Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fool Poem

April Fool Birthday Poem for Grandpa
by Diane di Prima

Today is your

birthday and I have tried

writing these things before,

but now

in the gathering madness, I want to

thank you

for telling me what to expect

for pulling

no punches, back there in that scrubbed Bronx parlor

thank you

for honestly weeping in time to

innumerable heartbreaking

italian operas for

pulling my hair when I

pulled the leaves off the trees so I’d

know how it feels, we are

involved in it now, revolution, up to our

knees and the tide is rising, I embrace

strangers on the street, filled with their love and

mine, the love you told us had to come or we

die, told them all in that

Bronx park, me listening in

spring Bronx dusk, breathing stars, so glorious

to me your white hair, your height your fierce

blue eyes, rare among italians, I stood

a ways off looking up at you, my grandpa

people listened to, I stand

a ways off listening as I pour out soup

young men with light in their faces

at my table, talking love, talking revolution

which is love, spelled backwards, how

you would love us all, would thunder your anarchist wisdom

at us, would thunder Dante and Giordano Bruno, orderly men

bent to your ends, well I want you to know

we do it for you, and your ilk, for Carlo Tresca,

for Sacco and Vanzetti, without knowing

it, or thinking about it, as we do it for Aubrey Beardsley

Oscar Wilde (all street lights

shall be purple), do it

for Trotsky and Shelley and big/dumb


Eisenstein’s Strike people, Jean Cocteau’s ennui, we do it for

the stars over the Bronx

that they may look on earth

and not be ashamed. 

Photo of Diane di Prima, 1997, by David Short
Special Note: This is a great poem that has provoked many a discussion. What I like so much about this poem is that she uses her  "Feminist Beatnik" to give voice to a loving memory of her grandfather. Some say that the title twists the poem’s meaning somewhat, raising the question of her sincerity, but the memory of her grandfather’s consciousness clearly influenced the directions she has taken in her own life. 

April Fool Birthday Poem for Grandpa is a bit different from her collection called  Revolutionary Letters.

Diane di Prima was named Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 2009. She has been awarded the National Poetry Association’s Lifetime Service Award and the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement and has also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Committee on Poetry, the Lapis Foundation, and the Institute for Aesthetic Development. St. Lawrence University granted her an honorary doctorate. Click here for one of my favorite interviews of Diane.


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