” I had become a slightly more astute reader, and managed to acquire a couple of Tim’s books of poetry. It was a privilege to include his poetry as part of Poetry Loves Poetry, in addition to asking him to read in the Gasoline Alley Poetry Series. He now lives in Long Beach, California.

In 1965, Tim read on Paul Blackburn’s radio program. Blackburn was known for being the host of a poetry program as well as for tape-recording readings at St. Mark’s Poetry Project. It is my understanding that Blackburn assiduously got down on tape a considerable number of readings, many of have been digitized by the Special Collections Department at UCSD, and are now available on-line.

According to Nina Mamikunian, “The collection is available at lib.ucsd.edu/blackburn. Additional information about the collection and its release is available athttp://libraries.ucsd.edu/blogs/blog/paul-blackburn-audio-collection-now-online/.”

But if these links don’t work, try this one:

https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb1436376x

Austin Straus: In His Youth (the recollection of a close friend)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Austin Straus: In His Youth (the recollection of a close friend)

A little over a month ago, a letter showed up in my mailbox at school. I didn’t recognize the name in the return corner of the envelope, but I don’t get that many letters with my name and work address written by hand, so I was curious enough to open it immediately. The author of the letter turned out to be a childhood friend of the late poet, Austin Straus, who wrote me a second letter with some additional information about Austin. The letter itself was handwritten, too, which was a pleasure to read.

October 9, 2017

Dear Professor Mohr,

Looking at the websites pertaining to the death of Austin Straus, I gather that not much is known about his life before he moved to Los Angeles. In light of his upcoming memorial service I have written down some of my memories of that part of his life.

Austin was born in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn in June 1939 (June 9, I think), a working class neighborhood of mainly East European Jewish immigrants and their children.

While he was in the early years of elementary school (about eight years old, or so) his parents bought a house in East Flatbush, a middle class neighborhood, and moved from Hopkinson Ave. to Albany Ave., across the street from where I lived, my parents having made the same move a few years earlier. From then until his early twenties, Austin lived in that house together with his parents, Roz and Fred (only after moving to San Diego upon retiring did he call himself Franklin, which, unbeknownst to us, was apparently his name all along), and his younger (by 2 years) brother, Dennis, with whom he shared a bedroom. The third bedroom was occupied by his grandmother. As she was not comfortable speaking English, Austin picked up a fair knowledge of Yiddish. There was also a family dog, Lucky, a tan cocker spaniel. All in all, a fairly typical upbringing.

Austin and I became very close friends (I was a year older), a friendship which lasted from elementary school through our teenage years into our early twenties. While attending Hebrew school, Austin was part of a group of us who were religiously observant.

His father worked on a U.S. mail train, which meant that he was away for several days and nights and then home for several days and nights. While home, he would often take Austin, Dennis and myself in the old family car to play ball in Prospect Park. Fred was an excellent athlete. In summer, we used to go swimming in Riis Park.

As teenagers, Austin, Lucky, and I would take long walks at night, often ending up in Brownsville, the neighborhood where we both were born. Brooklyn was still safe in those days. We often played handball together (pink ball). He was a good handball player and I remember vigorous games in the hot summer sun in Lincoln Terrace Park at the age of 20 or 21.

Austin started attending Brooklyn College but transferred to City College Downtown (now known as Baruch College) which was primarily a business school with the intention of majoring in accounting. I suspected this idea came from his parents. Needless to say, it was not a good fit and Austin changed his major to psychology (or possibly philosophy, not sure of this). After graduating, he pursued a Master’s degree in Philosophy at NYU.

It was about this time that Austin broke away from his conventional upbringing, choosing a bohemian (so-called at the time) lifestyle, moving into a tiny Greenwich Village apartment with a girlfriend. By this time, I was married and also attending graduate school to pursue an academic career. We saw each other less frequently. He had demonstrated talent as an artist while young but the first time I recall him being interested in poetry was when he read a poem of his to me when he was 24. My overall impression of Austin as we grew up was that he was intelligent, imaginative and sensitive, prone to enthusiasms over people and ideas, often followed by disappointments.

