4/28/17

Cap'n Jack Mueller 1942-2017


I will not be reduced to false clarity or
deductive explanations of a leaf, falling.
*


There was a bobcat. To protect my rodents, I scared it off.

Then came a squall of hail so fierce it pockmarked my house.
*

My Erasmus is dragging.
*

What I can't change 

changes me.
*

Time has a twin, but doesn't speak of it.

*

I am overcome by reason,

overwhelmed by song.
*

Budada is bigger than coca cola! 

*

The field is good for daisies 


and daisies for the field.

*

The world wept wooden tears

but it was already too late.
*

The degree of incongruence determines 


everything.


*

Wednesday night is like all the other nights 
Too far from dawn

To be taken seriously.      


- JM






I think it was about fifteen years ago I first met Jack.  His first words to me were, You got a good weird on you.  

Thus began a friendship between us that could only be described as delightful, peculiar, dysfunctional, cerebral, soulful, tragic, and deeply rewarding.   Jack was the quintessential San Francisco beat poet with a big ol' Blakean heart, but he always seemed to me a kindred nomad, who’d found in small town Colorada life, a place to hang his hat.

Jack often called himself Commander Robert L Jones. He came to be known to my kids as Uncle Jack. Was also known as Jack the Pack Rat.  For some years we called him The AntMan. Ahkunna Budada, according to Uche.  Sweet Jack, Rosemerry called him. He was The Heckler to those who feared him.  Art called him the Log Hill Hermit, and Danny,  the old man on the hill.  I often called him Jackie, which on bad days, really pissed him off.  Why do people insist on the diminutive, he would growl... 
On good days, he'd say, I love it when you call me that ...will you be my little sister? 

He was indeed my brother from another hatter, my drunken muse, my night owl companion, my smoking buddy, my cautionary tale, my quarrel with the patriarchy, my introverted reflection, and he was my friend.  

Later that first night of meeting Jack, I think we were in Telluride, at one of Art’s Talking Gourd’s festivals, Dan pulled out his learn'd astronomer-pointer-laser, and began directing our attention to the stars.  Jack snarled, gimme that damn thing... he wrestled it away and danced that light across the sky-- in what I thought was a remarkably adept anapestic rhythm.  

A couple of minutes later, as we all sat in a stoned haze, he said, to nobody in particular, who do you s'pose will watch the stars when we've been folded into the earth ?  


Dear Jack,

When I think of you,
I think hard knocks,
and soft shoe.  

------------------------

There were countless nights of star gazing, and poetry, and folding into the earth to follow. Jackie believed that learning was conversation, and conversation was learning.  It should be said that although most working poets are introverted, anxiety-ridden, death- obsessed, and perfectionistic, lively conversation with other introverted, anxiety-ridden, death-obsessed, perfectionists, is a kind of manna.  

Of course we all know, Perfect is the enemy of good.  


The German, the Jew, and the Arab

Out at the ranch, north of Fruita, 
after the rains, 
with Jack, Dan, and the canines again, 
before the time 

we set aside
to argue science, soul, and rhyme,
we discuss 

the various kinds of pride.  
The lion’s pride, wounded pride, 
false pride, 

the drunkard’s pride, 
the quaker’s pride, the kind of pride
that stands 

perpetually on the outside. 
Gay pride,  
silent,
 long held
festering pride, 
the grisly

egomaniacal pride, the kind 
of pride that writes on the page 

a line, 
and whispers mine, all mine.  
Long past the witching time,

through Israel and Palestine, 
Herodotus,
and Hollywood, through Neremberg

and all the broken paradigms, 
every pride was theirs, 
and mine.  
Did someone in the room decide 

there really was no need 
to argue science, soul, or rhyme.  
Not tonight.  Next time.

-------

Yes, I found myself in a strange, and familial band of misfits, obsessive compulsives, and interruptors.  

Just walking down the street with Jack was a lesson in the art of surprise.  A guy would be walking down the street with his dog, and Jackie would jump up and say, That’s MY dawg ...where’d you find him....

A man and woman walking arm and arm would be greeted with, Hey, what the hell are you doing with my wife ...

If anyone spoke with with any reverence on religion, Jack would be spit, God?  You should be so lucky.  

He was the archetypal Hermes Trismegustus, (yes, I had to get that in), known in other forms as the raven, the hare, the crossroads, and of course, coyote.  

Coyote,

We hardly know you.
Which, like coyote
nose, is the point

of all coyote glory and holy 
revelation.  In our backyard 
coyote ignores the steady, pale 
climb of the moon.

Old hat.  Done that.

Instead he picks his fights with Thor, 
the god who dares descend
and wrangle back,
bringing Coyote, minor god,

ferocious little 
deity,  
a scrap
of coyote 

dignity, and several existential 
yaps and moans closer to home.

There was no difference to Jack between being on stage and being on the street, between sitting on the park bench or at the dinner table, between the audience and the one who takes to the stage. This blending of everything, this lack of protocol and love of taboo was at the core of who he was. Free associative conversation was a large part of his budada philosophy,  and in large part, fed his poetics. Of small talk he did not put up.  He would call at all hours, three sheets to the wind, and I would hear him speaking before the phone even reached my hear: 

so ...what’s the going rate for a poem these days?  Do you haggle it out ? Is it enough to pay the mortgage ..exactly how many readers does a poet need ...or, I've been wondering ... where do you stand on syntax? Or, the deer outside my window is establishing eye contact ...it feels important somehow...call me back, or don't.  Often I’d pick up the phone to hear him mid -sentence, mid stanza, at midnight, reading to me one of my own poems.   

Jackie believed that conversation was crucial to growth, and poems were proof of life --but he also believed that metaphor was suspect, and interpretation, or seeking any kind of meaning, (in life, or in art), were at best dishonest, and at worst, a corruption and a will to power. A very Neitzchean Mah scoo leeno Beat thing, I would say to him.  

And thus it would all begin again.  Our contrary natures suited one another.  






Jack would never simply say, I love you.  Instead, he would say, I do so love you, and he’d always say it with feeling.  There wasn’t a lot Jack said without feeling.  On parting, he would often sing, thank you for lettin' me  ...be myself ..

He called the arrival of a poem, an ambush.  He spoke often of obeying the emerging form.  He was a man who took nothing for granted.  If it isn’t gratitude, he would say, it’s something else. 

When he lay dying, Jack raged like hell against the dying of that dancing light.  

I’m not done talking, he said.  I hope you'll remember me, he said, for the surly bastard that I was.  

The day before he died, he recited a passage from one of his poems: 

I am no human being until you feel
what’s left of me to love.  I will not die
until you hear me
for the second time. 

Diggi da da da

I'm watching the soundless Dalai Lama
And listening to Buddy Holly.

I should have been born a cigarette
With a drink of sweet water.

Maybe I was the "should have been" to come,
Or maybe just one more simple form

Of animal fun. 

-JM

The love of Jack’s life was his beautiful daughter, Cristina, so I'll close with a poem he wrote for her when she was young, and relatively speaking, so was he.  

Safe passage, old friend, and may the mule, and the rune, and the chickadee be with you.  with all my loof, yr little sis. 

--------


I put the kiss in my hand
and offered it to the little girl
the world calls mine.
She did not take it. 
Wanted the real thing.
I kissed her trout lips
and walked out of the bedroom,
blessed by the nonliterate work.