Richard Brautigan - A Remembrance

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.

© Copyright by Allen Cohen. All rights reserved.

Back to S.F.Heart's Allen Cohen Poetry