Tuesday, April 6, 2010

North Beach Letter

Upon hearing of the death of the Poet, Bob Kaufman

Green and Grant. Green and Grant. Somebody said, Green and Grant. Why is it? Why? How come every time I get to Green and Grant there's Bob Kaufman crossing Green and Grant. Is it because Bob Kaufman is always crossing Green and Grant? Is it because he walks around day and night and Green and Grant part of the tour? Is it because I only cross the block when he's crossing? Or is it because he's always there when I'm there. Or am I there when he's there?

Bob Kaufman crosses Green and Grant for the last time. So said the news. Bob Kaufman returned from silence in the Seventies. He'd been gone a long time. He came back as T.S. Eliot. He came back as T.E. Lawrence. He walked the neighborhood saying, "T. E. Lawrence, that's it!" He went to the Times Theater and came back as the Owl and the Pussycat. He said he'd been around the World on the 41 Union. He snapped, turned inside out and came back.

I don't know if people who say they'd die for poetry actually plan it. As Bob Kaufman said, "Everything I planned came as a complete surprise." I have a tendency to believe him. Whatever the reason, he moved through us all, this wiry craziness wound among us, a clip of how we all come and go inside; a slip, a turn, the vague comprehension that what we do is too much, or not enough. Yes, he made us painfully aware of how far one can go. He challenged us with silence; the inappropriate enigma, the madness we emanate only to find out too late, that behold, it's true. Not many cross that line and those that do, come back with a limp or a torn parachute. But wait, true madness that doesn't want the whole blanket puzzles us. What is this? Who is in there?

I must confess I don't know why people do what they do. Heaven forbid, that I should know why they write. I write because I don't know what the hell else to do. Because I truly feel empty when I don't, or can't. Oh, but we're talking DIE! Here's a man of internal hieroglyphics. Here's a man the scholars and "Beats" tried to turn inside out and read. They sat him in a chair and took notes, while his words swept the streets on secret scrolls. All along the avenues he walked, the dark craziness of us all, the living haunt, the escape from the mirror that is not us.

We all take our buses across town and back. Some of us stay and muse. Some settle in for the long winter, some decide it will always be spring. Some are summer to begin with. Some of us become the Fall, the nostalgia at the top of the hill in the timeless wind where we reflect upon the dream. Or we realize the dream isn't a dream, the executioner has stepped in the ring and all the cards have been played. Then we can mail our picture to the public relations man or forget it. Or we keep what we learned and forget we could have been that dream walking along the avenues, crazily dreaming of a better world. Perhaps we are that, perhaps not, hopefully a little of both, in the grand trajectory we spin for ourselves.

Oh how he walks, with all the human things we had, have,
all the give and take, slipping off down the block, in a bouncing,
sliding, exciting time, when all the dreams are big ones and we say
it again. "Every time I cross Green and Grant, there's Bobby.”


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