Monday, August 31, 2009

My Friend the Poet - Ron Goodman

     Ronald Goodman, a friend of mine and my husband's passed away several years ago. We met him on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. He was teaching at Sinte Gleska Indian college. Ironically, we found he had known artist and writer M.C. Richards, then living Kimberton Hills Camphill Village (near our home).  He had been part of the Modernist intentional community,  The Land, near Stony Point, NY. He also researched and wrote a book, Star Knowledge--with several Lakota people.

He sent this little note to us with the last book of poetry.

Dear Friends,
I hope you are well and will fnd some of these poems to your liking. Each time I finish a poem, I think will do something—like bring peace onto the earth, end pollution or domestic violence—later, I just hope it will give friends like you some small delight.

Cheers, Ronald.

This is the last poem in the last book he sent to us.

Mencius

When I was twenty and twenty-one
I felt quite sure that justice
Would grow like radishes
And that equality and fraternity
Would be companion plants
Around which all of us
Would only need to dance
To bring them to fruition.
This was, I think now, a sweet
And virginal ignorance
But not stupidity
For ignorance is curable
And I am cured.
But not of hope. I found
That Mencius who lived in China
In the forth century B.C.
Agrees with me
That goodness is innate,
Inborn in us, our natural estate.
He also gave no reasons instead he told a story of a mountain
And I respected that
And then because the sacred is too real
For truth, he danced
A broken window hallelujah stomp
And I respect that, too,
For justice has jolly legs,
One wooden and one blue.

Here is one of my favorites:

Somebody’s Tears

Feast now, while the lark sleeps on this soft good hill, delight;
For these stars are the white seeds in the black ripe melon of the night

Something of the sky has been given to you,
This long blue word, so good to say and ringing,
That molecules leave home and chemical family
To shape the new and necessary life of which you now are singing.

Somebody’s tears are corn again, and soon will be bread

Somebody’s grief is becoming food; black white yellow and red.

So feast now, while the lark sleeps, on this soft hill, delight;
For these stars are the white seeds in the black ripe melon of the night.

Ron was had an unassuming appearance, but was an intellectual, an artist, a cynic and an eternal idealist—a dark humorist, all of which made his poetry light/ deep, profound /profane, but he was human first. He told us about growing up in Virginia and being told by his father to “be American, ride your bike,” but his father had bought a 22 rifle in case the Nazis invaded Virginia. Then, his father said, Ron "would have to fight.” Ron said that he “almost needed an anti-Semite to remind him, “I’m a Jew.” He remembered seeing Hitler “shrieking and shaking with rage, and he, “wondered, ‘Is my name on that page?’ ”

One time when we were talking in his little trailer during a storm, with those billowy tornado clouds all around, he said that when he died, there will be no one to sing Kaddish for him. We were able to make sure that happened, as I am sure many other friends did, along with many other prayers, thoughts, wishes and remembrances of Ron and his striving.  We miss our friend Ron.

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