William Hudson Byrd (aka Billy)
3 March 1911 to 13 June 1944

When I was two years old 
We lived in Mississippi— 

And now I’m 79... 
I still want my big brother 
To take me fishing 

And I want my father 
To get out of his airplane 
And come back home. 

Still Life with Jesus 
Somersaulting from the Sky—
Indigenous Mexican Nativity, 
Two Tulips with Daffodils

A Poem for my 79th Birthday 

when it’s over 
scatter my ashes 
in the Milky Way. 
Thank you.



When I was 16 or 17, like in 1958 or 1959, my friend Harvey Goldner, my first mentor in the community of poets, guided me to a basement listening room in the Memphis Public Library. There we listened to the San Francisco Renaissance poets—Rexroth, Ginsberg, Snyder, Whalen, Lew Welch, Spicer, Ferlinghetti, and all the rest. We spent the whole afternoon there, the 78rpm records spinning round and round. The poem that opened my heart the widest was Ferlinghetti’s “Dog.” (Please listen before reading my poems.) That poem, with its street-talking wisdom, was revelatory for me, a young man wanting to be a poet. I keep it in my heart and mind all these years. Likewise, his City Lights Bookstore and City Lights Publishing were also inspiration for me when Lee and I began Cinco Puntos Press in 1985 and then in 2001 when we bought our own storefront in downtown El Paso. Around the time of his 100th birthday, thanks to our friend Elaine Katzenberger (publisher, City Lights Publishing), I met and talked with him at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s. He was like an old friend. Indeed, he was an old friend. I started going back to his work and was once again listening to his long-ago reading of “Dog.” That was the inspiration of the first poem below. Then, with his death earlier this year, I scribbled down a short poem in my journal about a dog disappearing into the arroyo on the day of his death. This evolved into the second poem. Both poems, I think, echo Ferlinghetti’s poetics of his longer poems. That makes me happy. Since his death, I’ve talked with many of my contemporaries—old folks like myself, readers and poets—for whom his poetry, City Lights Bookstore, and City Lights Publishing were great sources of inspiration for their lives. This blog is my tribute to him. 
May we all walk in beauty and peace. 

Back in the Day

Ferlinghetti’s Goddamned Dog 

Goddamned Ferlinghetti’s dog 
keeps following me everywhere I go 
homeless mongrel of a dog 
trots freely in the streets doing whatever dogs do 
yapping peeing eating garbage sniffing around 
and the things he sees the things he smells 
big things small things 
it’s all the same world to Ferlinghetti’s dog 
no heaven and no hell 
no me and you 
just the magical world of stuff 
living breathing reality 
and when the dog goes doo-doo 
in the park the thick green grass 
his hind legs dancing that dog scratch boogie 
I go get a baggy to clean it up, 
being a good citizen don’t you know? 
because this is America 
the home of the free likewise 
Turtle Island America 
Stonewall America 
Crazy Horse America 
Billy Holiday America 
Darthula Baldwin America 
Walt Whitman America 
Malcolm X America 
Joe Hill America 
Felipe Angeles America 
Recovering Alcoholics and Recovering Addicts America 
Boddhisatvas America
Mahasattvas America 
the Great Prajna Paramita America 
America America 
our lotus of many-colored petals 
floating in the muddy waters 
the midst of human chaos 
the Dark Heart of Sky 
America America America― 

Yes, yes, we are offering ourselves 
to the dirt and the mud
the sky the water the sun the moon 
to the bees and butterflies, 
the ants the snails the hummingbirds and moths… 

Whoa! Whoa! 
How did this happen? 
No wonder Snooks Eaglin shows up. 
He's sitting on that park bench 
black man strumming his blues guitar 
strumming some funky ontology 
strumming that dog’s reality, says  

Oh it’s a great sound track for those two young women 
making love in the shade of a big oak tree 
all those happy grunts and groans some giggles 
fingers flying hither and yon 
and an old white woman 
pushing her walker down the path 
shouts out 

                  "Hallelujah Hallelujah 
Bless me Jesus Bless me Jesus" 


which Snooks understands of course 
he smiles his best Kasapa smile 
gives that old church lady a big "Amen, Sister!"
and I take the opportunity of silence 
to dump the baggy into the garbage 
because nobody wants to step into a pile of shit 
even if it did just drop warm and fresh 
from the backend of Ferlinghetti’s goddamned dog. 

Memorial Reading
Jack Kerouac Alley 

Monday, 22 February 2021
—In memory of Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Dear Lawrence,
Almost 102 years old!
That was pretty good, Viejo. 
No wonder I saw that dog of yours again
surrounded by twilight city
as he disappeared down into the arroyo

—all that grey rock, 

he went scurrying along
among the quail and roadrunners, 
all the insects, coyotes, 
feral cats, reptiles and other critters. 
The cactus wrens squawked and squawked 
in celebration of the dog’s arrival—

"It is a good day to die!"

The ghostly ancestors were there too!
Women and men, known and unknown, 
those whom you’ve honored with your life,
our lineage of poets, 
the celebrants of many-tongued language, 
the wild river that flows through us,
the consciousness of who we are— 
a procession that goes on and on, 
ancestors dreaming of new births,
you among them now,  
that wild and many-headed luminous beast of poetry
walking the walk toward the end of human time,
fists raised as one, 
strolling unhurried down the arroyo,
a pow-wow drum beating at the darkening sky


For those of us who remain 
May walk in beauty. 
May we walk in peace. 
May we walk in wisdom.

Thank you very much, Lawrence.
Thank you, thank you.