Brautigan tributes: poems
Tributes in the form of poems

"Wood" (Anonymous)

We age in darkness like wood
and watch our phantoms change
their clothes
of shingles and boards
for a purpose that can only be
described as wood.

Poetry December 1984: 178.

"It Was A Very Sad Day" by Dennis Barone

I didn't even know these people
and it's certain they never met one another.
Maybe it was the way the announcements were phrased
or the way they were laid out.
I mean Old Edie, Edie the Egg Lady
was squashed into this tight corner
and she was such a big lady.
She had just had
her teeth "fixed," but the dentist
gave her a set that kept her old
gap so that fans could recognize her.
She didn't even get to use them.
It didn't say which set she was buried in.
And then there was Chester C. Smith,
who I had never even heard of before,
but he was the last, the last
survivor of a police posse that killed
Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd in 1934.
Saddest thing though, more was said about
Floyd than about Smith. They went on
and on about "most wanted," "notorious,"
"cornered" ... But
all they said about Smith was that he
retired from the East Liverpool, Ohio
Police Department in 1957.
The day he died was the 50th anniversary of the
slaying of Floyd. Smith shot him dead
on his first try. They didn't say anything
like "Old One Shot Smith" or anything.
I've said more about him than they did.
But the saddest thing by far was
Richard Brautigan, 49; gained
fame in the '60s with off beat novels
I hadn't even thought about him in 49 years
and apparently neither had anybody else.
His body had been decomposing for two weeks
before some sheriff found it. I suppose
that sheriff is fated to die on the 50th
aniiversary of Brautigan's death.
Might be the only way that he'll be
And that's why it was a sad day.

Exquisite Corpse 4 (1) Jan.-Feb. 1986: 13-14.

"Sitting in North Beach Cafes" by Allen Cohen

Sitting in North Beach Cafes
it is hard to find anyone who remembers;
some have never even heard of him.

In the 60's in the Haight he was everywhere
in the streets, with the Diggers, at the Oracle office.
Everyone knew him lean and tall, long blond hair,

high pitched voice, strangely stooped and rounded shoulders
bent by a hidden childhood. There was always
something Olympian about him and far away.

"Trout Fishing" wasn't published yet—
held up on option by a New York publisher
for several years, while with the rest of us,

mostly lesser talents, he lived
on the nectar of that rare time and place.
He wrote poems on seed packages

and gave them out free at Digger's "Invisible Circus" event
When I told him I had moved to a country commune
he said, "I've earned my millionth cricket badge already."

But, after Trout Fishing finally came out,
he bought a farm in Montana and reappeared
in North Beach only during the winter.

I told him once that I had writer's block.
He said, "Before I even finish a book
a new idea comes to me for the next one.

I can hardly swat it away.
It's sort of natural to my mind."
The last time we spoke

I had with me a mock up of a book
on Laurie's natural childbirth
with many intimate photographs of childbirth

laid out in sequence with a long poem
that I was trying to self-publish
Richard and Steve Walzer, the photographer,

and I began looking through the mock up
at an outdoor table at Enrico's.
and I saw tears coming to Richard's eyes.

He asked to be excused and came back
a few minutes later, his eyes red,
and looked through the rest of the book, crying.

I asked him if he could spare any money
to help us print it. He said,
"It's a beautiful book, but please believe me

my money's all tied up. I can't."
The last time I saw him was on Kearny St.
a month before his body was found,

probably only a few days before he shot himself.
He was walking with his quick long stride
through Chinatown toward North Beach.

I was riding on the 15 bus to work.
He was keeping up with the bus for a few blocks.
It was warm and he took off his jacket

as he briskly, leaped forward and
turned up Jackson St. where the cheap Chinese restaurants are.
I wanted to get off the bus and talk to him,

but didn't bother. I wish I had followed that impulse.
Now Richard is even more distant
far away in the Montana of the spirit,

joining Lew Welch, also a simple, emotional,
troubled and alone poet with a tender love
of humanity and nature,

who had disappeared into the great Sierras.
Their spirits, perhaps, too immense for our age.