I do not know how he met Ann Moody, but he did come with her to visit my wife and myself in our Brooklyn apartment. Some years later, when the marriage was in difficulty, I saw her again when Austin asked me to use the van I was driving to remove his belongings from the apartment they shared in the Bronx. We were no longer in regular contact but I was called upon again to remove his things from the Upper West Side apartment of his second wife, Patrocina (?), a lovely young Panamanian woman to whom he was married only very briefly. Austin told that she expected a more conventional marriage and way of life.

Shortly thereafter he moved to California and our only direct contact was an occasional phone call. Indirectly, I heard about him through my mother, who kept in regular contact with Austin’s mother, Roz, then a widow living in San Diego. She told my mother that Austin phoned her every day. Since he never pursued a career as such, he had frequent financial difficulties. At the age of 55 he was desperately trying to get into the California educational system, apparently unsuccessfully. He told me he could not be considered for a full-time position at Los Angeles City College, where he taught English as an adjunct, because his master’s degree was in philosophy. It was only in his last phone call to me, about a month or so before his death, that I learned of the success of his one-of-a-kind art books.

Despite his illnesses, diabetes, and a previous bout with prostate cancer which he thought might be returning, he sounded very upbeat, saying that he was dating again, looking for the fourth Mrs. Straus. He had begun the conversation by saying that he thought he ought call me before one of us kicked the bucket. I don’t know whether he had a premonition of what was to come, but sadly, shortly thereafter, he died.

These are some of my memories of a very close friendship that lasted for over a decade and a half, and was less close thereafter. I shall, of course, try to answer any questions about the earlier part of Austin’s life that I am able to answer.

Sincerely yours,
Nathan Greenspan

October 30, 2017

Dear Bill,

A few more thoughts concerning Austin – Unlike most of his generation, myself included, born at the tail-end of the Great Depression, Austin did not seem overly concerned with earning a living. Unlike most of us, I do not recall him working during summer vacations. My wife, Vicki, had a summer job supervising a children’s playground at P.S. 235, the same public school Austin and I attended, which was very near his house. She went there during lunchtime to eat her brown bag lunch and chat with Roz Straus, Austin’s mother. One of her vivid memories is of Austin lying in a hammock in his backyard on one hot and sunny afternoon, and Roz calling out to him, “Austin, do you want your strawberries and sour cream now or later?”

Decades later, Austin phoned from California when I wasn’t home and spoke to Vicki (they knew each other well) for a long time, talking about his relationship with Wanda and other things going on in his life. She told me that all she said was “yes” or “um hum” every once in a while. At the end of the call Austin said to her excitedly, “You’re a great conversationalist!” We both had a good laugh over that. He was definitely more interested in talking about himself than in listening to others.

Austin and his two years younger brother Dennis were close growing up, sharing a bedroom as I mentioned in my previous letter. On one of his calls to me from California he mentioned that he and Dennis were not in contact with teach other. The break apparently came at Dennis’s initiative. He and his wife, Sheila Ascher-Straus, are published writers, describing themselves, I believe, as post-modernist.

…….Best regards,
Nate

(Nathan Greenspan)

Nathan Greenspan taught for about forty years full-time at Brooklyn College and Staten Island Community College, which later become the College of Staten Island. He also did some administrative work, serving as the political science coordinator for about a quarter-century.

The GOP (Grand Offshore Party) and the Perfidy of Imposter Taxation

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Grand Offshore Party

I have not yet had a chance to investigate the Paradise Papers, but is there any need to spend precious time on reviewing what has been public knowledge for quite some time? Over the past several years, corporations have parked billions of dollars of profits in off-shore vaults, waiting for their tax rates to be lowered. It’s all perfectly legal.

It also has consequences. Is each and every dying person in this country receiving sufficient care to ease their travail? Is each child provided with a teacher who inspires imaginative and ethical curiosity? Is each parent of a disabled child given the assistance needed to empower that individual in all the impingements of her or his own life?

Yes, “ordinary” people must contribute to the kind of social program that would answer the above questions with an affirmation, but a society in which the distribution of wealth is skewed by a sanctioned version of double-entry bookkeeping can only endure by magnifying its repressive mechanisms to squeeze those who have the least amount of power. The thin layer of operatives who have extreme amounts of wealth and use but a pittance of it for anything other than furthering their own largesse are currently engaged in the perfidy of imposter taxation. They pretend to be individual citizens, owing no more than a family farmer of less than a thousand acres, or a carpenter, or architect, or teacher, or lawyer doing significant pro bono work, or police officer; yet they pay a proportionately small percentage of taxes than these workers.

