22 December 2006

In Answer to Fundamentalism


Justice Putnam

It’s not right
To elevate Her
To the status of

Rational man
Would refute it.

A material world
Critical of
Class and place

Would find
That elevation
To be demeaning.

My Heart
Doesn’t beat
In a material world

I be nothing
More than
Flesh and

In a sky
Of light

A universe
Of gravity

A galaxy
Among the void
And plasma

And yet some
Would question
Whether another
Would doubt

The Power of
God’s hand?
© 2006 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

11 December 2006

What Has
To Me


Justice Putnam

I am a 51 year old broken down athlete, suffering the ills of society in the SF Bay Area, while basking in the unholy glow of self-interest. I am living Neruda’s dictum that the Poet is both a Force for Solidarity and for Solitude.

I began my writing "career" in earnest during my twenties, though I had published poems and stories since high school. I taught History and English at private schools while coaching football and track briefly. I have worked at various jobs while traveling around the world; sometimes surfing, sometimes fishing, sometimes to learn, sometimes to love; but always, always I wrote!

I have climbed up Mount Rainier and I have bicycled the Pacific Trail. I have chipped glacial ice in the French Alps and taught English on Hokkaido. I was the cook on a tuna boat in the Gulf of Alaska and I have seen the gutted remains of Honduran peasants desiccated next to red bougainvillea, as green hummingbirds darted and stopped at delicate petals and darted away again. I have seen the blasted remains of the last hospital in Sarajevo spilling stone and beds onto the street.

I have held my own son at the moment of his birth.

My son now, is almost 30. He has given me two grandchildren and a step-grandchild. I have two ex-wives who remain dear to my heart but don’t know it, no current lovers but many loving friends, no dogs or cats; save for the neighborhood ones that know I’m a soft touch.

Wild finches splash in the rough stone bath in my little garden. Their songs fade as they fly to the cottonwood that stands as a monument in the neighborhood.

French lavender, lemon thyme, rosemary, and English sage await their certain demise in a skillet on my stove.

When sated, I curl up with an ancient author I choose from my shelves.

© 2006 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

18 May 2006

Beauty, Truth and Bibliomania


Justice Putnam

"Why do you have four books by Bukowski?" she seemed disturbed as she closed The Most Beautiful Woman In Town."

I'd have more of his opus," I answered, "I'm slowly re-building my library."

"But I don't understand, you like Bukowski?"

"Sure," I responded, a little tentative, not quite understanding her question, "I've always been attracted to his writing style. He is very spare."

"But Bukowski is a misogynist and you have four of his books!" she pointed at my bookcase.

South Of No North, Factotum and Women, plus the one she was returning to the shelf indeed totaled four.

I thought of all the other books I used to have, lost now from bad love affairs and bad finances. I used to have all of Will and Ariel Durant's tomes, even a rare, Mansions Of Philosophy. I had all of Jack London's books and stories. I had all of Cooper's Leather Stocking Tales. I had most of McMurtry's work from the sixties and seventies; All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers prominent among them. I had Edna St. Vincent Millay's poems and stories. I had H.G. Well's Outline Of History.

I had everything by Virginia Woolfe and Janet Flanner. I had obscure poems and letters by Gertrude Stein. I had most of Phillip K. Dick, Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. I had most of Clifford D. Simak. I had a first printing of The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre by B. Traven. I had everything by Hemingway. I had everything by Orwell; including Down And Out In Paris And London. I had all the works of De Sade and Thackeray. I had a dozen volumes of Eugene Field. I had Dickens and Marlowe. I had Melville, Chaucer, Defoe, Voltaire, Swift, Virgil, Plutarch and Donne.

I had all the English translations of Mishima. I had Kobe Abe's Woman Of The Dunes. I had volumes of Dryden, Pope, Shakespeare and Spencer. I had Balzac and Fante. I had Baudelaire and Fitzgerald. I had poems by St John Of The Cross and essays by Annie Dillard. I had all of Henry Miller. I had some of John Rechy.

