2017 05 22
I was walking down the street in Seattle
one cold afternoon twenty-six years ago
during the grunge era in Ninety-One
when the old homeless Russian engineer,
named Valentine, who told me he escaped
the Iron Curtain of oppressive fear
by walking far across frozen Siberia,
then riding a fishing boat to Seattle,
shouted, "Mad prophet of Oregon, come
and read to me your latest poetry."
Sitting in my long green tweed overcoat
beside the old thin-faced forest wizard
with long golden hair and thin tangled beard,
wearing a green feathered Robin Hood cap,
who stared into my soul with sky-blue eyes,
I opened my thick black sketchbook of poems
and read several satirical jeremiads.
Swigging vodka from the torn paper bag,
and eyes shining with light of wild rain,
the Russian wizard clapped my back and shouted,
"Now you are writing poetry of truth
that burns pure in deep black hole of your heart.
You remember what I told you last time,
that greatest poets who sing soul of death
defy tyrants and commit suicide
because force of life burn inside their brains
like flame of hell that laughing devil sparks.
Now you too sing like mad prophet of death."
Grinning amused at his insistent praise,
I shrug and explain, "I think I will try
to publish them in Poetry Magazine
or The New Yorker," but he shakes his head
and raises both hands to the cloudy sky.
Leaning close so his blue eyes fill the sky,
the Russian wizard exclaims with clear voice.
"Those magazines will never publish you
because you are mad prophet, like your poets
of English, William Blake and Allen Ginsberg
and Walt Whitman, all heads possessed by devil.
You sing wild mountain wind and ocean waves
so your poems will burn their weak magazines.
Your poems you must shout at death on street corner
and not in dim library or bookstore.
You stand in sunlight of death and sing poems.
Now you go and shout poems to wake whole world."
Pushing to my feet in chill Autumn wind,
I give Siberian wizard twenty dollars,
then tip fedora, and walk through the crowd
of students on University Ave
to find my mask I must carve out of light.
Leaving Emerald City of misty towers,
I walk into the wilderness of dreams
east on long signless highways of America
over mountains and deserts to the sea,
singing poems on the streets of every city
till I stand on the sea shore in Miami
and watch the sun rise from the Sea of Death.
Our First Mother, who rose from Sea of Life
at dawn of time and wove our brains from atoms,
giving birth to every creature on Earth
who sees its own reflection in her Eye,
appears before me on the beach at midnight
and kisses my Third Eye with drop of rain
that beams memories of all my ancestors
before my eyes in visions of survival,
and reveals secret of eternal life.
I fly around the globe on silver wings
to Island of Flowers in sparkling sea,
where Istra, elegant Goddess of Love,
holds my hand and leads me up mountain side
to stand where Siwa created her soul,
so we kneel together in temple hall
to sing the ancient song of trusting faith.
From flashing beam of light two Goddesses
of Wisdom, Saraswati and Athena,
descend and place two jewels in our hands
that glitter with the eyes of our ancestors,
so we fly back around the spinning globe
where two daughters spring from our spiral eyes.
While sitting by the lake where we now live,
in the lush sultry hills of southern Georgia,
and feeling moonlight flicker on its waves,
we watch our daughters laugh and play in flowers,
delighting they will live after we die.
Though I know that the wizard Valentine
died many years ago in silver mist,
I hear his spirit laughing in the woods,
shouting, "Mad prophet of Oregon, come
and read to me your latest poetry,"
so I smile and watch our two daughters play
for they are the poems that grow from my heart.