VERSE / Felix Shafer : hey, marilyn

hey, marilyn

From august

through Black august

the drum beat us

all black and blue

and back again

where we live

inside shadows

with you


Here on the sad

fuming planet

comes a laughing ghost

beloved fugitive

our first anniversary

spun from these burning strands

our sensitive memory

of the afterlife without you

oh marilyn

a toast to your year

a salute to our tears

for the shadow of the panthers

cetewayo, shasha

smitty, dc and g (eronimo)*

now passing by


Here in my heart

a branch of middle summer

intermingles the past

with life’s juggly light

flowing like fire

over the river wide

your red kite

tangled, unescaped

high among

the maple trees

We are your family

the red blood cells

in & out of prison cells

the red resistance cells

grouped by transience

side by side


great misfortune

in the lonely outside


Last night I dreamed

of walking down storied halls

a familiar house

after the typhoon

people known by their resemblances

returned, some drained of smiles

some doing yoga

some replacing mislayed objects

overcome in bedrooms

A daring girl led me closer to the last window

beyond where I can see

There where the backyard

ought to be

was the outdoor visiting patio

of FCI Dublin


We come to recollect your absence

with ourselves

to feel your palm

resting on each hand

To receive your

loving encouragment

and your example:

That to live we must risk ourselves

for the uncertain future

with dignity


Marilyn because

you were charming

and unb0wed

because you had

miles of style and acres of smiles

because you were a generous

citizen of earth

sister and god mother

I am throwing open the door

to release the bars

to forget the cancer and the tears

so that I can see

your shining face


When it’s quiet

when i lay deep down to sleep

i whisper kindness and

when I rise up

i sing of how

you wanted us to be happy and strong

when we were with you

Now a year after you have gone

I will We will

felix shafer 8.3.11

* Michael Cetewayo Tabor, Henry ShaSha Brown, Marc Smitty Smith, Don Cox and geronimo ji Jaga pratt are freedom fighters associated with the Black Panther Party & some with the Black Liberation Army who passed in the year since Marilyn died

Marilyn Buck — political prisoner, acclaimed poet, former Austinite, and former original Ragstaffer — was paroled last August after spending 30 years in federal prisons. But, after only 20 days of freedom, on August 3, 2010, Marilyn died of a virulent cancer.

Felix Shafer became an anti-imperialist/human rights activist while in high school during the late 1960’s and has worked around prisons and political prisoners for over 30 years. He is a psychotherapist in San Francisco and can be reached at Read Felix Shafer’s three-part Rag Blog series, “Mourning for Marilyn Buck.”

Why We Sing

By Mario Benedetti

If every hour comes with its death

if time is a den of thieves

the wind is no longer a good

and life is nothing more than a moving target

you might ask, why do we sing?

if our bravos are left without support

our homeland dies from sorrow

and the heart of man is smashed to pieces

even before the shame explodes

you might ask, why do we sing?

if we’re as far away as the horizon

and if over there were left the trees and the sky

if every night is always some sort of absence

and if every waking is a missed encounter

you might ask, why do we sing?

We sing because the river is calling

and when the river calls, the river calls

we sing because cruelty has no name

and destiny does have a name

we sing because the child and because all

and because someday and because the people

we sing because the survivors

and our dead want us to sing

we sing because to shout is not enough

and the crying and the cursing is not enough

we sing because we believe in people

and because we will defeat failure

we sing because the sun recognizes us

and because the fields smell of spring

and because in this stalk in that fruit

every question has its answer

we sing because it rains over the furrows

and we are the militants of life

and because we neither want nor can

allow the song to be turned to ashes.

Mario Benedetti (Sept. 14, 1920 – May 17, 2009) a Uruguayan poet, journalist, and novelist, was considered one of Latin America’s most significant authors. Active in radical movements, he went into exile in 1973 when the military, backed by the U.S. CIA, took power. For 10 years, Benedetti lived in Argentina, Peru, Cuba, and post-Franco Spain. Mario Benedetti returned to Uruguay in 1983, yet lived for long periods in Madrid, Spain. Exile marked his life profoundly and one of his most important works is El Desexilio y Otras Conjeturas (Dis-exile And Other Conjectures, 1984). Marilyn Buck, who wrote about the internal exile of imprisonment, considered Mario Benedetti one of her favorite writers.

The Rag Blog

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3 Responses to VERSE / Felix Shafer : hey, marilyn

  1. Chuck says:

    Great paeans to a wonderful woman/warrior who touched and inspired many, and lives on in the spirit of love and defiance.

    Chuck Culhane
    Buffalo, NY

  2. Satori says:

    What a beautiful tribute

  3. Felix, I loved this when I first read it last year; yes, our “laughing ghost” is really smiling now, thanks to the issuance of her new poetry book, thanks to you and Miranda and all you worked so hard to make it so —
    she walks among us, brother.

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