Revising a Brautigan Poem

December 30, 2007

My poem, Hamburger Cemetery (on this blog) was written about Richard Brautigan. I discovered him in high school, introduced by my creative writing teacher. He had quite a following in those days despite what Ferlinghetti said about him being a minor poet. I wrote that poem after I discovered Brautigan had died by a self inflicted gunshot.

I had lost touch with his work for years as he drifted off the shelf and I drifting away from poetry. A few years back, I saw on the internet he had passed. So, what do poets do when another poet dies?–we write. I had struggled with the original ending —

I wish he had been hungry

for a hamburger instead.

A.D. Winans told me it was too easy for him…it is easy. It may have even been cute, but not the close I wanted. It may have been too Brautigan. Never try to out Brautigan, Brautigan–same thing with Bukowski. It doesn’t feel the same. It becomes forced like internet sonnets.

The new ending relates on different levels and goes well with “Trout Fishing in America,” a book Ferlinghetti could have never written (I was told).

So, in revising the ending, I came up with the “Making Clouds” poem (on this blog too). Another poem about him. But, it stood better by itself rather than tagged on the end of “Hamburger Cemetery.”

Finally, in the middle of sleep last night, a new ending to  Hamburger it came to me. I wrote it down by my bed. I revised it seven times before I reached:

We should be taught the pull

of a trophy fish

rod tip bending

line stretched tight

just before

it’s gone.

Some Brautigan fans like the original ending better.  So, I guess if you write for writers, you are always revising.

It is soon to be a new year, and maybe my Brautigan poems are finished/maybe not. Again, new poets will discover his work, become fans, and write Brautigans because they are good for you. Old poets like me will miss his word magic and wit.



Making Clouds

December 29, 2007



“All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds.”

–Richard Brautigan



for Richard


As men,

we sit with the night sky

counting constellations,

collecting westcoast dreams like

too many children chasing lightning bugs

with cupped hands.

As poets,

we struggle with the last stanza

wanting it perfect, but

never really connecting

the dots.

Grandma Pearl

December 29, 2007


Standing outside the old

J.C. Penneys,

Hamilton, Missouri.

Barn-wood face

faded print dress

over a bent frame.

Knee-hose rolled

watches tourists

tying down

genuine Amish buggy wheels


 “Now they’ll go stick ‘em

in the ground,” she tells me.

“Somedays it’s better than

a picture show.”


December 22, 2007



Brush covered caves call
home the ghosts.
Night eyes follow her retreat.
Scrub oaks block the wind
Sentries on the path
that brought her there.

A whippoorwill echoes
off the hills.

Webs glimmer and bounce.
boundaries stretched
like moonlight through
the leaves
right before they fall.

Hamburger Cemetery (Revised ending)

December 20, 2007


So the wind won’t blow it all away

–Richard Brautigan


do you know

that Please Plant This Book

Goes for $1500 on



gave it away for free.

Critics said someday everyone

would be writing Brautigans

that Brautigan is good for you.

You should have bought

a hamburger from Baudelaire

at Big Sur

that day


the .44 shells and bottle

of Jack Black left

in dead


You should be trout fishing

in America

casting broken


in Rembrandt Creek

still tying wet flies

& dry flies

together with metaphors


We should be taught the pull

of a trophy fish

rod tip bending

line stretched tight

just before

it’s gone.


Casting Shadows

December 5, 2007




Jill May

followed the wrong dream

traded family albums for cardboard

and crack pipes.

Alcatraz fog

slips in steals shadows

surrounds her.

Turning tricks

on Jones Street

scoring the next fix

of crack

or smack.

“You know, I’m gonna clean up soon,”

she grinned.



in doorways

wrapped in mist–ragged blankets,

she slides the needle

in her neck

the best place to relieve

the cold shiver

the crack hunger

the throwing up

of dumpster food.

Dealers see her

talking to cops

debts unpaid

trying to clean up


they found her

doused with gas



a burnt cross,

casting a shadow

on a black wall.