To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, September 13, 2021

In Memoriam Paul Blackburn (1926-1971)

To commemorate the fiftieth year today since the death of the essential poet & dear friend Paul Blackburn, I’m posting the following memorial & tribute by Jackson Mac Low, which will also appear in the new Book of the Americas, co-edited by Javier Taboada and me.


[died September 13, 1971]


Let me choose the kinds of light

to light the passing of my friend

Paul Blackburn            a poet


A pale light like that of a winter dawn

or twilight

or phosphorescence


is not enough to guide him in his passing

but enough for us to see

shadowily his last gaunt figure


how he showed himself to us

last July in Michigan

when he made us think he was recovering


knowing the carcinoma

arrested in his esophagus

had already spread to his bones


How he led us on

I spent so little time with him

thinking he'd be with us now


Amber light of regret

stains my memories of our days

at the poetry festival in Allendale Michigan


How many times I hurried elsewhere

rather than spending time with him

in his room 3 doors from me


I will regret it the rest of my life

I must learn to live

with the regret


dwelling on the moments

Paul & I shared

in July as in years before


tho amber light dims to umber

& I can hardly see

his brave emaciated face


I see Paul standing in the umber light

cast on his existence

by his knowing that his death was fast approaching


Lightning blasts the guilty dream

& I see him

reading in the little auditorium


& hear him

confidently reading

careful of his timing


anxious not to take

more than his share of reading time

filling our hearts with rejoicing


seeing him alive

doing the work he was here for

seemingly among us now


I for one was fooled

thinking he was winning the battle

so I wept that night for joy


As I embraced him after he read

I shook with relief & love

I was so happy to hear you read again


If there were a kind of black light

that suddenly cd reveal to us

each other's inwardness


what wd I have seen that night

as I embraced you

with tears of joy


I keep remembering the bolt of lightning

that slashed the sky at twilight

over the Gulf of St. Lawrence


& turned an enchanted walk with Bici

following Angus Willie's Brook

thru mossy woods nearly to its mouth


to a boot-filling scramble up thru thorn bush & spruce tangle

Beatrice guided me & I was safe

at the end of August on Cape Breton Island


but when Jerry telephoned me of your death

the lightning that destroyed

the illusion you were safe


led thru dreadful amber light

not to friendly car light

& welcoming kitchen light


but the black light of absence

not ultraviolet light

revealing hidden colors


but revelatory light that is no light

the unending light of the realization

that no light will ever light your bodily presence again


Now your poems' light is all

The unending light of your presence

in the living light of your voice

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