Allen Cohen Poetry portion of the S.F. Heart website

"Baudelaire Meets Brautigan" by Bryan Doubt

having turned left with
an image instead
of right Baudelaire
finds himself on
Market Street in
far-west San Francisco
present (and all-but
inciting this coming) a man
too gaunt to be young as
blond as the husk of sin
as dry and scaly as
life without remorse
says Baudelaire "Bonjour"
(plums dropping from his
every letter) "Now Master
say it like it's at"
the man rejoins (rebukes?)
through limp moustaches
itchy birds for eyes.

The Antigonish Review (27) 1976: 64.

"The Longest Wind" by Jeffrey Lent

Late last summer, early last fall
the news came through as a single flat statement.
It was weeks as bits trickled in so some skewed picture emerged
although that first week NPR ran a profile and reiterated
what we'd all heard before and so knew to be true
of this minor writer and voice of the flower children -
Like natives naked dancing hotfoot about the torn and dismembered
body of the white hunter, digging in spear points to partake and obliterate
any mystery he'd ceased to hold.
It was true.
At least it seemed that way until finally you agreed.
Now of course we're freed to question those pronouncements.

You died in a gunfight, the walls diving behind bottles
in a vain attempt to escape your deadly hand.
But you showed no mercy least of all to yourself
though more than once I imagine you lifting the barrel after the barrage,
placing it hot against the side of your nose
to view the dead over your own sizzling skin
(that fisherman knowledge of lubricating ferrules on the nose-tip).
A photograph shows you kneeling in waders on a grass-smooth riverbank,
hair leonine and the ten-speed handlebar moustache swept back. You hold a rod
and there is a young boy standing before you. What did you teach him, Richard?
To tie nail knots, blood knots, how to cast, how to stand in waist deep current?
How to read water?
Someone perhaps the boy's father, said,
Things just won't be fun without Richard anymore.
I suspect otherwise.
Are you now night air that lies over the Yellowstone, the Madison, Nelson Spring Creek,
trout leaping from the water into you and in release back again?

Do you no longer bother with whiskey?
If in anger or sadness you gave up young women long ago
I hope you find them again, running unseen through their clothes
and springing off with laughter and warmth.
A group of your friends offered up for national publication remembrances
reading like a list of sad songs and righteousness.
You never should have lived there but you did. Thirty miles
from town a man who would not drive a car.
We are always unprepared for the moments of the day.
Air becomes pain.
I didn't know you. Our eyes never met.
This is a letter to the dead as a younger brother writes to a soldier in a distant land,
a younger brother who hasn't seen war but dreams the filth of bloodshed every night.
By your own hand.
You were always, as the best are, so very visible but something odd happened along the way.
Through your own choice or not you became the elephant foot umbrella stand,
the bowling trophies, the rusted machinery, the wheelchair.
Venereal warts and no silk ribboned sombrero.
You always liked those big hats but in the end they ceased belonging to you.
They continue to bust the grateful dead and a very few very old women
continue to receive Confederate veteran benefits but no-one cares.
Libraries are strictly controlled and you must provide ample proof of residency.
If you ever had that to begin with
it's gone now.

Last night I spoke with a friend about the immediacy of anger deployed successfully,
that great need. But when you're the only one there what is the use?
The month you spent decomposing on the floor surely you learned something.
The phone ringing, the messages unanswered on the machine.
All those nights last summer I spent trying to call Jim or John or Allison
I might better have called you. But you seemed so far from reach
and I need the uplifting tune myself. It seems now you had lost yourself
for so many years and were only awaiting a moment and on that point let's keep clear -
One voice one word one thought can't hold it back.
What was the tool? I'm curious.
I consider the coroners report but that's only one man's tired opinion
and we both know what the weapon really was.
It had all left and that finally is enough.
I like to think if you'd had crops to tend or stock to watch or even a bitch in heat
that might've done the trick. The notions of a child.
All that was there were shadows and as so seen worse at night.
There are more than enough cruel words for us all and little enough of
encouragement and grown men that we are these things are vital. More so
are the silences that must be endured and the words stretching off into the dark
just when it seems someone must speak.
The shadows are our dearest friends even if they chew at our legs like puppies trying new teeth.
But that was forgotten or lost or no. No for the shadow became the closest friend that
reached and touched, stroked, and finally owned.