This cannot be allowed to persist. I urge you to sign the following internationally based petition:

https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/paradise_papers_loc/?cQMXkab

This is a global vote.

For more information on this issue, go to the following links:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/paradise-papers?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=251595&subid=4769845&CMP=GT_US_collection

Fact Sheet: Offshore Corporate Loopholes

* * *
“At the end of 2016 the giant US technology companies alone were estimated by Moody’s Investors Service to have $1.84 trillion (£1.4 trillion) of cash held offshore. …. The calculations of the economist Gabriel Zucman – analysing discrepancies in countries’ national accounts – suggest that around $7.6 trillion, or 8 per cent of global wealth, is held offshore. That’s up 25 per cent over the past five years.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/offshore-tax-havens-how-do-work-what-done-change-paradise-papers-panama-bermuda-caymans-turks-caicos-a8039916.html

* * *
“The richest 1 percent of the world’s population now owns more than half of global wealth, and the top 10 percent owns about 90 percent.”

“Substitute Teacher”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

“Put Your Ears On” was a poetry show on cable TV during the 1990s. “Substitute Teacher” is a prose monologue about the aspirations of an instructor who discusses his personal relationship with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a friend of an old friend, Lenny Durso. She had run across a video of me and wrote a brief note of appreciation. I myself hadn’t viewed it recently, and her kind e-mail made me curious to screen it again. Watching this video this morning, I almost don’t recognize myself. Age perturbs gently, but its enfolding suction is relentless. Just a few years ago, I didn’t seem to be that much different. Now it would be impossible for me to perform “Substitute Teacher” and create quite the same effect. I would almost have to transcribe the tone of voice, and ease it down to a slightly slower, more wistful tone, in order to make this monologue work. Thirty-five years of adult life: “all is transformed: transformed utterly.”

I started “Put Your Ears On” as a television show on the Century Cable’s Public Access program. My first primary goal was to record Leland Hickman reading his poetry, and the programming developed from there in much the same manner as a reading series at a coffee house. It was, in fact, a reading series I did with Cahuenga Press poet Phoebe (MacAdams) Ozuna at the Gasoline Alley coffee house that provided the critical impetus to do this show. Gasoline Alley was not the first reading series I’d done, and I felt a growing exasperation at the lack of any record of poets reading in their “youth.” Public Access TV was just starting to take off in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it proved to be the perfect vehicle.

I hope you enjoy it.

Let it glow: dancing by myself

Friday, November 3, 2017

I am still recovering from the mid-October evisceration of my computer files. I have managed to jot down a few of the notes I remembered from the first draft of my talk on Anne Sexton’s performances of her band, Anne Sexton and Her Kind. My notes for an application to do research on Wanda Coleman’s poetry have proved to be less eidetic.

I took my birthday off as a personal holiday and spent the day moving bookcases around my work room, and was able to move a display case in here, thereby freeing up my room for Linda to work on her paintings in the living room. Even in trying to recover from this disaster, it’s not just the timing of losing the files that is proving to have the wrong bounce of happenstance. We bought a new computer from the campus bookstore, and this afternoon I found out that a sale is going to take place in two weeks that would have saved me $500 if I had bought it then.

I walked past the art department’s galleries the other day and dropped in a show by Mimi Haddon, whose work reminded me a bit of the art on display for the Magical Mystery Tours shows that were organized by Josine Ianco-Starrels. The huge piece of red cloth in the second room was the subject of a one=page typed statement near the entrance. I could barely discern the words, but they jolted me into remembering one of the happiest dreams I ever had: a piece of red cloth gently palpitated from the ceiling above my bed. The dream occurred in the late 1970s in my bedroom in the apartment in Ocean Park. For several minutes in the dream of this piece of cloth, I was exquisitely happy. I was not anywhere that joyous while dancing by myself in the shifting spectrum of Haddon’s show, but I was able to forget the onslaught of recent misfortune, and I hope to see more of Maddon’s work soon. She is hardly a typical MFA student, for she has already withstood the suction of discouragement that causes so many young artists to submit the extraordinary attrition rate that sets in after leaving an educational institution. She appears to have been steadily busy since getting her B.A. in the mid-1990s, so she has a two decade headwind behind her now.

