For Jack Micheline by Bill Vartnaw

For Jack Micheline

the way my spirit works

coffee gallery, 1973
my first reading in San Francisco
you were there, Jack
one of the twenty or thirty that signed up
not the feature
“just back from New York,” you said
and took the stage
Bob Kaufman came in from the bar

you took the stage & didn’t let it go
I mean, you did your 5 minutes, maybe 7
but the stage was yours that night
I learned street
all in one 5 to 7 minute read

“O Truth do not leave me”

I was intimidated
I was burning

I was self-taught
from a small town
with little to fall back on
was blessed
made mistakes along the way

I went to university
a math major
to please my parents
to stay out of war’s way
I met others
who loved math
realized I didn’t
gave myself a test
pass/fail
professor said you pass
if you get a B on midterm or final
I aced the midterm
flunked the final
you fail, he said
I aced the midterm! I said
you must have cheated, he said
I took it as a sign
pointing to philosophy

the way my spirit works

you were a signpost too, Jack
it was your street
I could not love it as well as you
but I was drunk
“with wine, with poesie
en vertu, O votre guise”
“Beauty’s everywhere, Baudelaire”

I went another way
never got to know you
in this universe of poets,
we’d nod
you who read with Mingus on bass
would nod to anyone
—if you were in the mood
it was your street
because you loved it, lived
without fear
you who hustled picnic baskets in the snow
made skyscrapers of the heart
with escalators
that went down to a rock-bottom basement
where we all could meet
to wade in the waters
of soul
& sun
“I’ll give you color”
you said with pen & brush

& you did
till you took the train
out of town

“It’s the dead
It’s the God damn dead
It’s the dead that rule the world”

© 2007 Bill Vartnaw
English lines in quotes are Jack Micheline’s

11 Responses to “For Jack Micheline by Bill Vartnaw”

  1. a right on the money poem, Bill. Jack was one of a kind and had the ability to move people with his words and performed like no other poet I knew.

  2. i really like the tone and imagery of this piece. well done!
    thanks, winnie

  3. a beautiful and fitting tribute…respect.

  4. Bill Vartnaw Says:

    Thank you, A. D., last time I remember seeing Jack he was with you at Carol Lee’s book party at Modern Times. Thank you, Winnie. Thank you, Emotional Orphan. Much appreciated.

  5. I’m not all that familiar with Micheline but have a sense of him now – Thanks for a beauty of a piece.

  6. John Dorsey Says:

    Just a beautiful tribute.

  7. That was Jack– took the stage for 6 or 7 minutes, and set someone on fire for life… all the open roar that so many wish to be was there inside him like a printing press… his whole expression of being openly stalking this world, eyes burning bright, voice striking, and that’s all it took, 6 or 7 minutes to find the right heart, hold it fast to his own fire, and move on… a lightning bolt, a tigre’s eye… that was Jack–

  8. Yeah, Jack had that effect on many people. Hard to believe he has been gone as long as he has.

  9. gene berson Says:

    Good poem; lots of heart — other one too.

  10. Michael Tomaselli Says:

    met Micheline in Quebec City in 87 at a Kerouac conference, he read on the promenade de Champlain one afternoon, he announced it at the club the night before where he read and Graham Couronyer played pianio. Ben Gulyas and I were the only ones who showed up, one of the great events of my life. Lost touch then I tracked him down on a visit to SF, girl at the counter at City Lights said he hung out at Katz’s Bagels in the Mission, same great Jack, visited him 3 times out there, saw his room he painted, saw his collection of suitcases filled with poems, we read poems in his hotel room, he introduced us around his neighborhood as outlaws, Jack was the outlaw, his words still are stuck in me and his voice resonates in my head.

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