I had volumes of Linda Paston and Marge Piercy. I had some of Sharon Olds and all of Jack Kerouac. I had all of Gary Snyder's work and volumes of Eric Hoffer. I had Kahil Gibran and Rilke. I had Ovid and Nietzsche. I had Berkeley, Hume, Kant and Ghandi. I had Autobiography Of A Yogi by Yogananda. I had the Kama Sutra and the Upanishads. I had The Analects and The Tibetan Book Of The Dead. I had Byron. I had Percy and Mary Shelley. I had Ten Days That Shook The World by Jack Reed and I had volumes of Emma Goldman. I had Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and volumes of Faulkner. I had God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley Jr. and I had The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey.

"I take Bukowski's work," I began, though I feared she was having none of it, "to be stories and characters that show us how not to be. He is taking a snapshot of life as it is, in all of its dirt and grime; in its violence, bigotry and selfishness. But I don't take his life of the gutter milieu to be a blueprint or affirmation of bad behavior."

"Oh," she said, pulling out a volume of the Alexandria Quartet, "you have Durrell. Now this is beautiful."

© 2004 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswessen

(This piece has appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet)

07 April 2006

American Idol


Justice Putnam

It’s not often that a member of the radical fringe gets an opportunity to converse with the High and Powerful. But chance and strategic sexual networking will get you into anywhere in this town; that’s how I got to rub elbows, so to speak, with Simon Cowell, the maker of American Idols.

Ok, I admit, I used the Aging Starlet for more than the fun and games, but one benign and totally unconscious benefit was to gain entry to THE year’s social event; "Bestowing Upon One, Simon Cowell, The Governor’s Crystal Medal of Humanitarian Achievement."

I had found out I was on a terrorist watch list for donating to Amnesty International back during Iran/Contra and I couldn’t fly from Oakland to Burbank. The agents who debriefed me after my chat with Simon told me that I was included on the list for, "aiding and abetting potential enemies of the State through the Socialist practice of Humanitarian concern." Since 9/11, I travel mostly by crewing on yachts that sail from the Bay Area to points beyond.

The Aging Starlet, who shall remain unnamed, because after all, I am a Gentleman, asked if I could help with her yacht she docked at the Encinal Yacht Club on Alameda.

"Sure," I said, "I know my way around a Hattaras."

After a few minutes of stowing her gear, she commented on my hands,

"Your hands," she cooed in her pouty-lipped, big-breasted Aging Starlet way, "are the hands of a sailor, you must know your way with ropes and tackle?"

"Yes," I replied. Though the Hatteras is a motor yacht, she had me grind up her main sail and set her block and tackle. We didn’t sail that night. The next morning though, we’re in her Maserati as she’s jetting down Coast Hwy to Pepperdine in Malibu. I was going to be her arm-candy at THE social event of the year.

After attending the event for an hour or so, I found a rest room. I didn’t notice Simon Cowell at the urinal next to me at first, but I felt his gaze.

"So you’re the arm-candy for the night," Simon said as I was zipping up, "I can see you’re more than that."

"Thanks," I said, a little self-conscious, though it’s still nice to hear; even from the flaccid, botox-injected-in-the-biceps Simon Cowell. "She’s owns a Hattaras and I’m helping her motor it to Cabo next week."

"Yes, she does like to motor," Cowell lasciviously said in his slithering English accent.

I chuckled in that way guys do who know a common secret, "Thank God!" I finally said.

Cowell couldn’t keep from laughing.

"You must not watch my show," Cowell accused.

"No, I don't. Why?" I asked.

"Because you’re not damaged," Cowell whispered. It was then that I noticed he was a little drunk. "My show has been discovered by scientists to put holes in people’s brains! No, no! I’m tellin’ the truthhhh," he began to drawl. "That brain-dead girl that everybody said was alive, you know?"

Cowell sort of fell onto me; I helped him up and said, "Sure, Terri Schiavo."

"Right! Right!" Cowell said a little loud, "Tarrieee Sheeeaaavvvvohhhhh, If you cracked my audience’s heads open, their brains would be mush, just like Sheeeeeeeaaaavvvohhhhh."

"Mr. Cowell" I said, trying to rouse him, "Mr. Cowell?

"And you knnnnnoooowww what?" Simon‘s head was wobbly and his eyes a milky blur, "the President knnnnnooooooowsssssssss."

