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Come Home to New Orleans, Bob Kaufman November 9, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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2 comments

Reposting for the two kind European women who so wanted a copy:

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And hear Leah Chase
Sing Mahalia Jackson
In the synagogue of the oaks
As magnolias brown and fall.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And see the old white south
Gathered at preservation hall
Where old Negro Bodhisattvas
Blow their Creole love songs.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
See the White Citizens Councils
Huddle in their Potemkin Americas
At the swampy back of town
In terror of their children’s radios.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
To see pale northern tourists
Hungry for that Black jazz
Wolf down bad okra gumbo
At Maspero’s slave exchange.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
To see Lorca’s sons openly
Embracing in the red carnations
Mirrored in the dark windows
Of the sad, historic cathedral.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And the ghosts of Congo Square
Will second line behind
Your broken poet’s bones
With an African brass band

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And Indians from all wards
Will carry you on their shoulders
The length of Basin Street
And sing that Indian Red.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
& we will honor your fierce spirit
with votives, flowers & poundcake
among the ancien Creole poets,
Marie Laveau & Homer Plessy.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And enter here, eternally
Into that crackling blueness
Of towering Gulf storms
Pouring out the ancient rain.

THE NIGHT THAT LORCA COMES April 18, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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[Happy Birthday, Bob Kaufman.]

THE NIGHT THAT LORCA COMES
SHALL BE A STRANGE NIGHT IN THE
SOUTH, IT SHALL BE THE TIME WHEN NEGROES LEAVE THE
SOUTH
FOREVER,
GREEN TRAINS SHALL ARRIVE
FROM RED PLANET MARS
CRACKLING BLUENESS SHALL SEND TOOTH-COVERED CARS FOR
THEM
TO LEAVE IN, TO GO INTO
THE NORTH FOREVER, AND I SEE MY LITTLE GIRL MOTHER
AGAIN WITH HER CROSS THAT
IS NOT BURNING, HER SKIRTS
OF BLACK, OF ALL COLORS, HER AURA
OF FAMILIARITY, THE SOUTH SHALL WEEP
BITTER TEARS TO NO AVAIL,
THE NEGROES HAVE GONE
INTO CRACKLING BLUENESS.
CRISPUS ATTUCKS SHALL ARRIVE WITH THE BOSTON
COMMONS, TO TAKE ELISSI LANDI
NORTH, CRISPUS ATTACKS SHALL
BE LAYING ON BOSTON COMMONS,
ELISSI LANDI SHALL FEEL ALIVE
AGAIN. I SHALL CALL HER NAME
AS SHE STEPS ON TO THE BOSTON
COMMONS, AND FLIES NORTH FOREVER,
LINCOLN SHALL BE THERE,
TO SEE THEM LEAVE THE
SOUTH FOREVER, ELISSI LANDI, SHE WILL BE
GREEN,
THE WHITE SOUTH SHALL GATHER AT
PRESERVATION HALL.

All those ships that never sailed August 30, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, FYYFF, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA.
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K-Date 4.1

I was reading through everyone’s anniversary posting, and mentally comparing those to the page I sort of ripped from my own mental notebook and stuck up, unfinished and a bit confused. I remind myself that down here August is the cruelest month, when we all often wish to be a pair of scuttling claws beneath the sea. And mines been a doozy. Take my job, for instance. Please. I’ll throw in the parking space.

Rex Dingler of NOLA Rising, a warrior for New Orleans of the stature of Ashley Morris, does as fine a job as any and ended his K 4.0 piece with these worlds that I am going to take away and spend part of today noodling on. One reason I stopped the Wet Bank Guide is I found I could not sustain the level of anger that sort of writing required, not both the anger and my sanity.

Ultimately, I will celebrate by offering forgiveness to those who I believe have slighted our city, who have stolen from her coffers, and have made irreverent gains from the suffering of her people. I forgive George W. Bush for the ineptitude of his leadership and those under him for their failings. I forgive the modern day carpet-baggers who have come to be known as disaster profiteers. I forgive those who squandered our opportunity to build a better New Orleans and failed to right the ailments of our city, deciding instead to return to business as usual.

While I forgive them, I will not forget them nor make excuses for their actions or behaviors. I forgive them not to ease their conscience, but to ease my own. I forgive them not to ease their way for greater plunder, but to allow me the clarity of vision to carry out my own dreams for a better city. I forgive so that I can let go of the past and move toward a better tomorrow, hopefully leaving behind the waterlines of misery that this storm had wrought.

I have had various epigrams for my blogs. Wet Bank Guide’s was from Sun Ra: “Its after the end of the world. Don’t you know that yet?: Living in a landscape and among a people that makes Waiting for Godot seem greeting card cheerful it was a good one, and I still carry that one engraved deep inside.

Here on Toulouse Street the closest we have to an epigram is the little box at right quoting Jim Morrison: “I love the friends I have gathered together here on this thin raft.” There are no better words for how I feel about New Orleans and the people I know here, and I have a rough painted sign in the backyard (my own attempt to emulate Rex’s movement) to remind me of this daily.

Perhaps it is time for a new epigram. I am thinking of the one below for now, one which jumped immediately into my mental scribble of a Katrina anniversary post Friday night. I think it encompasses so much of our experience, what is borne out of the alchemy of profound loss and a ruthless optimism, an insistence that there will be a city here if they must build it from our bones. No, that’s a bit too angry, too old fashioned Markus the Wet Bank Guy in his locusts and honey madness (but true none the less).

