Some poems insist on being sent to the one who inspired them. I try to follow that impulse, but sometimes I lose track. My poem, “Ferlinghetti Speaks,” was one of those. It was written in 2002, but I didn’t send it to him until 2014.
The push to send it was his 95th birthday and the sense that time was running out to do it. Probably urged by my voice teacher, Kip, I emailed City Lights Booksellers (begun years back by Ferlinghetti in San Francisco) to see if that was the best address to send my poems inspired by him. The staff got back to me in 1 1/2 days: “Yes, if you send them c/o the store, they will be passed on to him. Thanks.”
Encouraged, I wrote a short letter and mailed it with the two poems (the one below included). I did not hear back, but that wasn’t the point. I did what I felt strongly I wanted / needed to do and that was enough. I wanted to tell someone that they inspired me, that who they were or what they did or wrote mattered, enough to take my time to tell them.
I felt so strongly about this, wanting to avoid regrets, as alluded to in this poem, because of previous experiences when I waited too long. So here is the second poem I sent to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, part of my honoring his passing.
Someone Posted on Facebook
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is 95 today
and I never did send him that poem he inspired
by his inspired reading in Chicago that day
that turned the compass needle sideways and
the streets in the Loop ran in perpendicular directions
until things settled down out of the long shadows
out back in the sun, back in touch
with the ground and the somewhere blue sky.
I considered sending him the poem
considered writing the back story
even tracked down the San Francisco address
of City Lights Booksellers
but each time I talked myself out of it
or not high enough on the crowded list
or waves of life knocking me flat sometimes.
You would think I’d learned after Vonnegut’s death,
and Susannah’s, how the good ideas, the kindnesses
left undone are the things later that haunt you
not every day, but sometimes.
Margaret Dubay Mikus
The poem, “Ferlinghetti Speaks” is in My Ferlinghetti Story, part 1