Just then a loud bang came through the doors. Several men dressed in black and wearing radio ear-sets entered and scooped Cowell up. They escorted me to a holding cell for a few hours and then let me go.

The Aging Starlet later found out that I’m good with horses and I know my way around a saddle.

© 2006 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

18 March 2006

To Give a Little Humanity


Justice Putnam

Yes, yes your Honors, I remember the boy. He was the most reticent I’d seen pass through the transfer camp. Yes, yes, quite unlike all the other children. He was most difficult. You see, we were mandated by the High Command to put these children at ease before they were transferred. So we used many means to elicit some benign emotion. To see a young one cry or to laugh meant we were successful. It would not do for them to be transferred as mere zombies. We are not cruel, nor are we uncivilized. We never tried to make those children unconscious about their lives; we wanted them to be awake and aware, as all children must be taught.

All the others had no success with him. He neither cried nor smiled; he didn’t play with the other children. He was mostly by himself but always, always, awake or asleep, he kept his right fist tight and clenched.

I was called in after a few days. The next transfer scheduled was only two days after that. I offered him candies and he refused any. Unlike any of the other children that have passed through the camp the last year. My! He was the talk of Camp!! I asked him to relax, I said that he would be taken care of and had nothing to worry about. I assured him that he would be with his parents soon; if he would just unclench his fist, we’d shake on it.

That reticent little boy ran away! No, normally, normally that would not do. Any other child would have been punished, severely. It will not do for other children to observe such a lack of authority in those circumstances. But this boy was my project and I wanted his laughs or his cries to come without force. I am after all, as I’ve stated before, neither cruel nor uncivilized.

I would sit with him and show photographs of great works of Art the High Command confiscated for protection. I read passages of literary giants from the last few books not burned. Simply being there and feeding him, so to speak, with a firm but learned affection did indeed, yes indeed, calm him.

So like a frightened puppy, that reticent little boy finally began to befriend me. He finally began to speak, to only me mind you, but his little whispers gained some trust in a very short time.

And not a minute too soon. The transfer was only minutes away.

He told me how his father was apprehended by the authorities one morning a year before. The little one cast his eyes down to the ground as he told me his story, his right fist tight and clenched. He told me of how hungry and sick his mother was; how he would scavenge for some kind of food and bring her some little thing he found.

All the while that reticent little boy told me his story, but his fist never unclenched. I could hear the fires being stoked. The drums of sarin were put in place. The children were being lined up for the transfer and I am sure the little boy had an epiphany.

Because he gazed up at me finally and held his right hand out for me to look. Some sad crumbs of an old muffin were moldy on his palm. He had been saving them for his mother, for when he would see her again. He told me she was so hungry and sick.

Then, with tears welling up in his eyes, he said he didn’t think he needed those crumbs anymore. He cried as he was transferred.

You cannot know the sense of accomplishment I had! That little boy faced his transfer with the right amount of humanity mandated by the High Command.

As I’ve said, we are neither cruel nor uncivilized.

© 2006 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

Unplanned Obsolescence


Justice Putnam

Roland Harris was raised to do everything; build a house, design a bridge, write a poem, cook a meal. He had competed in the Decathlon while a grad student in Physics. He was of the first generation of men who assisted in the birth of their children. He farmed and repaired the equipment. He taught History and coached Track and Field. He had traveled the world and spoke several languages.

So it came as quite a shock when Roland Harris awoke from a coma and realized no one believed he had any qualifications.

"Your skills are obsolete," the HMO-assigned Vocational Therapist told him.

Roland Harris had spent two months with the HMO-assigned Physical Therapist before this first meeting with the HMO-assigned Vocational Therapist.

"But I’ve only been in a coma for the last five years," Roland Harris argued, "after all that physical rehab, I’m strong as an ox. I grew up on a ranch, I could dig a ditch if I had to."

"No," the HMO-assigned Vocational Therapist replied hesitantly, "with the gap in your employment history, you couldn’t get a job even as a ditch-digger."

"But I’ve designed and built bridges," Roland Harris pointed out.

"Same problem," was the response, "you’re competing with folks who have five more years experience than you, and I must say, are much younger."

