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Waldman's roots go deep in Boulder. She first came to the city in 1974, when she and Allen Ginsberg co-founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa. It was a visionary "conglomeration of tendencies," she says, "a wild experiment in contemplative education that has grown into a fully accredited university."
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the Tibetan meditation teacher and founder of the school, "proposed a 'hundred-year project,' at least!" she remembers. "I was drawn to the mountains and vistas. I first lived at the Boulderado Hotel, which was inexpensive in those days, and later settled in. I have a home there, my son...was raised there, graduating from Boulder High. I vote there. I was arrested at Rocky Flats protesting nuclear weaponry with Allen Ginsberg and Daniel Ellsberg in the 1970s. I live part of the year in Boulder, where I am still the artistic director of Naropa's celebrated Summer Writing Program. I travel the world as a poet, performer and teacher."
In fact, Waldman had just left Boulder for New York, where she lives much of the year when not traveling, and a quick trip to Big Sur to do a benefit for the Henry Miller Library with her son, musician Ambrose Bye, when news about the flood started pouring in. She was "nervous, heartbroken, worried about the safety of friends and of the Naropa audio and paper archives," she remembers. But the event also affected her on a deeper level: "I pondered the fragility of the coast in Big Sur, wondered if it will some day be 'under water,' as some predictions have it. I also reflected on the Sandy flood and the ravage on the East Coast. I was without electricity for five days during that disaster last October in New York.
"My own home in Boulder has water in the crawlspace and has needed a sump pump and fans to avoid mold," she continues. "A close colleague, the writer and teacher Junior Burke, lost his entire home in Lyons. I hope there will be a compilation of the flood stories. I recently wrote a poem about the Sandy flood. I followed the videos and stories of the Colorado flood and was in touch with many friends. My home became a refuge for the great African spiritual teacher Malidoma Some, who had just arrived to give ceremonies and divinations."
Waldman says she is still musing over the meaning of the flood, and the fact that water played such a prominent part in "Boulder Zodiac." "The earth moves, the topology changes, but we still have the ancient maps embedded in our psychic memory," she says. Her recent book, an allegory titled Gossamurmur, refers to the "new weathers," she notes. "There have been signs and warnings all along."
And now some of those signs will be tattooed on 200 people who love Boulder. "These are trying times, my friends," Waldman concludes. "The job of all of us — as artists and thinkers and activists as well — is to wake up the world to itself."********
By Anne Waldman
nuanced light, coyote yips
full Sagittarian moon's clear shadow
you might spook yourself, seething centaur
drawing up the Boulder dawn into your chest
your lungs, take aim, it's your own heart
city of choice, of modernity, of ancient creeks
a few miles from Continents' Divide
and Arapahoe mystic native lore,
great-horned Capricious ones party here,
where Rockies crash Great Plains
where granite meets bone and Aquarius sheds
his water semi-arid land thirsts for
let it come down, sweet, dramatic, sudden
let it gather and snow melt lift the Great Platte
river is your life, your guardian
largemouth bass got lucky, and then not so
stocked out by Walden Pond, silvery,
the Piscean transmigratory life,
the way we see through water miles from it
land-locked, but look up at primordial Flatirons,
feel irony of topological wrench, of negative ions'
clarity, your mind stays high and clear
leads the pack, you are Aries
the "agrarian worker" and you settled here
to see the future ride the terrifying Dark Age
here in humility where poetry
thrives, where a warm chinook carries
gentle tread of the inscrutable bull down from Heaven,
a Buddha, who stops and sits, Taurus mind
of "negative capability,"
comfortable in doubt, in curiosity, study of
place, flora, fauna, every columbine flower,
Indian Paintbrush, cottonwood tree, Stellar's Jay
mind doubles, being Gemini sees "both both" mirrored
in struggle, flames licking at canyon mouth, flood warning
crises at the gate! move to higher ground, rescue
meteorological archive of topological shift, note coming
hard times, scarcity of water on diffident Crab whose job is to scuttle
over surface, dig in, soul mate to the prairie dog perhaps who
surveys the environs with keen eye, raise a ruckus!
for mountain lion also, be sure to go asymmetrical
not turn your body, make loud noise, back away
honor his kinghood in these parts, roaming
Bald Mountain, O hungry Leo, lokapala of this berg
citizens, guard your house pets, do not be careless
honor the great open space, honor semblance of wilderness
Virgin wildflower, first bud of spring, close to tundra
once ocean and you feel pull of tide
another equinoctial moon over the downtown Mall,
Tibet's magic shop, bookstore to browse, diverse eateries