November 14, 2003

Four Poems by Bob Kaufman



West Coast Sounds, 1956

San Fran, hipster land,
Jazz sounds, wig sounds,
Earthquake sounds, others,
Allen on Chesnutt Street,
Giving poetry to squares
Corso on knees, pleading,
God eyes.
Rexroth, Ferlinghetti,
Swinging, in cellars,
Kerouac at Locke's,
Writing Neil
on high typewriter,
Neil, booting a choo-choo,
on zigzag tracks.
Now, many cats
Falling in,
New York cats,
Too many cats,
Monterey scene cooler,
San Franers, falling down.
Canneries closing.
Sardines splitting,
For Mexico.
Me too.

Private Sadness

Sitting here alone, in peace
With my private sadness
Bared of the acquirements
Of the mind's eye
Vision reversed, upended
Seeing only the holdings
Inside the walls of me,
Feeling the roots that bind me,
To this mere human tree
Thrashing to free myself
Knowing the success
Of these burstings
Shall be measured
By the fury
Of the fall
To eternal peace
The end of All

Small Memoriam for Myself

Beyond the reach of scorn, lust is freed of its vulgar face.
No more blanch of terror at reality's threat of sadness.
No blend of grief can cause the death of laughter now.

In remembrance of certain lights I have seen go out,
I have visualized pathetic rituals and noisy requiems,
Composed of metaphysical designs of want and care.


As the 1960s began, difficulties with heroin, and prison terms, caused Kaufman to experience a sense of solitude. JFK was assasinated three days after Kaufman wrote "Small Memoriam for Myself," which prompted Kaufman to take a vow of silence in protest of Vietnam which lasted until 1973. During that period, he neither spoke nor wrote anything. On the day the war ended, he walked into a coffeeshop and recited a poem called "All Those Ships that Never Sailed."

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