Monday, May 9, 2016


We were friends in the 1960s and '70s, but some of my left turns and radical changes left him a little bewildered with where I was going and what I intended in my life and work. I always admired him and his activism and poetry, and always loved him as a sincere and deeply feeling decent human.

I'm sorry we didn't stay in touch in later decades, but have sweet memories of working with him on getting one of my dearest friend's poetry published in a slim volume years after his, Ralph Dickey's, death and how grateful I was to Michael for making that happen. A beautiful cat, may he rest in poetry.

And here's one of his poems:

Here Where Coltrane Is By Michael S. Harper

Soul and race 
are private dominions,   
memories and modal 
songs, a tenor blossoming, 
which would paint suffering   
a clear color but is not in   
this Victorian house 
without oil in zero degree 
weather and a forty-mile-an-hour wind; 
it is all a well-knit family:   
a love supreme.
Oak leaves pile up on walkway 
and steps, catholic as apples 
in a special mist of clear white   
children who love my children.   
I play “Alabama” 
on a warped record player 
skipping the scratches 
on your faces over the fibrous   
conical hairs of plastic 
under the wooden floors. 

Dreaming on a train from New York   
to Philly, you hand out six 
notes which become an anthem 
to our memories of you: 
oak, birch, maple, 
apple, cocoa, rubber. 
For this reason Martin is dead; 
for this reason Malcolm is dead; 
for this reason Coltrane is dead; 
in the eyes of my first son are the browns   
of these men and their music.

[PS: Michael Harper's obituary has not appeared online, so my source for his passing may have been premature, in which case I apologize to all and especially to Michael.]

[PPS: Just informed by old friend poet Bob Berner that Michael did pass on Saturday with his children present and Coltrane being played in the background.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lal--Wikipedia lists Saturday as the date of Michael Harper's death. But neither the NY Times nor the Providence Journal had an obit. How did you find out Michael had died? And do you know anything about a funeral? Pax. Bob B.