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my father was a minor beat poet
he spent his entire adult life
on the head of a needle
around the corner from city lights

my father was a minor beat poet
he wrote poetry about people he knew
for people that never read it
on all those endless winter nights

my father was a minor beat poet
he was very young the day he died
i never got a chance to know him
so i write to him instead


My sister called today and asked how things were going. I told her I'd written another poem about dad. She was silent for a moment and then she changed the subject. She and her husband live in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. They farm strawberries there. Ponchatoula is the strawberry capitol of America. She told be about the weather, and then she hung up.

I don't remember my dad very well but I have a book of his poems. The slim collection was published decades ago by Four Seasons Press. There are a couple of other things he wrote collected in an anthology - I have that too.

Every poem I write about my dad is titled "Untitled." I don't know what else to call them.


I didn’t start writing poetry until my mother passed away. She never remarried and stayed in North Beach. She remained friends with many writers there – I used to call Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Uncle Spaghetti.”

When I was twelve I wrote a poem about a gray day. I typed it neatly on dad’s old typewriter and, without a word, handed it to mother. “I thought I’d seen everything your father had written,” she said. “Where did you find this?”

“I wrote it, mom,” I said. Mother didn’t say a word. She just walked away and we never spoke of it again.


from the sky
we carry on
and wonder why
the good die young
and still we try
from the sky


Shortly after my father died, my mother moved my sister and I from our small North Beach apartment, to an even smaller, cheaper place not very far way. Several of her friends helped her move. One of those friends was the poet, Richard Brautigan.

Richard was a very distinctive looking young man: 6’4”, 165 pounds, stoop shouldered and blond. He was rather unsophisticated and painfully shy. Richard did not in the least resemble the loud and sometimes obnoxious personalities that would keep my sister and I awake during those long but infrequent parties my parents liked to give.

After we moved, Richard began to visit my mother occasionally. They would sit in our tiny green kitchen for hours, drinking coffee and sharing the latest writer gossip. Mother always fixed sandwiches when Richard visited. “He doesn’t have a lot money,” she once told me. I got the impression that he was often hungry and that mother was looking out for him. People had a tendency to do that for Richard.

He lived alone in one of those typical turn-of-the-century apartment buildings on Geary Street, near the old Sears. Richard and his wife Virginia were separated and sometimes he would bring his daughter Ianthe when he visited. Richard never talked about his childhood or where he’d come from. It wasn’t until after his death that I learned about the poverty and abuse he suffered as a child. He was indelibly marked by it for the rest of his life. The novelist Thomas McGuane once remarked that Richard grew up a goofy kid “whose only toy was his brain.”

In October 1967, his novel “Trout Fishing in America” was published and literally overnight Richard went from obscurity to the hippie poet spokesman of a Generation. His fame and money infuriated his jealous friends, but he never forgot those that had had faith in him – like my mom. I have many wonderful late night memories of my mother and Richard dining at Enrico’s.

In 1975, Richard’s career had begun its long decline. By then he was dividing his time between his homes in Bolinas and Montana, and was beginning to spend time in Japan. His always heavy drinking was out of control. Mother passed away that year, but he didn’t attend the funeral. Richard committed suicide in 1984 at the age of 49.


is all
there is

for r.b.
1935 - 1984
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