Al Young title

‘BOOM! JUST LIKE THAT!’ — In memory of Mark Baldridge (1948-2014)


Photo Al Young

At Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, CA (2008), poet Joyce Jenkins — in the musical company of her partner Mark Baldridge, a feeling flautist — reads from Joy Road, and other recent work.


In memory of Mark Baldridge

I didn’t know about Peet’s Coffees or how early on
you, its PR savior, penned poem-like ads for Peet’s
you welcomed Joyce to validate — or rate at least.
I, the lonely long-distance runner, didn’t know you,
the shining long-distance swimmer. You cooked.
The fluent German you spoke – I didn’t know about
this, either. Joyce did. You hid nothing. I blinked.

I didn’t know you were Cleveland-born, blue collar,
before GM moved the plant out to Santa Barbara.
My dad worked for GM, too, for Chevrolet, the line.
I didn’t know you as a near-Motor City émigré like
me, like Joyce, like Motown Records up and moving
Detroit to L.A. (“Now, what I say?” – Marvin Gaye)
Boom! Just like that! What went wrong? Why?
And I could tell you if you really want to know.

Distance without measure clocks us, gauges
the breadth of our ignorance. And when it comes
to one another, we don’t know shit. Laws of motion?
Dreams? Hey, kind silence lets us breathe. Moot,
its reckless, pointless calculus invites, enshrines.

You liked your music classical. You loved flautists or
flutists, whatever they called themselves: Jean-Pierre
Rampal, James Galway, bamboo flute masters —
you loved them all. Until Petaluma, the Poetry Walk,
and Geri Digiorno’s intro, the sound of sweet Joyce’s
Joy Road, Detroit poems, who knew you blew flute?
I didn’t. But, Mark, there you beamed. Hers. His.
Soulful, a unit, you two, now united, now untied.

Music-stand and chops, you said, “I’ve got your back.”
Right behind your partner’s side, you fingered silver.
You sang each other. We’re talking verse. The twists,
the turns, repeats I couldn’t guess; melodies in keys
we shared for sure. I got your heartbeat, though.
I loved the chords. I felt the flash, your hush, I breathed;
a watershed (Wasserscheide) in the history of back-stories.
How coffees, once illicit, light us up! No sugars, no creams.
Please, Mark. I didn’t know to thank you until now.

Al Young
13 January 2015
© 2015


Photo courtesy of the Baldridge Family

‘The Man Behind the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival:
Mark Baldridge, 1948-2014’

By Sharon Coleman
Berkeleyside logo
(January 8, 2015)


Mark & Joyce 2008 magnifying_glass_icon

Mark Baldridge and Joyce Jenkins,
Petaluma Poetry Walk, 2008
(Photo: Al Young)


JEAN PUMPHREY (1931-2014) In Memoriam


Jean Pumphrey 2008


In memory of Jean Pumphrey (1931-2014)

You sighed and smiled out from an island

culture and nature still treasure, still bless.

Yes, Jean, who else can this mean but you,

blushing Audrey of the hungering heart,

a sucker for artistry and art? You taught

the same way you fought dark ignorance

in Saint Matthew’s realm. Your sweet secret:

let silenced light shine — around the body

poetry loves; not bodies of seawater, not astral.

No body of experts. Bodies. Just the light

around the body poet Robert Bly got the blues

about, right around the time we met, San Mateo,

the 1970s, just when the mythic Sixties kicked in

and scared out the sacred from us, what little hell

we had left. We loved Bly’s blues. Ears wide open

to cries in all keys, you listened. You let pupils,

patients set the beat. Spirit-leashed, your god-dog,

Rumi, ushered you through blinding nights.

You uttered peace. Sheltered at the edge, the light

around the body longs to leak and blend with all

it knows it is. You told us, Jean, you sighed, you

smiled, you lived to reach and teach, to touch to heal.

— Al Young

© 2015 Al Young


Photo: Kindness of Strangers

Poets Al Young, Jean Pumphrey and Glenna Luschei | San Francisco 2008



NOW IN SILENCE, MUTE (‘Where I Write #26’ at The Rumpus)


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Ernest Lawson: “Spring Night, Harlem River” (1913)


Where I Write #26: ‘Now In Silence, Mute’


Now in silence, mute, a place still quiet

within reason, ear-protected, I hear

the flow and pump of blood. My loud

and your soft heart beat out as dance

stun and shush us where equipoise


and noise don’t mix. Unsteadying, a diet

of uninvited cell phone monologues, big

overseer helicopters, TV screech and

media preachments, ambulance, paramedic

rescue shrieks, the way too-trafficked


hum and squall and scream of barriers

that mask the sound of handcuff clicks.

Anointing to me, annoying to some, silence –

soundtrack to our native zone – serenades.

As every trembling star and particle feeds


on space, so every song and utterance

leans against silence: a resource so

unheard of, we can’t help but kill it. Dead.

The silence of a smug, unthinking nation

– that’s something else again. Citizen


as pathogen. I write through those ears,

too, from silence breathed as nourishment

that charges and changes. Consider the kiss

in which we find and switch each other on

– the silence I write from recharges this.

©2014 by Al Young
This poem, commissioned by poet-editor Corrie Greathouse, debuted at the online journal in celebration of the author’s 75th birthday





Up Jumped Spring lead sheet38px-Speaker_Icon.svgClick to listen

Up Jumped Spring

for Nana

What’s most fantastical almost always goes
unrecorded and unsorted. Take spring.
Take today. Take dancing dreamlike; coffee
your night, creameries your dream factories.
Take walking as a dream, the dearest, sincerest
means of conveyance: a dance. Take leave
of the notion that this nation’s or any other’s earth
can still be the same earth our ancestors walked.
Chemistry strains to connect our hemispheres.
The right and left sidelines our brain forms
in the rain this new world braves—acid jazz.
The timeless taste her tongue leaves in your mouth,
stirred with unmeasured sugars, greens the day
the way sweet sunlight oxygenates, ignites
all nights, all daytimes, and you—this jumps.
Sheer voltage leaps, but nothing keeps or stays.
Sequence your afternoon as dance. Drink spring.
Holding her hard against you, picture the screenplay.
Take time to remember to get her spells together.
Up jumps the goddess gratified, and up jumped spring.

© 2006 and 2007 by Al Young




For JoAnne in Poland

JoAnne Ivory Gibson | KrakĂłw, Poland, circa 1965



You are not to trouble yourself

with your ladyness

your blackness


of having been brought up

on collard greens





Nor must you let the great haters

of our time

rattle in your heart


They are small potatoes

whose old cries

for blood

may be heard

any afternoon of the millennium

any portion

           of this

         schoolroom globe


Al Young

© 1969 and 1992 by Al Young
(from Heaven: Collected Poems, 1956-1990)

[Photo note: JoAnne Ivory, a Detroit Central High School girlfriend, married Donald B. Gibson, now an American literature scholar. In the mid-1960s, Gibson was awarded a postdoctoral Fulbright Fellowship to teach literature and English in Poland, where this lovely antique likeness of ‘Jody’ was snapped.]