Wednesday, June 02, 2010

for Leslie Scalapino & Peter Orlovsky 

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

It makes me angry that we die. I'm on Edna St. Vincent Millay's side with this one! FUCK DEATH! I am not resigned and will not intend to ever be so! Dying is a growing grief for the living. A humiliating and treacherous sadness in piecemeal THIS WORLD!

It was very sad to hear of the passing of Leslie Scalapino and Peter Orlovsky. I had the weirdest things happen with both of their works, not weird really because everything we think weird or coincidental will probably be revealed one day as the softest magic imaginable, meaning WE HAVE NO IDEA HOW BIG THE magic faucet roars beyond this world. But I recently stumbled across Leslie Scalapino's AMAZING book Crowd and not evening or light JUST before hearing that she had died. And have since reread it, and loved it all over again. I despise religion which drives customs, which evaporates autonomy, and SCALAPINO also OPENLY felt the same way over and over again in her poems. Like this great stanza:

people finding out what
they are -- because they don't have any
custom any longer -- we don't
not from suffering -- though going on
or their finding out, the women having been enslaved
the men dead -- custom -- suffering
made to be that

And today I wish I knew Peter Orlovsky's poems as much as I do Scalapino's. I heard him read in Philadelphia many years ago at the Painted Bride Arts Center. It was Lamont Steptoe who brought him here I believe, but I'm not 100 percent sure. The first person who ever mentioned him to me was Molly Russakoff.

Today Molly and I went deep into Fairmount Park together. We had a picnic for Peter. She had dated him at Naropa back in the 1970's at the same time that Allen Ginsberg was dating him. We had oranges and wine and dark chocolate and kale and blue corn, and ate, and offered some for Peter under the massive cottonwood tree in the park today. It was beautiful, this. This sharing and being together, being grateful for our lives and WE MUST be grateful for our lives we know.

JUST before I found out that Peter died last week I was in the Rittenhouse Library, sitting in front of the poetry section reading from the marvelous anthology OUT OF THIS WORLD (St. Mark's Poetry Project), and a book title's spine jumped out at me: WHEN I WAS COOL. I forget the author, but Molly knew him as well, in fact the book was about going to Naropa, and the author was there when Molly was there. When Peter Orlovsky was teaching there, and Ted Berrigan, and it sounded like a great time.

But I opened WHEN I WAS COOL to a page with Orlovsky's picture, and a caption which read something like, "On the first day of class Peter Orlovsky said, 'raise your hand if you think pussy tastes like strawberry jam'" or something like that.

WITH LOVE TO THE LIVING. I mind dying, I mind very much! I do not approve, and am not resigned!

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