In addition to a front yard scene I saw on my way to work two days after Halloween, here are a few shots from Haddon’s show, as well as links to information about Haddon and Ianco-Starels.

Alumni Profile: Mimi Haddon

http://mimihaddonart.com/about

https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/josine-iancostarrels-papers-6309

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1102171642

1102171636

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The Austin Straus Memorial: “How’s it going, kid?”

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A week ago, in the midst of much personal travail, I drove up to Beyond Baroque to take part in the memorial service for Austin Straus, the late widower of Los Angeles poet Wanda Coleman. About 20 people attended, and I shared with them a letter that had been written to me by a friend of Austin’s who now lives in Oregon. I also cited some of the recollections of Austin’s childhood and youth that had been sent to me in a letter by Nathan Greenspan. Not wanting to speak longer than anyone else, I refrained from reading one of Austin’s poems, but did mention that if I had had time, I would have chosen Austin’s “The All Purpose Apology Poem.” It turned out that Laurel Ann Bogen had intended to read that poem, and she delivered a knock-out rendition. Michael C. Ford contributed an amusing account of poetic rivalry between Austin and Michael that played out based on the slight difference in their birth months in 1939. One of the most touching moments occurred when the relatives of Ann Moody got up to speak about Austin. Ann was one of the civil rights protestors who sat at the Woolworth’s lunch counter and refused to accept segregation. She was also Austin’s first wife and the mother of his only child, Sasha, who works as an artist.

With the permission of Richard Hammerschlag, I present his fond memories of Austin.

Remembrance of Austin Straus
Richard Hammerschlag
Portland, Oregon
October 19, 2017

“Birthday buddies” was Austin’s sweet term for us. Our friendship began with his knock on my door one evening in the mid-1980s, a Falstaff-like guy fundraising for Santa Monicans for Renters Rights. His request for demographic information to validate my donation led to the happy discovery that Austin and I were both born in 1939 on the very same June day in New York City. The friendship, borne of that chance encounter and longer-odds coincidence of birth, was maintained over thirty years, mainly by phone after I moved to Portland and he to Lancaster.

From a young age, our lives had traveled separate paths, his to the Arts, mine to Science, and we often talked about the economic inequalities resulting from the different manner that societal value is coupled to remuneration for the two professions. And yet, Austin and I were each fascinated by the types of challenges the other faced in living creative lives.

Our friendship was also enriched by a shared love of Borscht-belt humor, with Austin often recommending YouTube sites for me to re-live the hallowed stand-up routines of such stalwarts as Henny Youngman, Buddy Hackett, Mel Brooks and Lenny Bruce.

Austin and I, from our New York upbringing, also shared an abiding passion for the Dodgers. Never mind, as Austin wouldn’t let me forget, how Walter O’Malley snuck the team out of Brooklyn in the dead of night, and was a silent party to the city of Los Angeles’ removal of much of the populace of Chavez Ravine in a land acquisition to build Dodger Stadium. Somehow, our youthful inoculation of Dodger lore (highlighted by the storied beginnings of Jackie Robinson and Vin Scully) trumped the back room conniving of management.

Up to his passing in mid-July, Austin closely followed the exploits of this year’s amazing Dodger team. At this writing, in mid-October, it appears (I know you are smiling Austin) that this will be one of those ‘Next Years’ that Dodger fans are always waiting ‘til’.

So, here’s to you, Austin… multi-talented artist, and compassionate friend to so many of us. It was a great pleasure to know and hug you and Wanda. I know you’ll call me next June 12 and each June 12 after that.

“The Art of Losing”: An Accelerated Course

Saturday, October 28, 2017

In the past fortnight, I turned 70 years old. I feel as if I had been that age for months, perhaps because some part intuited that things were about to happen that would leave bereft and utterly disconsolate.

On Tuesday morning, October 17th, I woke up to find that at some point in the night my computer at home had “crashed,” and that the hard drive had suffered a mechanical failure. All of my files were lost. One might say that I should have backed up things, but I am very timid with anything technological and have rarely met anyone who is kind enough to help me overcome those fears. What is, on the other hand, more present in my professional life is an insatiable demand for my services, especially on committees at the college where I work.