"Wait a second!" Roland Harris insisted, "I’m not even Forty-five years old, I’ve worked at a variety of jobs since I was sixteen. I have degrees in Physics and also the Humanities. I’ve owned and managed a couple of small businesses. I can type 70 words a minute. I’m licensed to operate heavy equipment."

"Actually, your Class "C" license and your PUC Permit were revoked for notorious and constant non-use," the HMO-assigned Vocational Therapist said sadly.

Roland Harris fell silent and pondered his predicament. With all his skills and his intelligence, he always figured he’d be able to adapt to anything and succeed.

"How about if I wrote fiction based on my adventures," Roland Harris said matter-of-factly, "there must be some money and interest in that."

The HMO-assigned Vocational Therapist chuckled and shook her head, "A lot has happened since you went into your coma. No one reads fiction. People are only interested in Reality-based entertainment. Of course, if you were a celebrity or even better, a recovered drug addict celebrity, you could write your memoir; maybe even a best seller publishing your poems. I don’t mean to offend you, but no one knows who you are, so there will be no interest."

Roland Harris looked at the clock and saw his time was up. He rose and headed out the HMO-assigned Vocational Therapist’s office. Turning, he made one last point,

"I’m quite disappointed, I have a long record of accomplishment."

"Yes, yes you do," The HMO-assigned Vocational Therapist said as she crossed the room to close the door, "but what has always been of importance in our society is, what have you done lately?"

© 2006 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

14 March 2006

On Starlight and Fire


Justice Putnam

The tribe that Herald was part of was not the one he was born into. That tribe had long ago been scattered by the violence of nature and other tribes. Herald’s birth-tribe was once strong and many. They traveled through various and divergent regions. Whether it be woods or desert, coast or mountain-top, Herald’s birth-tribe not only survived, they flourished.

It wasn’t that in those early days, there was no violence of nature and of other tribes, quite the opposite. But Herald’s birth-tribe survived because they were strong and many; and instead of attacking any tribe or person they came across, they shared what they had.

There were times that they were attacked, and nature spit down raging waters or burning liquid rock, or white-blue bolts of fire that killed many strong women and men. In time, Herald’s birth-tribe were no longer strong and many. In time, other tribes fell upon them in the night and kidnapped one or two. Other tribes had names for Herald’s birth-tribe; some called them the Teachers, some called them Heroes. Still others called them, Those Who Know. For it was rumored wide and beyond that men and women of the tribe knew the secret of starlight and the making of fire that warmed and helped nourish them.

The rumors were true.

A tribe looking for secrets and the making of fire kidnapped Herald one such night; but he was not yet a man and had not yet been taught the secret of starlight or the making of fire.

He knew how to collect fire and carry it. But the secret of making fire was more than three suns away when Herald was kidnapped.

The tribe kept him for a few suns because he was big and hunted well, he knew how to collect fire from the burning liquid rock and from the woods set ablaze from the white-blue bolts of fire. But in time the tribe acknowledged their mistake and realized that Herald had been too young to know the secrets.

When the tribe banished him, Herald saw it as freedom. It was not the nature of Herald’s birth-tribe to be held against their will. So Herald happily left the tribe behind and was free to roam.

He met many women and many men as he traveled, who seemed to know the secrets, yet had not been part of his birth-tribe. They proved to be generous and soon he learned that they had been visited by Herald’s birth-tribe many suns ago.

They encouraged and nourished him, but the secret of starlight and the making of fire was not divulged to him until one night, as he sat with a woman a few suns older than him, his fire went out. Rather than search for fire and collecting it, she taught him the secret of starlight and the making of fire. She liked his humor and they hunted well together, but after a sun and several moons had elapsed, she reminded him of his birth-tribe’s legacy. He was now truly one of Those Who Know. She reminded him how the Teachers were also the Heroes, of how they wandered wide and beyond sharing what they had; encouraging it in others through their generosity.

The tribe that Herald was currently with proved to be more established in superstitions than tribes previous. Herald felt frustrated in their unwillingness for his help. Though they looked strong and many, they were not anything like Herald’s birth-tribe.