Ray Bergman wrote, 'One word of caution if you wish to calibrate your own gut.
Gut bruises easily and when bruised it is really worse than broken because it is deceptive,
not noticeable yet weak.' He speaks of leaders which are nothing more than threads on which
life is strung. Some of us do this several times a day and most grow accustomed but
in some houses children and wives are routinely beaten, dogs kicked.
We become automations that produce or don't. I, myself, have carried old appliances
to the dump.

Old ones are stacked in homes and visited the day after Christmas before we hurry away.
I don't want those sad words anymore than do you. Lock them up
if they're not gracious enough to turn their own key. We are hurt
by loved ones and then can lay blame.
Abandoned by wives, children, parents we are mercifully free to lay blame.
We are the perfect hope if it weren't for them.
We legitimize our failure to send child support or the kids for the promised Easter break.
In a just world we would be lined up against the wall.
In this world we may have the rather distinct pleasure of lining ourselves up.
If you wish to calibrate your own gut the first tool needed is a razor.
To gather this takes nothing more than courage though we generally call it the other.
No matter. You lay like a squashed rabbit or more truly a skunk on the road for weeks.
In the heat of mid-afternoon we thought we could smell something.
Stagnant water. The pail in the corner of the abortion clinic.
Horsepiss on dust.

One friend said O yes I remember him all the young girls used to read him.
That certainly seemed to sum it up. Another said I haven't heard that name in years,
I didn't think anyone else read him but I've got his last book right here and you say
he shot himself? One of these two have read reviews and forgotten how to think.
Oh Richard these are perfect poems, perfect vignettes, perfect novels. This is it.
Let this be my final judgement.
Let us admit Sheep that once again we have missed the train at the station and now
Watch only its smoke across the far edge of the plain.
Oh Richard tonight it's late and I weep for you as for my father,
the both of you lost down that cyclone of silent self.
I can never know the guts of the details but am trying to understand that final statement.
The rest is detail but this is the dark.
You can't claim oppression of fatigue.
Neither failure or misunderstanding.
This ain't that kind of deal.
You should have known that long enough to have gotten used to the idea.
I'm angry because you wouldn't keep going.
Long before you seriously sign up you know what the odds are.

One of the rocks on my desk is from the coast of Maine, another is a coral chunk from the Keys.
There are small polished dull blue pebbles from Lake Michigan.
It might not be much from an emotional point of view but the planet is all we really have.
Somehow the Maine rock has traveled with me thousands of miles, the coral also.
Time to time I hold one or the other against my lips and think of water.
The blue rocks are in a pouch, holy dice from the water of love,
The earth of fire and the sky of perpetual building rain.
Rain that becomes, always, rain.
Shortly before noon I realized that if a conclusion is to be reached it must be grasped.
This has been one long circling of a thicket in the dark. Inside the tight-grown branches
and stalks there rests something, Perhaps it's myself. Perhaps not.
Perhaps I've dwelt overmuch on your death.
All men come to the same end — it's the everything leading up that's of import.
Still the taboo of suicide remains. We remain. We remain and that seems the
most cardinal of dictum. Each man suffers according to his own ability.
This is simple stuff but to understand the simplicity of that abrasive diffusion of
brain requires stripping away to some essential level. Notice that I reject accident.
In these matters there is no accidental function.
Lead itself is a plastic but inelastic substance. Had you been this angry since birth?
I hope you were clear-eyed and your hand was steady.
I suspect you'd been drunk since dawn and needing to cry for several days.

In the end all of this doesn't matter and you are removed from us now.
That is was your choice and not a ravage of cancer,
a youth loose with a car as you shambled along the road with the stars on your shoulders,
that your finger circled the trigger and not some coked-up sport from Chicago
mistaking your form for a bull elk,
the trout stream, the one you always went to alone
... all of these things don't, finally, matter. Your being is gone.
Talk of history or future or fate if futile, a hand-job of the mind.
A freak August freeze has blackened more than a few tomato plants,
fruit split, broken on the ground.

