N  a  p a  l  m     H  e  a  l  t  h     S  p  a  :     R  e  p  o  r  t     2  0  0  9










Years after, having first read it

in Los Angeles, the copy given me

by Paul Vangelisti (who was also


shaped by the compositional

technique of it, an aspect of

Oppen’s urban evocativeness,


---“Milanese in Paul’s work,”

one Italian woman said after his

reading in a café in Venice


Beach in 1970 or so)---where

was I? O yes, I remember

Oppen in Pound’s Active Anthology


published in Italy in 1931, before

Ezra fully sank into the shit,

there was also Hemingway’s


poems Ezra published, including

an anti-fascist one, it being before,

like I said, Pound went to the dogs.


And Reznikoff and Zukofsky also

were included---where was I?

Well, in fact, not yet born,


that’d be a couple of years later,

and 17 more after that before

I’d find the anthology in the old


CCNY library and for the first time

met Oppen, at least got to know

his work: in those days after WWII


when Stalin was still alive and the

war in Korea was raging, when

those McCarthy shit witch-hunters



came scaring on through, George

and Mary, who’d been red before

even his books had been, split to


Mexico. Stalin was dead. There’d

be a black hole (except on 52nd St.

where the Bird still flew) and then,


after a few years of underground

breathing, from way out West, on

Montgomery St. in San Francisco,


the big Babe Ruth of the bad Cold

War, blew, with his Howl, the wig

of poetry off its old bald head.





There are voices that surround cities,

gather their meanings, identify with

them if only to engorge them and then


spit ‘em out in dragon-flame unfurls.

That was Allen’s New York, booming

and dramatically inexhaustible., all


stops out for

God’s ham.



But the New York that’s not one man’s

titanic resurface, the New York that

was given me by Vangelisti in El Aye


---and which is also El Aye and Cleveland

and Tokyo---was written (by George)

by George Oppen.


It was Of Being Numerous. That was

the poem of mass and energy, the affirming

notes of our being here in an age of


numbers and things, on streets with buildings

of towering glass, where a pair of lips could

be painted as above so below, and suicide


evoked decades hence, yet being a poem about

the light at the core of one’s being present in

daily hourly instantaneous ways,


minimally maxed out to the nth degree

of tough-speaking steel and crisp, discreet

line-breaks, ellipses and elisions of language


conscious of being of this and not another age.

A master of evocations allowing letting-be

to go on being, walking with memory of the


future until he could remember no more, and

found that other beginning where Mary’s or

daughter Linda’s hand took his forgetfulness


for a stroll in the Polk Street or Russian Hill

or North Beach sunshine, a different sun

in each of those zones, for that tallish


distinguished-looking man who’d revealed

metropolis in the precise and crisp turn of

the page on a bus, or the sound of a cap


being twisted off a bottle of Pepsi-cola.

A people, peoples can remember what they

will be, dipping into the waters of his mastery.


We’re the members of that mystery objective

to forgetting, put together with the lines of his

poems, those deathlessly shining bright limbs.





                  in memory of Rainer Maria Gerhardt




In living suicide

begun at the end

of the death of Death,

nazi-wide, which begat

a Rainer Maria

who wasn’t in flight

from castle to baroness

but scavenging for food in

charred Freiburg streets:


a young poet, father of two,

all three with Renate

in a single room, like Jasmine

the Burmese, her Mexican

husband and three small 

children in the corner room

of this slummy old San

Francisco hotel where 60

years later I write  


of Rainer Maria Gerhardt,

all of 23, an ex-hitler-jugend

army teen who’d  fled

to Tito’s partisans…

Soundwhere along the way

(okay, I’ll give that fascist

bastard Ezra his due,

who’d hooked him up

with Creeley, then Olson),


a scintilla broke out, burst into

a pulsion in the brokenness 

he was dead broke in,

everything and one seeming

unmendably ripped, torn,

and slowly hope got broken in

and beginning glowed with

ein neu zeichen zu aufbruch

ein alt zeichen zu untergang,



with unknown, projective

possibilities emerging from

that Zero. No peace rallies

in the American Zone,

not because there weren’t

but because there was Not.

There wasn’t even food or

coal for the stove. One was

next to Nothing, literally.





When, lo, a hectograph

(purple gelatinous print

words came out in

the form of) turned up,

and Fragmente,

the name he gave his

projected international

magazine (“pages for

friends”) was born.


Letters coming in got

answered, yes, fresh

poems, new friends,

in France, England

and America, scripts for

radio to maybe earn cash

for Renate and the boys,

and keep on bringing out

Fragments, the same title 


as my first 4 pp chapbook

of poems, self-published

in Manhattan, 75 copies, a

couple of weeks (without

my knowing him, his work)

after he turned the gas-jet

on himself for 20 million

reasons, shame, humiliation, 

not a pfennig in his clench.


Youth rallies in the East.

Peace hearts aglow. In

the West those who wouldn’t

couldn’t didn’t, so Tart-Hartley

got passed, Robeson literally

stoned, Bob Kaufman’s black-

jewish brains beaten in Texas

organizing, kon-konsume-kon-

sumerism the only prophet in town.


“I’m in love with her but she

gives me nothing flat. Gonna kill

myself so she know where it’s at.

I get my way or I jump in the Bay.

Rubble and ruin, rubble and ruin.”

“Zero, Zero you’re our hero sand-

wich you can’t eat. You can huff,

you can puff. We just don’t do

rough stuff in our lilac panties”


“He took such care with things.”

“They gave us their bed and slept

on the floor” “I’ve never known

a man so giving of himself, so

determined.” “The last year he’d

sit by himself in the park, where

I’d go for what moments he could

speak, or work trying to continue

all he had undertaken…Now


my terrible news I just blow it out.

Rainer died the 27th of July in the

early afternoon. The completely

desperate situation in which he was

with all our work---financially---and

lots of personal troubles (maybe I’ll

be able to tell you at a later time) put

his life to an end, unexpected, all of a

sudden, even for himself.”





Who wrote Gesang des Jungling ins

Feuerofen, dreamed the 1st post-war

internationale of poetry to lighten

woe-loads from deaths piled in

the darkest dust ever mined as human

bitumen by human hands, shame

on the fingers lifting even a morsel

of bread without sharing the bite

of every moment in this hell. 


And with a little help from friends

got down to the breath-bones

Olson was shaking, recognized, in a

brotherly identity, the Care Creeley

would become the poet of for my

generation, through decades of wars,

race rage, another new order of

technological mass-death, celebrity

mish-mashed together with


the rock the sex the roll the drugs

the sex and roll and old rock Sisyphus

up to the contradictions as all  verbotens

now are buyable and permitted at the

push of a button, with sightings and

visions of the new millennium’s Union

of Europe, as Junger had projected in his

“Peace”, which would grow with consum-

ate irony like a couple of smoking towers. 


O this All so long ago, and as if no more

than the instant he lived and then began

another sojourn, with the earth Charles

despairingly gave him in his elegy,

and Robert’s: “that it is one’s friend and

one is helpless about it”. And my own

late realization, amid the ruins,

he’d been a kindle-wood of ur-sparks

for the multilingual future of poetry,


and perhaps it wasn’t just synchrony

that poets the world over sounded 

their divers tongues at the Palace

of Fine Arts in San Francisco on

the very July evening of the day

Rainer Maria Gerhardt took his life

and left its meaning growing a 

monumental presence of poetry

in his suicided wake.