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poetry Tuff

California poet Fred Norman offers a beautiful elegy to Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

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By Fred Norman

You have to be tuff to be Lawrence Ferlinghetti

— tuff, as in t-u-f-f —

and you have to spell it right;

it’s not tough like a cheap steak

but tuff like the cool and brilliant man

who focused the Lights of the City on San Francisco,

who felt the Beat of a wonder of words,

who heard a Howl of freedom in a poem,

who led his generation and ours to a shining land

that throbbed with promises of a better life,

a man who, like every people’s poet,

somehow survives childhood,

rises in academia,

goes to war,

comes to Peace,

becomes a veteran’s veteran,

leads us, we veterans, to resist

those who would give us medals of death,

those who always paint with blood

a world that he long ago painted with Peace,

a world that he now paints with oils,

the colors of life, the colors of truth

rife with the meaning of what a human being is,

and we are all that human being, good and evil

but more good than evil because of him.

We praise you, Lawrence Ferlinghetti!

We respect you.

We salute you.

Fred Norman served in the Marines and Air Force for 10 years and now is a member of Veterans For Peace, with the emphasis on Peace. He has a BA in Chinese Studies from SFSU and an MA in Writing from USF. He tends to focus on antiwar themes hoping to write the words that motivate others to put an end to war. Lawrence Ferlinghetti is one of his heroes.