Tonight I listen to old recordings of western swing after another day following my
mind along like a tired hound jogging behind the two high rear wheels of a westbound stage,
the crack of the whip over the horses no longer plunging me forward in a short burst
but steady dog-trotting.
There is enough ecstasy in the music to uplift me tonight
This won't always happen but I do know it wouldn't happen if I wasn't looking for it.
If I found it everytime it wouldn't be enough either.
The rear wheels raise a fine constant filter of dust, shielding the dog from sight of everything
until the stage rattles over a shallow streambed and up a rise.
The wind blows into Montana all the way from California.
The dog stops to drink.

So The Wind Won't Blow It All Away

Dust ... American ... Dust

Introduction to the Rebel Inc edition of So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away

"Brautigan" by Anne Waldman

Beyond yourself
this life
White ghost
you focused
on words
Spin a yarn!
Works' lightness
flat Zen deadpan
touches irony
& always peculiar
romantic places:
Montana, Japan
It's still true
to be drinking
& talking
with you or
showing your kid
a good time a
long time ago
Xmas, skating
cold Rockefeller
Center you were
fragile country
boy, loping & fun
Shot yourself
to kill a
darker self
High premium
for gloom
Adios traveler

Rolling Stock (9) 1985: 2.

"Happy Birthday Poem" for Richard Brautigan by Lew Welch

JANUARY 30, 1970

Dear Richard,

On this very day, in 1889, Franklin
Delano Roosevelt was born. Had he lived,
he would now be 81 years old.

Would he have liked your books?

What present would he give you on
this mutual birthday?

A chest of California grapes?


"Remembering Richard Brautigan" by Charles Plymell

That's Reba, Richard
you know, the kid
who arrived with flowers in her hair
At the Greyhound station
go 69'ers from the senior class
across the land of coffee-tonk cafes
with hard neon illuminating bacon and eggs
grabbed her bags from the locker
headed for the baths at Big Sur
via the head shop in the Haight.

Reba's name written wildly where
cameramen cowboy oracles ride
Reba ready
Reba right on
Reba rid of speed
Reba ready hip
Reba arriba arriba
Reba rich girl reading
Richard Brautigan on the beach
Reba tough
Reba together
Reba danced with Joan Baez
Hey that's my bag
Reba pop art rock
Reba wrote a poem for Allen Ginsberg
Reba saw Brautigan dance naked at the end party
Reba coke collage digs dope dancing
from Fillmore West to Fillmore East.

Scratch your name on East Village brick
and let your belly shine
your breasts still pure from the Big Sur baths
the Pacific's spray of Saturn and Sun
where the air pierced your pores and tongues
Redwood lips bursting with rapture.
News shops hawk reality of The Morning Sun
of faded type, Berkeley, to buy a gun
to blow the windows out of time
watch the tanks all in a line
troops on the roof ready and aim.

(She packed her long dresses
and threw the I Ching,
drove over the bridge in a limousine.

Hand on the Doorknob: A Charles Plymell Reader
Sudbury, Massachusetts: Water Row Press, 2000: 102-103

"Richard" by Robert W. Birch

I met him in a dream.
He saw me through squinted eyes.
I admired his mustache,
he ignored mine
and almost smiled.
"What's your name," I asked.

"Richard," he replied.
"Richard what?" I asked.
"Just Richard," he answered.
"Why just Richard?" I had to inquire.

"I'm dead now," he said.
"So?" I wondered aloud.
"So no one would know me now," he said.
"You would be surprised," I countered.
His head tilted as if to gauge my words.

"Many today who love you," I stated.
A look of disbelief crossed his face.
"Really," I added to make my point,
"Your books still sell...
And there are even fan clubs."

His expression did not change.
"I should have waited," he said.
"For your fame?" I asked.
"No," he replied in his somber tone,
"For trout season."

Wild Blackberries: And the Memory of Innocence
PEC Publishing, 2006: 8.