Naropa

Sitting beneath the timber rafters
Of Boulder Theater, I listened to your prayer.
Hypnotic voice of Allen, singing Kaddish.
We were all there--the Vietnam vet in dirty Levi's,
the cafe society kids high up in the balcony,
the professors' wives back from Italy with their
Summer tans. And yes, you had us again,
Jew, academic, liberal and queer alike,
faced with the same righteous questions,
"Why had we forgotten the Renaissance?
Snyder, Whalen, Kerouac? San Francisco?"

Your belly is fatter now, hair thinner, grayer,
As you sign junk-shop copies of Howl for young
grunge boys scented with patchouli and cloves,
shaking my hand like a father would.
Andrei Codrescu saying hello in black leather
jacket and glasses. The boy with the long skirt
and shaved head, offering a well-needed ride to the
Denver Bus Station, sweet cannabis and front-seat
sex almost causing me to miss the 11:40 pm bus.
And still, remembering Kaddish and the road home
to her, to Etta, my Grandmother.

Migrating inland, leaving Naropa for Alabama.
A new fifth of Jack to put me out until the city limits of
Tuscaloosa. The teen-age Hispanic mother sitting
beside me, reaching into garbage bags
stuffed with Pampers for her screaming wet Jesus,
a Greyhound crossing city boundaries
Wichita, St. Louis, Nahsville, Tupelo. Sleeping across
states and borders. Saying goodbye to Allen,
Aaron Copeland, John Denver, Billy the Kid.
Dreaming of Kaddish and my Grandmother, the smell of her:
Herbal Essence Shampoo and Estee Lauder Youth Dew.

Jeffery T. Johnson