the old poets

from my booklet “words within 2018”

(to Darrell Kerr)
they were full of angst and Olde English 800,
they were older than me, they were men, they were artists, they were poets,
they introduced me to Ginsburg and Bukowski,
they said words i was not supposed to say,
in front of the world and out loud 
they said those words,
they were changing the world
with those words,

i was young but they trusted me with their children
and they wrote and drank while i babysat (Darcy)
while their wives worked to pay the bills,
they mimeographed the pages that would become their books
in a small machine in the corner of the single bedroom,
down the hall, past the bathroom used by the entire floor, then first door on the left
in the evening, i might return from my railroad flat at the base of Twin Peaks, 
walking down to their Victorian row house on Oak St. facing the Panhandle Park
to helped them fold, glue and correlate pages,

before returning back to my flat, shared with 6 friends, my mattress behind a screen in the main living room.

they were part of something bigger than us, bigger than just “going thru life”
they recognized it
seized it
as they told me numerous times
“you better decide what you stand for, because
if you just stand there in the middle of the road like that,
they will shoot at you from both sides”,

my whole life up to that time had been predicated on compromise,
making the best of the situation,
keeping my head above the water,
i was still figuring these life things out.

they said this before packing up
loading up the gun rack in the back of the cab of their open bed truck
and heading from San Francisco to somewhere
in the woods of the Pacific North West,

i had vacationed with them somewhere in that North,
it was a serene place,
even with all of nature's activity and glory in summer,
we were within visioning distance of one of those old volcanoes
that still had snow on top in the summer,
we pitched tents and cooled our food in nearby stream
for a week we heard nothing but birds and wind

when their truck finally left S.F.
it left with a definite sort of finality,
i think i knew i would probably never see them again,
life was changing fast in those years,
but i think back to their advice often,
advice, like memories, seem to change substantially with age and predicaments,
you do need to pick your battles, but you can't beat a dead horse,
i am forever grateful for their that open my eyes,
the long term lesson was to have open eyes, 
and an open heart, to be able to see the situation from many sides,
the strength to know when to remain still, and when to act,
and when you do act it should be through compassion,
and to realize sometimes listening while silent
is enough to change the world.