howl, too... for Uncle Bob

Dear Uncle Bob- It's been ten years since you died on Valentine's Day, 2003... two years after your sister, my mom, died on the Ides of March, 2001. The eldest and youngest of four phenomenal siblings. You were a true blessing after mom died, really stepping in and being there for me during the most difficult time of my life.

We had a little gathering a few days ago to celebrate you - your kids, three of your grandchildren, aunt Dorothy, uncle David and myself - sharing stories and poems and songs. And what was most evident in the celebration was that, in everything you did as a father, professor, friend, uncle, brother, partner, person, you always walked the world with love. You most definitely didn't end up "simply having visited this world," as your favorite poet Mary Oliver wrote so eloquently in, "When Death Comes."

I've been trying to think of what to write about you that would be fitting for such an extraordinary person who made such an indelible, positive, loving mark on the world. Honestly I haven't been able to come up with anything that feels right. However, I realized that a poem I wrote back in 2007 felt good to share. I wrote it after hearing uncle David read Allen Ginsberg's epic poem "Howl" to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its First Amendment verdict. I was so moved I had to go home early and write, write, write. And this is what I came up with. Even though it's a few years hence, Uncle Bob, I hope you enjoy it, wherever you are.

Remember, you were - and still are - a walking vision of light and love.

with love always, erin

howl, too
this is no mere frustration.
this is
an Epic Love Poem- to the soul, the human soul, the baby soul, the old soul,
the soul of the earth, the bees, the elephants and the air.
no mere CRY in the NIGHT, no little growl howl
but world-wrenching, corporate-personhood-smashing, boot-in-the-wall
of Love howl
this is a poem of LOVE
of the biggest deepest hardest angriest fiercest heaviest kindest inyourfacest rawest softest slammingest kind of love there is
a punk rock death metal screamatthetopofyourlungsdrumsmashingskywrenchingguitarscreamendlessrant
of Love
a poem of Love so BIG so DEEP and so ANGUISHED because I can’t keep ANY of it OUT,
it ALL gets in
a heart like a radar dish – no filter, no walls, no way to sift the goodbadlightdarkrightwrongbeautifuluglyspiritualmaterialallnothing
it all gets in and works works WORKS the mind the heart the psyche
no wonder we drinkshootupworklikefiendspoppillsfuckstrangerscutburn
shopshopshop watch endless hours of crap on tv,
ads designed to numb the critical thinking process so we will continue to drinkshootupworklikefiendspoppills
loving so much
we howl at ALL of it, helpless to help
whatdowedonext? whatdoidonext? what do I do?
listen, in wonder, in awe, in complete and total empathy
watch, with love, admiration, aching for more
germinate, conceive, build, design, scheme, domylittletinybestpart
to expresssharegivedobe LOVE
for the ones whose hearts are SO BIG they can’t stand it
for those whose eyes see but who don’t know how to speak the visions
the endless visions of wracking pain around every corner everywhere we walk
the waitress working her second job at the Made-Rite raising two boys all alone with NO FUCKING TIP from mrs. new york senator
the polar bear swimming swimming swimming to find a chunk of melting ice on which to rest his beautiful white fragile body
the boy who is so fucking sensitive he writes words in his arm with a needle so he doesn’t have to feel the pain of simply being ALIVE in a place where he can NOT be himself without ridicule or neglect
the girl who sits in her English class listening to poetry written by white people about something she cannot even RELATE to because she has NO IDEA how she’s going to get enough money to feed herself and her baby
the trees that lay dying in a pile in a patchwork of bare brown earth, weeping pitch, weeping unheard cries of anguish at the emptiness of the machinery       the machinery
the mother who watches her child of five hit over 100 on the scale and wonders why
and doesn’t get it
the children who get suspended for standing up for themselves because they’re black in a southern school and we’re still living in a fuckedupracistcountry
the boy who wears wristbands not because he is on the basketball team but to cover three clean lines attempting unsuccessfully to end it all it hurts so much
the girl who says, “sure” to a bump of meth because there’s nothing better to do on a long, long bus ride
the teachersartistswaitressespoetsprofessorswriterscounselorstruckdriversactivists tourguidesstudentswindowwashersfarmershousecleanersbeggarspeoplehumanbeings
people people people
