Bob Kaufman (April 18, 1925 – January 12, 1986)

A Remembered Beat

We heard our beat faintly then,
When John Hoffman hitchhiked with enemy gods
And died in Mexicans’ land,
Choked on his dreams of blood and love,
Leaving his poems on dark other side of time,
And first slight hit of a beat.

When Parker, a poet in jazz,
Gave one hundred seventy pounds to a one-ounce needle.,
His music, his life,
Six hipsters from uptown
Called it a religious sacrifice
And wore turbans.
One poet wore lonely death,
Leaving his breath in a beat.

We remember when Max Bodenheim remembered Lorca
And challenged death nightly, with a port pint
Full of mixed-up crazy love and thirty years’ bitter
Memory in poet life,
Only to end as hero of a slaughtered poem
Written by a maniac, on a Third Avenue night of hell,
And we were there, lost in the sound of a beat.

We remember thin cafeteria Sanskrit scholars
Reading old telephone directories aloud,
Trying to find Buddha or Truth
Among columns of private detectives, private sanitariums
And committees of rehabilitation of bisexual Eskimos,
And the unlisted trace of a beat.

We remember when poets removed tangled brains
To save for a saner time,
When organization men in pink ties declared television love,
Opening the age of electrical stone
As all do-gooders shouted: Punch time clocks,
Or your neighbors, or your youngest boy,
While a warlord of young poets
Perished in Pusan’s swamp,
Drowned in a flood of matchbook covers from home.
Survivors hid themselves in the folds of a cocaine
          nighttime robe,
As pill time stretched across white powdered deserts
And roots of exotic cactus bloomed in caves of the mind,
As nirvana came dancing, prancing in time to the beat,
Leading new ways through friend-filled narcotic graveyards
To hidden Pacific, big hell, quiet peace of Big Sur
Where that proud pornographers smiles on a redwood throne
As birds pound the air with a beat.

— Bob Kaufman from Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness