When the hell are my reminiscences going to escape March 2009? Anyway…
It was, of course, March 2009. Typically, I would go to the second closest Starbucks, a mile down the road, where I knew most of the baristas, to write poems. Typically, whenever I needed inspiration, I turned to one of the few books with poetry I owned then, that three-for-one collection of the works of Richard Brautigan: Trout Fishing in America, the Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, and In Watermelon Sugar.
Does anyone else remember that volume? Thick, white, with a picture on the cover of Brautigan standing and some unidentified woman sitting, both of them looking somewhat like inhabitants of a nineteenth-century mining town? There was a time and a place (late eighties, Ann Arbor, the Residential College at the University of Michigan) when and where it seemed every student in East Quad had a copy of that book prominently displayed on his or her shelf, right next to a novel or two by Tom Robbins. But I digress..
That day, March 6, I noticed that the Starbucks right by my house had introduced a huge table in their seating area, a table kicking the ass of the handicapped table I usually tried to snag at the other Starbucks. (I know, I know…) I set up shop there and started working, which meant writing a little and Facebook-chatting a lot. I did make progress. I talked to Christy Root Spicer and then wrote “Poem for Christy’s Daughter.” I talked to Erica Vale and then wrote “Poem for Erica’s Son.” Afterward, as the well started to run a little dry, it was time to pull out the Brautigan again.
But who was this dude anyway? All I knew was that hippie-wannabes liked him and that he had killed himself. I went to his Wikipedia page, where I learned about his crappy childhood. Hmm, I felt weird. I had been getting inspired by his short little pieces and writing pastiches of his work. I’d assumed he’d been some jolly-ass, free-wheeling guy. I didn’t know he had suffered a lot.
And I had just written two other poems about friends’ children. And my inability to have kids still stung. So I decided to write a poem about going back in time to become Richard Brautigan’s loving adopted father. I took many facts from the Wikipedia entry, responded to them, and ended up with a little litany of comments, a little narrative not ending in Brautigan’s suicide. It made me a little misty-eyed, if you really must know.
Poof. So there you go.
“Truthful Wishing about Oregon” first appeared in Two Hawks Quarterly Issue 2, Number 5 (Summer 2009). It also exists as the third poem in my chapbook Breach Birth, which is available from Propaganda Press.