I once was lost
But now I’m found…
I lost it before I knew it was gone. But it was only a poem, so what did it matter. It didn’t. Matter, that is. Still, the loss bugged me for many years, even after I’d given the poem up for evaporated. But then “Just when I think I’m out this poem pulls me back in” — sometimes on a cord longer than half a lifetime. Here’s the skinny, Winny.
Long ago I lived in Berkeley and pretended to go to University there. But it was the late 60s and I was the prince of the hippies. One of them anyway. I worked at little jobs here and there for mere money, but my real job was… “poet.” I wrote poems. Lots of them. All the time. Once I’d written one I’d send it out to the underground newspapers and magazines that were popping out of the thick humus of the American earth like dubious mushrooms at the side of a tomb. It didn’t matter. I sent them out. And they were never, ever, published.
It was the late 60s sometime before the moon landing and I was living with my first, but not my last, crazy girlfriend. She was crafting huge and complicated ceramic sculptures and I was writing poems. We had three cats and lived high in the Berkeley Hills. It was a full life. We made art, made love, smoked dope, and listened to the timeless rock records of the hour. The Rolling Stones made a lot of these and I found myself strangely identifying with Brian Jones, the very bad boy of the group, the Dorian Gray of rock. He was a funky monkey and a styling junkie and, for a bit, the soul of the Stones. And then one morning came the news he had drowned in his pool at Christopher Robin’s house and was as dead as Shelley in the Gulf of Spezia.
I did what any rock-worshipping hippie poet would have done, I wrote An Elegy for Brian Jones and shipped it off, one draft perfection, that day to an underground rock newspaper.
Imagine my surprise when they published it on the front page of their tabloid. I ran out and got a dozen copies and was pleased.
And then life came along, and work, and love, and marriage, and kids and career, and I just forgot about the poem for Brian Jones.
When the high waves of life receded I found myself assembling a collection of my poems for my own joy. It was then, decades away, that I remembered my published poem about Brian Jones. That is I remembered the first line and the last line.
“Like a child’s blue balloon going up and up until
The dozens of lines in between were erased from my mind. It may have had something to do with my 50 acid trips. I’m not quite sure but I would, in this case, have welcomed a flashback.
No such luck.
The poem was erased from my notebooks as well; probably never made it that far. No copy survived which was understandable since there was only one copy which I’d transcribed from a scrap of paper and sent off to the newspaper. Lost.
A lost poem. It happens and I have others. Still, it nagged at me over the years from time to time. Not only didn’t I remember the poem I’d even forgotten the name of the now long-vanished newspaper that published it. I searched the archives of this or that underground paper on the net but I got no hits. This failure rate continued at 100% for decades.
Then, last year, I finally got a hit. It was from a magazine called “FUSION” and the moment I saw the name I knew that was it. Not only that, there was a rare issue with the poem available for sale. But when I asked about it I was told it had been purchased by someone else the week before. A miss. A terrible miss.
But now I knew the name of the paper and the date of the publication of the issue with my lost poem in it. So I set up a watchlist on ebay.com… and again forgot about it.
Until two weeks ago when one popped up. I went to it and bought it immediately and waited for it to be shipped from England.
It arrived today and I opened it to see my poem, my elegy of the death of Brian Jones, on the front page just as I had remembered it. They’d printed it verbatim right down to my signature that noted the date.
The date was July 2, 1969.
The date that Brian Jones died was July 2, 1969.
Today, the day I got back the one poem I’d lost, is July 2, 2019.
Fifty years. To the day.
“Once I was lost,
But now I’m found.
But now I see.”