who love care anguish cry wail weep grieve rant listen hold and say nothing
people are dying, dying
while i sit here and listen and be MOVED
in the comfort of my (mostly) very white privilege
we are ALL hypocrites
i drive home in my car burning the skeletons of ancient leaves and creatures
crying weeping for the loss of them all
for the loss of innocence
while little black boys high on godknowswhat with nicknames like babykiller and slash watch their own sisters aunties and cousins in sierra leone being raped by their new “fathers” and then chop off their arms laughing empty haunted laughter
in voices much too old for their years
while men and women in suits and hose negotiate lives like car deals and our government vetoes a good bill because it’s too expensive while starting a war that costs more than that every month… and that’s only the cost in dollars…
while factories that make endless useless plastictoysgamesgadgetshouseholdgoods spill sludge into rivers that once ran wild and are now thick ponds of oilygunkfishfloatingbirdssinkingtreesleaningsmelllikesewer all the time
while girls walk runways dying for beauty sell their souls for fifteen minutes of fame and lend their names to beautyproductsdrugsforsexplasticbodyparts and what? a grape and a glass of Perrier
while we all watch and ask who started this motherfucking (and I mean that literally) corporatebullshit earthraping childripping capitalistmindfuckcrap
while it snows in summer, rains in the desert, currents reverse themselves
while we call freedom dying for our country in a war that has nothing to do with freedom
while we watch and do as much as we can but not nearly enough and it goes on and on, dries up the aral sea, kills the oaks, burns our skin, irradiates nevada, turns rice fields into mine fields, blows away the topsoil, sucks the life out of every place that has life left
and yet
i am with you in the cutting of your belly to remove the cancerous growth that would have you for itself and the healing of the deep scars and the courage fighting and no giving up
i am with you in the depth of darkness of the loss of one most dear, of the howlhowl mothermoan cry “where is she now? i don’t know what to do” where is the ceiling of my house?
where are the arms that used to hold me?
i am with you in the searing jagged edged cut of yet another loss of one so dear, the patriarchwatcherpeacemakerwriterunclebrotherfather
we all loved so much
i am with those souls flying down from hundreds of feet above, standing on the sidewalk, ground zero, weeping at the only thing left from a day’s tragedy, a set of stairs, the voices screaming, the people running down one another to get away from the terror, the terror
i more than ache
i am with you in your last hour of life, after years of suffering, of the bruises, the lesions, the stigma, the stench, the honor, the fight, the “oh mary’s”
and you were loved
i am with you as you lay dying in a hospital in burma from internal bleeding no one could detect because they made you swallow glass and sent you home
you had no useful information
i am with you as you walk the streets in capetown surrounded by black boys who are there to protect you and I am there with them, too, for they need mothers and fathers and aunties and uncles to
sweep them into their arms
i am with you as you take your last few breaths, allowing me the deepest honor of stroking your beautiful wild head without fear of being bitten
you trusted me
and i thank you for that
i am with you in the middle of the night, screaming screaming with no help, holding you tight and swearing i’ll never let you go even when it’s so so hard to bear the ferocity of angerpassionconfusion, the torture in your fragile mind honing you to a fine point of
and understanding.
i am with you always, even when you are in Africa, in Cambodia, in Guatemala, homesick in Salamanca, in the depths of despair in your own room, alonealone
wherever you are i am there i am here i am always here
and so
it is holy
all of it holy holy holy holy holy
i am a walking vision of love and light and reclamation
of what could be what has been what is
and what has yet to be
there is a choice
immediateontheedge of a knife westand
on the edge of a knife we
and it is holy
no other place is as holy as this moment
and this moment
and this moment
grateful grateful grateful
remember this
you are a walking vision of love and light and reclamation
of what could be what has been what is
and what has yet to be
there is nootherchoice but to dowhatwehavetodo
that is
and it is holy
no other time is as holy as this place
and right here
and right here
remember this
we are walking visions of love and light and reclamation
of what could be what has been what is
and what has yet to be


and it is holy