Two days before my computer crashed, Linda’s car broke down on the freeway, and required over $800 to repair. The day before the computer crashed, there was an unpleasant confrontation with another individual who seemed to have no compunction about his completely unjustifiable use of physical superiority. Linda then came down with the flu. I fought off the virus for a couple of days, then I too succumbed to a slightly milder version.

I have six major projects due in the next two weeks. About 50,000 words worth of projects. Almost all of the work I had done on these projects was on the computer at home, along with drafts of poems and research for a long poem I have been working on for the past three years.

“I can’t go on. I will go on.”

I did find out, however, that my first wife’s oldest friend was spared the ravages of the Santa Rosa fires. I had feared not only for her life, but for her home, and found out through a phone call from Cathay that her home had been spared. I remain concerned about John Martin, the publisher of Black Sparrow Press. He is not someone I am in any way in contact with, but I know that he moved Black Sparrow to Santa Rosa in its final years of operation, and I profoundly hope that John and his family have been apared the loss of their homes and possessions. He is one of the great publishers of the 20th century, and it would be painful to learn that he lost everything in this overwhelming conflagration. If anyone has news about John Martin, which she or he feels free to share, then please write me William.BillMohr@gmail.com.

A Quick Sunday Trifecta: Joseph Hansen, Lewis MacAdams, and Women’s Music

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

There was a meeting this afternoon at Beyond Baroque for the committee in charge of its 50 anniversary celebration, which will start in just a few months. I couldn’t make the meeting, for I find myself trying to finish both a major poetry project and several papers for the literature side of things.

However, I doubt there’s a better way at the present moment to invoke the grubby days of a half-century ago — when poets in Venice considered themselves fortunate to have a small storefront to gather in and talk about their poems — than to pass along a link to an article on Joseph Hansen, without whom there would have been no workshop and everything that grew out of all those encounters. If George Drury Smith was the founder of Beyond Baroque, then Joseph Hansen was the secret instigator of its ability to encompass a most peculiar variety of poets. Lisa Janssen has written a very fine account of Hansen’s life and commitment to social change that deserves your attention:

MY FAVORITE GADABOUT #3: GAY PRIDE EDITION, JOSEPH HANSEN

Of course, not all the poets who have made a significant difference in Los Angeles were based in Venice. Lewis MacAdams, for instance, arrived here in the early 1980s and promptly made himself one of the indispensable activists. His work on reclaiming the Los Angeles river is legendary, and is rightfully being accorded an oral history in which Lewis gets to assemble and preserve the details of that process. Here is a link to an article that lets us peek into that process.

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-macadams-lariver-legacy-20171006-htmlstory.html

The third thing I’d like to share with you is a counterpoint to all the news coming out about a certain Hollywood mogul. While it’s crucial that those who have been victimized get to confront the perpetrator of their debasing memories, it’s also important not to let this overwhelm the discourse of imagination to the point where women are primarily categorized as either one of two things: victims or potential victims. Against considerable odds, women have done extraordinarily important cultural work, and here are two links to some of it. The first is to women who worked in the field of electronic music, and the second is to a long list of albums that anyone interested in popular music should be familiar with. For those born since 1990, a surprising number of these albums may only be familiar as flare-ups of nostalgia by their aunts and uncles, or parents.

http://edm.com/articles/2014/12/14/6-women-history-electronic-music

http://www.npr.org/2017/07/20/538324927/turning-the-tables-150-greatest-albums-made-by-women-page-13

As a last-minute follow-up, I just now remembered that I happened to run across a video that made me think of the book, Gunfighter Nation.

Is there a way to substitute guitars played by women musicians for the guns in the above video, and thereby move the image to one of affirming life’s potential for joy?

The Sam Shepard Tribute at the Bootleg Theater

Sunday, October 15, 2017 (1 a.m.)

