A heart felt thank you to filmmaker Curtis Choy, a reverent nod to writer, warrior and spiritual being, Carlos Bulosan; I've been reading his book American is in the Heart since Saturday night. And for my friend Al Robles, who has this week been called "urban saint" and "Confusionist" -- everybody's Brother, and for memories which allowed themselves through the sadness and upsetness. Here are two pieces. The first is for Al. The second for those of us left behind.
To be read in the Fireplace Room at Tule Lake Pilgrimage, 2010
Because you wrote on paper bags, scraps. and the last time,
on connected sheets of paper towels,
furling to the floor as you read to us,
Because you wrote about cedar trees
Your voice softened with Love
Because of all that,
I decided I wanted to tell you about a Tribal People
Right there in California.
It seemed you’d understand.
I wanted you to see the meteor showers from Coonrod Meadow on Mt. Shasta,
Take you up to where the water gushes from the roots of sugar pine
halfway up Cold Spring Mountain
And you would cup the icy spring water in your hands
and pat some on your head and heart and drink deeply.
I wanted to show you, along the McCloud River,
In the middle of the campground a fig tree grows
And the peach, the plum trees -- all planted by Granny’s father,
Proof that her People lived along the river long before there was a dam
A damned dam that stopped the Big Fish from coming Home
And drowned the Homes of the people who know the Fish by their true name
And still sing to them today.
I just knew you’d want to be there.
I walked up to you through the crowd to tell you,
But before I could open my mouth
You asked me, “Did you know a monk came to live in my kitchen?
I mean it. He came in my front door, into my kitchen and said, ‘I’m going to live here’ and I said to him, ‘Live here? In my kitchen?!?’ “
I followed word for word your story
About the monk who moved into your kitchen
And lived there for many months or was it years
After first, he cooked a meal.
I didn’t know I was learning from a Confusionist at the time,
But it all made sense to me:
You never closed doors
And each human being is an adventure waiting to be joined.
Another time at Tule Lake, you said we should go to Manzanar sometime.
And we will.
Before we boarded our buses to go home last summer
You told Shizue to bring sheet music next time so she could sing.
You would play the piano.
It was all planned.
You told me to write a poem to read in the Fireplace Room.
“We’ll ALL do it,” you emphasized, demonstrating a big circle with your arms.
But before I could, you went on the biggest adventure of them all
And now you are All and All is Al.
I’ll see you in the meteor showers at Coonrod Meadow, Al.
Or in the quiet hours at Manzanar when I finally make it there.
In the cold morning dawn of the high desert
Following Peter Yamamoto’s t’ai ch’I moves --
I’ll see you there too --
In that breeze that tickles our nose while we try to hold that tricky pose.
If you succeed to make us stumble, we will laugh, skyward.
I am sad, I grieve
But, today, it made me smile and laugh out loud,
I know Al is All
And All is Al.
You’re here and everywhere.
From Misa (Joo) of Tule Lake Pilgrimage
How Did It Happen?
So I’ve been wondering how it happened.
All the elders he revered and adored,
Did he see them?
Did he see the old salmon runs,
The giant stands of ancient trees?
Did he see the pristine streams,
And rivers running wild?
Did he see all that
Through the Light separating us?
If he saw Jesus,
He saw himself
And in a moment’s flash
Did he see himself
Being able to help a little more
Because time’s getting tougher here
On this suffering Earth.
If anyone starts making Saint Al medals,
I’ll be first in line to get me one.
I’ll wear it close to my heart.
May 3, 2009
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