Category Archives: people

My Lawrence Ferlinghetti Story, part 2

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.

3/25/14

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

no lie
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

intimidated maybe
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
© 2014

From Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine

The poem, “Ferlinghetti Speaks” is in My Ferlinghetti Story, part 1

Steep Street to the Bridge, San Francisco, Copyright 2007, Margaret Dubay Mikus

Prompted by Blake’s Question

4/5/20

Prompted by Blake’s Question

in this time of mandatory stay at home

For Stephen

We do what we can
to laugh, to love
to live another day.

And when we learn better
hopefully we do better.
How have you and I stayed

together 48+ years—still friends?
Once the question is out there
I’ve been thinking back

to the roller coaster
our constant notes written and left
to find, funny, sometimes thoughtful

sometimes informative, touching base.
The times we might have split
but worked through it

the relentless medical challenges
job stresses, raising two kids
personal growth, changing, not always

in perfect parallel aligned
“and if I fall behind, wait for me.”
But here we are together

almost half a century after that first January
when we sat side by side in the front row
the first day of a college literature class

had our first conversation of countless many.
Here we are still interested
still laughing, watching out for each other

still loving.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2020

From my poetic journal, a reminder that this week (Jan 17, 1972) is celebrating 49 years together. The quote is a reference to a Bruce Springsteen song.

Unexpected Wave, CA Beach, by M D Mikus, Copyright 2013

After the Wave, taken by Stephen Mikus 2013

Tough Cookie–Ethel Polk

8/12/18

Tough Cookie

Last night at dinner,
animated and laughing, she said
her cheeks were swollen and red
with a sinus infection
the time she was supposed to
meet Billie Holiday.
And a guy, possibly a musician,
maybe a manager, in any case,
he had a remedy that involved
smoking something, which she did
and it made her nose run,
but Billie Holiday did not come.

This was after Ethel had fallen earlier
that evening, injuries unknown but stiffening,
after the folk concert to which we all had gone,
after the extra help to get out of the car,
the painful short walk to the table.

After the century of living,
working, remembering, loving, and losing,
picking up after each fall, healing,
continuing to live, to connect,
relishing food, red wine, people, music,
near blind, but the next day
having a guest for brunch.

After the congenial dinner at Shokran
one woman got her standing,
kept her from the broken glass,
two strong men helped her walk out,
carefully, no rush, to the waiting car at the curb,
one woman carried her bag,
one willing woman held the door,
another kind man drove the car.

“Why do so many people help me?”
she said she’d asked
and the answer came back:
“because they love you!”
And she’d replied, “Am I worthy?”
And I would say to that:
We are all worthy
we are all loved.

As you ask, it is answered,
whatever you’ve sent out
returns multiplied.
And…people like to help—
makes us feel less helpless.
Grace is not earned but given
freely to everyone
not just to Ethel at 101.
Who knows the purpose of a day,
every astonishing one
until our allotted time is run?

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2018

And the rest of the story: Ethel Polk ended up in the ER that night where they found she had broken her hip! She had surgery and recovered, continuing to live vibrantly.

Until yesterday, when she died at the hospital from several things, including COVID. She is already dearly missed.

Sun Through Orchid, Copyright 2013 M D Mikus

Still Time

10/27/20

Still Time

Inspired by an incredibly talented woman
(from Wei’s post)

Quietly watching
the light come back
into the world
In midst of these times
patient
if not trusting
willing to wait and see
before jumping headlong
into the dark uncertainty
Find some ground
plant feet firmly
You are that ground
for me
And you out there
are the ground for somebody

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2020

An offering from my poetic journal.

November Sunset, M D Mikus, Copyright 2018

Amanda Palmer: Song in Progress

10/18/17

Amanda Palmer: Song in Process

what do you most fear, part 2

Every fear
ever invented
is stuck in
someone’s throat
as if
everything is darkness

All the fears
loneliness, isolation
not-enoughness
the doom of the times
we seem to be in
and yet…

on the good days
we breathe
on the good days
sun shines or rain
falls on the wild fires
on the good days
we can sleep and wake
before we remember fear

And the bad days
we all have
we won’t speak of here
but to acknowledge them
as part of universal life

As I scroll down this list
of over a thousand comments
not reading each word
but blessing each
vulnerable human

who took the time
to write on the chance
it would matter
to someone reading
or someone praying
or someone writing a song.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2017

IL Route 22, Sept. 2017, copyright MDMikus