I hardly have time these days to keep up with new films and music, and going out to hear live music, even by a songwriter of my generation, is a rare pleasure. The recent death of Tom Petty crossed him off the list of songwriters I’ll ever have a chance to listen to in concert. The irony that he just finished a triumphant concert tour with three shows in Los Angeles is more poignant than I care to dwell on. But I am undergoing a “time famine” at this point, and even if I had been informed on the strictest secrecy that these were going to be his final performances, I would not have been able to attend, any more than I was able to attend in person the memorial tribute to Sam Shepard that Darrell Larson organized at the Bootleg Theater on Monday, October 2. I did buy tickets to the event, but ended up having to watch long distance. The drive after a long day of teaching was more than I could surmount.

It was a fitting and largely understated tribute to a writer I never met, but whose poetics influenced me far more than many contemporary poets. Beth Ruscio and Leon Martell read a scene from The God of Hell with exquisite timing and feel for the groundswell of social chaos about to erupt on a placid dairy farm. John Densmore and Alan Mandell followed up with an extract of Tongues. A childhood friend who had lost touch with him spoke of “Steve” Rogers as someone with whom he rode his bicycle to the Southwestern Museum. I didn’t jot down the name of the actor who read a passage from Shepard’s prose about waking up in the night with blue thermal socks on his feet, socks that had been “pilfered from some movie set.” Crouched on the edge of his bed, Shepard’s narrator reflects on 4 a.m. wake-up calls to play characters who now seem at a distance to be more like “violent love affairs.” Shepard’s sisters were present. Roxanne spoke with quiet humor of how she learned of her brother’s youthful success as a writer and how it caught her off-guard to discover how highly regarded he was by her peers. Murray Mednick evoked an echo of late evenings at the Padua Hills Festivals in the foothills above Claremont back in the late 1970s as he shook a rattle in a farewell summoning.

Last weekend Linda and I visited her sister, Brenda, and helped her siblings clear out her tiny apartment in Topanga. There was a small birthday party at the trailer where she is living now. Some local musicians played music and sang songs, including a haunting version of Petty’s “Free-Falling.”

Returning from that trip, I had more school work to do than I ever anticipated, in part because the committee assignments are badly distributed by those in charge of what is called self-governance in academia. Finally, towards the end of this week, I went to visit my mother. Her decline has slowed somewhat, though it appears that her vision is beginning to diminish.
Along with millions of other people in California, I feel a profound trepidation over the unfathomable intellectual shallowness of the current president of the United States. I am convinced that he wants to start a war so that he can eviscerate the civil rights of anyone who speaks up against it, seize their property, and utterly destroy our lives. I still cannot believe how people could ever have voted for someone who is so obviously a narcissistic thug.

In the meantime, the wildfires in Northern California left me almost sleepless with worry that my first wife’s trailer was in one of the trailer park that was completely leveled by the onslaught. It turned out that her trailer was spared, at least in the first wave of fires, but neither could be certain about the fate of another friend, who lived in Kenwood. The night before I learned of the fires, I had a dream that I saw Cathay in our old apartment in Ocean Park, and there were tears in her eyes. When I heard about the thousands of structures that had burned down, I feared that the dream was a foreshadowing of her residence having been one of the victims of this enormous conflagration.

It is now close to 1 a.m. on Sunday, October 15. I had tried to go to sleep two hours ago, but sensed that someone was peering through our window, and am still convinced that someone was there, especially since a motion light came on just as I got close enough to the window to peek outside. I tried to meditate afterwards, and will do so again after I post this. May your evening, late as it might be wherever you are, be ready to accept another beginning. This last sentence is a variation on one of the sentences I heard from Shepard’s writing during his tribute. So many of us miss him more than we ever expected to.

“Our Country Seems So Far Away” by Harry E. Northup

Our Country Seems So Far Away

Our country washes itself with grief
Our country celebrates division
Our country brags about class
Our country continues war indefinitely
Our country refuses to cross the aisle
Our country right or wrong or left behind
Our country scolds minor rock throwers
Our country the church of middle ages
Our country chips away at Mount Rushmore
Our country jumps off Pikes Peak into the Royal Gorge
Our country does not cross the Continental Divide
Our country says John Milton who, Edmund Spenser who
Our country builds railroad tracks over its pastoral poets
Our country denies horizons, clean rivers
Our country never misses a chance to go abroad & destroy
Our country kills civilians abroad & at home
Our country washes its football jersey with blood of the flag
Our country crosses borders with drones
Our country celebrates a vision of cruelty
Our country cut a cross in the heart of death

9 29 17
Harry E. Northup