Questions I never got to ask Dan Lund

Did you like knock-knock jokes?

Were you, like me, Gramsci’s long term optimist and short term pessimist?

What rituals from childhood did you hang onto for dear life?

In order to think, did you need to whistle or hum?

Did signing a check require your tongue to be in the left corner of your mouth?

Did you dream en espanol?

How did you become so Mexican and stay so gringo?

Did you lose or find yourself in the films that obsessed you?

My perversely naïve Obama poem – why did you like it?

Kids with wings – what magic trick did you and Cristina perform? 

Where did you put your mistakes – into the pit of oblivion or the gnaw of remorse?

Did you ever get over the death of your parents?

Did you despair as our dreams were miserably defeated, hijacked and hollowed out? 

What was Utopia's address in your heart of hearts?

You who risked your life fighting the system, was there something or someone that terrified you?

Surrounded by love, did loneliness stalk you?
Did self-doubt take you out to the woodshed for a good beating?

What music reduced you to tears?

Why did you consider me a friend, me who knew so little about friendship until nearly the end?

Did you know you were changing history when you were changing history?

Why did you never stop laughing?
                                                                                                  -- Vancouver, November 19, 2010

This harebrained scheme of yours

For Orson, on the way

This harebrained scheme of yours:
Being born

Have you thought it through?
Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?
Have you made a list of pros and cons?

Well, here’s Grandpa’s list
And if you’re like me
You’ll want the bad news first:

1.      Let’s cut to the chase
Like the rest of us, you will die
Mortality’s part of the deal
Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise
Pay attention to this little detail from the start
Even if the ending seems far off, improbable

2.      You will never be given a map
You will be a seeker
You will go where you are going
Without a compass
Getting lost is part of the arrangement
Like it or not

3.      Heavy lifting awaits you
You will have lots of genetic baggage to carry
Our species is still climbing down from the trees
Learning to walk on two legs
You will stumble
You will learn about getting up
By falling down

4.      The Earth will be your home
But you’ll never own it
Even your body won’t belong to you
You’ll rent like the rest of us
And you’ll be sorely tempted
Life long
To destroy it

And now (drum-roll)
And now (trumpets)
Here’s the good news:

1.      For the important things
Life’s default setting
Is mostly automatic
Breathing, growing, seeing, longing
Just happen
You won’t have to lift a finger
Piece of cake!

2.      You will be one of the lucky ones
Loved into loving
Flown into flying
Laughed into laughing
You will feel beyond your fingertips
See beyond your sight
You will accumulate great wealth
Giving yourself away

3.      You will be
An everyday Gandhi
A Conscientious Objector
To the war against life
To the destruction of the planet

4.      The Great Mysteries await you
And you will adore and unravel them
With art and science

5.      You will have the great honor
Of being no different
No better
Than your six billion blood brothers and sisters
Not much different, even
And certainly no better
Than firefly, elephant and night-blooming jasmine

Welcome now
Sweet one
Orson Benjamin
Welcome home!

-- Vancouver, October 28, 2010

Orson Benjamin Wesley Cohen, 10 lbs 10 oz

Your grand entrance
On the night
We turned back the clocks
For an hour of extra light

Your coming weighty into the world
On the night of
Milk's Big Dipper

Your having made the mammalian passage
Into Dan's hands
And onto Sarah's breast

Into and onto our loving

You instantly wise to breathing and seeing

So starts your history
Your jump onto the calendar

Know-nothing know-it-all

Staking a claim to space and time

Bringing your sweet say-so
Your yes and your no
Into the spinning of the world
Adding your voice to the chorus

Bringing extra light
To the dark and awestruck world

                           -- Vancouver, 7:01 a.m., November 7, 2010

Oh, the torment bred in the race

(The results of the midterm elections in the U.S. reminded me of this passage from Aeschylus' THE LIBATION BEARERS)

Oh, the torment bred in the race,
      the grinding scream of death
         and the stroke that hits the vein,
   the hemorrhage none can staunch, the grief,
the curse no man can bear.

But there is a cure in the house,
      and not outside it, no,
         not from others but from them,
   their bloody strife.

We sing to you,
dark gods beneath the earth.
Now hear, you blissful powers underground—
   answer the call, send help.
Bless the children, give them triumph now.