Thursday, February 18, 2010


It's time to say goodbye to a poet — one I heard read in a small town library 35 years ago and of the many readings I've dropped into and out of, indoors & outdoors, this one was one of the best. A friendly poet, a giving poet, a poet ready for conversation and strangers afterwards. All in a small town that folded up at dark. Poetry, because of Lucille, the only show that day in town.

Move three decades later and here is a poem I liked to read on the street with friends when we were working with villagers to make a little of their money to send down to New Orleans and victims of Katrina. Lucille's poem rang always so true.


. . . at the river i stand,
guide my feet, hold my hand

i was raised
on the shore
of lake erie
e is for escape

there are more s'es
in mississippi
than my mother had

this river never knew
the kingdom of dahomey

the first s
begins in slavery
and ends in y
on the bluffs

of memphis
why are you here
the river wonders
northern born

looking across buffalo
you look into canada toronto
is the name of the lights
burning at night

the bottom of memphis
drops into the nightmare
of a little girl's fear
in fifteen minutes

they could be here
i could be there
not the river the state

and chaney
and goodman


and cheney
and goodman
and medgar

my mother had one son
he died gently near lake erie

some rivers flow back
toward the beginning
i never learned to swim

will i float or drown
in this mississippi
on the mississippi river

what is this southland
what has this to do with egypt
or dahomey
or with me

so many questions
northern born