Monday, January 09, 2006

Rest in Peace-- Jerry Burns

From time to time, for about 5 years now, the face of someone from my past emerges before me like a song from a distant dream, or the faint smell of aftershave in a crowded highrise elevator. And a highrise elevator it is, memory.

Just today, I learned that this spark of light which was, at one time, tied to a body has left that body behind. Poet Jerry Burns, editor of Goliards Press, printer, roughrider in the way that Walt Whitman was, another manly cloud who I was privileged (nay, blessed) to have known, and lived with briefly, as a wee young thing, whose "PM in the AM," a poem carved from between the calves of an ornery old corpse, haunts me still.

I'm filled with sadness, Jerry, not merely for your passing at a young age, mid-50's, but that so few have had the honor, and joy, of living with your words as I have for the past 30 years.
Your last words, the ones you scribbled, by hand, on the side of a letter you wrote to me, the one that bore your lovely poem; "write, okay?" So, I write; I remember, and celebrate you, now and always. Rest in peace , Jerry Burns, for it is life, not death, that makes warriors of us, and I will rest, too, with the knowledge that where you go, the sun must follow.


The earth
as does the annual sea
is turning over.
Lost graves are purring
like a chorus of well-fed cats.
I can hear them when I put my ear
to the ground.

And the Red/Tide
glutted with white belly-up bodies
rolls along
flicking its red spray
at sea gulls
dressed as anxious doctors.

It is cold.
I know a blonde
with snow in her hair.
We have been standing here
on the edge of the cliff
for some time, now,

feeling the sea sing
and the earth shudder.

She is becoming worried.
The small space between her eyebrows
is growing ridges.

Love, I bring you oranges.

Love, in the dust of my forehead
trace the image of the truculent God
who sleeps within you.

I have come a long way, woman,
to give you
my one
black pearl."

by: Jerry Burns
Bellingham, Washington
September 29, 1969