This epigram is a bit more detached, distant from the anger at the past, anger at the Federal Flood and all that represents; not forgetting the past but a step into the future informed by all that has happened; a rebirth (which is all we ever wanted). It is an experience not unlike Bob Kaufman’s who first spoke the poem the quote below is taken from the day he ended a decade long Buddhist vow of silence–taken after the Kennedy assassination which he kept until the end of the Vietnam War–stepping out of that quiet chrysalis into a world transformed in part by his words.

All those ships that never sailed
The ones with their seacocks open
That were scuttled in their stalls…
Today I bring them back
Huge and transitory
And let them sail
Forever.
–Bob Kaufman

Come home to New Orleans, Bob Kaufman August 12, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I just finished Beat poet Bob Kaufman’s Ancient Rain and Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness, two books of his I picked up at City Light’s bookstore when I was in San Francisco. I have had his anthology Cranial Guitar for a while but haven’t owned any of his full books. (His first, Golden Sardine, is out of print and new copies go for $150). Kaufman was a leading light of the San Francisco poetry Renaissance of the 1950s and coined the term “beatnik”, and is considered America’s true Surrealist master.

A son of New Orleans the son of a German-Jewish father who was a railroad porter on the Chicago train and a Roman Catholic Black mother from Martinique who filled the home with books from estate sales), he lived elsewhere all of his grown life: on the ocean as a merchant seaman, in the port cities of the east coast where he was a merchant marine union rep and political organizer, and ultimately in and around San Francisco where he was a central figure of the emerging Beat generation

Kaufman wrote frequently about race, and his poem THE NIGHT LORCA COMES is one that has stuck with me since I first encountered it. In it he offers a vision of all Blacks leaving the south, liberated from its he geography of that dark history at last.

I understand the poem as the vision of an African-American political activist and poet living through the 1950s, but hope that in spite of the racial insanity that still prevails in the south today that many of us here in New Orleans are moving past that, that we have at least a core of people who want to build a city Kaufman would not recognize, one he would embrace as he did San Francisco. If he were alive today I would hope he would find life in the Bywater or 7th Ward as much to his liking as he once did life in North Beach.

I had meant to write something about my visit to San Francisco (and may yet get to that before I get swept away by the current) but for now, this is what something inside that would not let me drag my tired self to bed last night insisted I write this first.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And hear Leah Chase
Sing Mahalia Jackson
In the synagogue of the oaks
As magnolias brown and fall.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And see the old white south
Gathered at preservation hall
Where old Negro Bodhisattvas
Blow their Creole love songs.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
See the White Citizens Councils
Huddle in their Potemkin Americas
At the swampy back of town
In terror of their children’s radios.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
To see pale northern tourists
Hungry for that Black jazz
Wolf down bad okra gumbo
At Maspero’s slave exchange.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
To see Lorca’s sons openly
Embracing in the red carnations
Mirrored in the dark windows
Of the sad, historic cathedral.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And the ghosts of Congo Square
Will second line behind
Your broken poet’s bones
With an African brass band

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And Indians from all wards
Will carry you on their shoulders
The length of Basin Street
And sing that Indian Red.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And we will bury you in honor
bring flowers and pound cake
your hallow tomb with Marie Laveau
Homer Plessy and Eluard Burke.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And enter here, eternally
Into that crackling blueness
Of towering Gulf storms
Pouring out the ancient rain.

Creole Beat June 27, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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4 comments

I finally gave up on ever getting to see the library’s copy of Cranial Guitar, Selected Poems by Bob Kaughman. It has been “in cataloging” for so long I have decided that “in cataloging” is a euphamism like “passed on”. “Cranial Guitar, preceded in cataloging by…”. His earlier books, like all those of another famous New Orleans-linked poet Everette Maddox, arevlocked away safely in the library’s Louisiana Collection where I don’t think I am welcome to bring my lunch in while I read.

I couldn’t find a copy to buy in town, either, and was forced to go to Amazon. While Kaufman is associated with San Francisco and the Beats, he is still a New Orleans-born boy and you would think someone might carry a copy. (Same for Maddox, a man who is forever linked with New Orleans). The poetry shelf of Maple Leaf Bookstore, one of my favorite haunts long ago, sits half empty and neglected the last few times I went by. I think I need to go bookstore shopping.

While the New Orleans-born Kaufman is associated with San Francisco and the Beats, here is a poem about Louisiana from that collection.

Early Loves
By Bob Kaufman

Slippery driftwood, icebreaking mudpacks.
Garfish, mothers of cajun whores,
Laughing blood noises, at comic shrimps.
Gliding on leaves of sunken trees.

Dying love, hidden in misty Bayous
Red love, turning black, brown,
Dead in the belly, brittle womb
Of some laughing crab.

A father. Whose, mine?
Floating on seaweed rugs.
To that pearl tomb, shining
Beneath my bayou’s floor.

Dead, and dead,
And you dead too.

No more arm twisting,
Heart twisting laughter.
Dead moss, colors of sorrow.

Later in hot arms, hers,
Between sweaty lovemakings.
Crying will wet moss swamps,
Hidden beneath her arms.

Tears will wash her dirty murdered soul.
God will be called to atone for his sins.

Considered America’s foremost surrealist poet and considered America’s Rimbaud by the French (who have all of his papers in a library), much of what he writes takes more than a few readings, and some bits might take a lifetime to decode, so I best sign off and get started. I think I may have to post up Reel Three of Golden Sardine, an incredible bit of writing about “the Deathbed of the last Buffalo in Nebraska” and the bloody conquest of the West.

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