I wrote this on the day that Seamus Heaney died…
Seamus Heaney came to Richard Hugo House on February 4, 1999. He was in town for readings at Open Books, Elliott Bay and at the University. He was on a big tour after winning the Nobel Prize and I think he was also celebrating OPENED GROUND, his selected poems from 1966-96. Suddenly, there he was, the Nobel Laureate, the greatest English language poet since Yeats, standing in our fledgling place, a nonprofit with more imagination than actual institution, more plans than functional space. Stuff was hanging out of the walls; the upstairs bathrooms were being put in and we were trying to get it all going. I think we had five or six classes that year and the place smelled of caulking and dry wall mud. Continue reading
What Was Here Before
What of the false history, the mucky-shack torn
Away for the crimped sheetrock, uptown fountain?
I know better than to mourn the gone-by and instead
To find love in the layers of build-over. How I love
The way the trees grew into the hill, how the elm
Rotted and became the peat for saplings.
Gated communities, slapped up, flim-flam mansions,
pushed upon communities where the potlatch
once simmered—cheapened now with
real estate deals, names of the wrong things—
Manor Estates and Squaw Ridge: I despise you.
When I was nineteen, that summer,
I drove a little Honda through a tunnel
Into downtown Chicago. Onto the roof,
I’d strapped my grandmother’s old recliner chair:
Olive green, metal poking through the footrest.
I suppose nothing came from the trouble.
There were a lot of things I carried then.
I carried all of them, for everyone.