They had their own secrets, but not of starlight. They didn’t make fire, they collected it and a strong ritual had arisen out of that. They shared, but not as part of their nature. Their tendency was to horde what they had. Herald understood upon the first meeting, that what they knew was enough for them. But Herald knew, that what one knows is never enough; yet everything can be reasoned out and discovered in time.

That is the secret of starlight. That is also the secret of making fire.

Herald had also learned another secret he simply called, the secret; one can find in every tribe Heroes who can also teach others to be Those Who Know.

Herald was sure he had many suns left to do so.

© 2006 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

09 March 2006

The Four Forty Second


Justice Putnam

Thomas Matsui hadn’t slept for almost 46 hours. The Italians had long stopped the fight, but the Nazis kept at it. Mortar shells exploded nearby with a frightening consistency. The rocky Italian hillside bucked and rolled with each explosion.

Battle has an uncanny affect on a soldier; it becomes a kind of tedium. The first month of a soldier’s battle is the worst, it all being so new. The mortality rate is highest during that first month. After six months, with bombs exploding around the battlement, a soldier will daydream.

Thomas Matsui thought of his family’s orange and avocado orchards rustling in the warm coastal breeze. He thought of the smell of his mother cooking rice in the farmhouse just above Pacific Coast Highway near Balboa. He conjured his father in the workshop, standing at the grinding wheel, sharpening the tools.

These were daydreams that made the tedium of battle tolerable. But Thomas Matsui had other daydreams that were not so idyllic.

He saw his parents crestfallen from the notice tacked on the farmhouse. Civilian Exclusion Order Number 33 gave only two days to sell the farm before the Military evacuated them to the camp in Montana. He remembered the offer that came from The Irvine Company later that day. Mere pennies on the dollar for what the farm was worth.

He remembered the drive to the Civilian Control Station in Los Angeles, his mother crying the whole thirty miles. Twenty years growing avocados and oranges; all gone in a day. Twenty years and all the possessions acquired; gone in a day. Only allowed bedding and linens, some kitchen utensils and clothes; twenty years of Thomas Matsui’s life was spent on that farm. He was born there. It was lost in a day.

The Nazis increased the frequency of the mortar attack and shook Thomas Matsui out of his reverie. He knew Marines on the other end of the hillside were getting the brunt of the bombing. The Four Forty Second though, were well hid and dug in. Soon the bombing would cease and the real battle would commence. There would be no time to daydream then.

Thomas Matsui chuckled at the memory of the military recruiter who came to his camp that Thursday in June. How fresh-faced and upright he was; the perfect embodiment of American righteousness. Thomas and his family had been at the camp for a month and life was a brutal series of bad weather and racist guards. The chance to escape that prison, with the hopeful promise of making his parent’s life easier was too great to pass up. If he fought hard and patriotically, maybe the war would end sooner and his parents would no longer be incarcerated.

But the farm and all they had was lost. No, not really lost; in effect stolen. But that did not matter any longer. He wanted this war to end so his parents would not suffer any more.

The mortar attack suddenly stopped. Thomas Matsui shouldered his rifle and aimed down the hillside.

The real battle was about to begin.

© 2006 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

06 March 2006

The Off Ramp to Terra Azul


Justice Putnam

“If it were possible to know the outcome of every journey, few journeys would be undertaken,” Farouk Hazim said into the cell phone. “But I know the outcome of this journey. There is nothing mysterious about it. So I just hit the turn signal and turn right at the end of the off ramp.”

I could hear an angry buzz in reply from the cell as Farouk held it away from his ear. He looked at me and smiled. After several moments he let a small silence elapse and then put the cell back to his ear,

“Do not worry. I will off-load by 10 am,” Farouk was grinning, “I have my top helper today.”

Farouk closed his cell and put it in the holder. He shifted the big semi and changed lanes. He checked both side mirrors and continued our conversation.

“It’s all a matter of what you first notice in life,” he said, “at each benchmark, what do you notice?’

I didn’t hear his statement as a question at first, but finally I realized his request,

“I wrote a poem about that issue,” I proclaimed, unconsciously full of myself, “I wrote about an argument of which came first; Light or Sound. For me the first sound was a heartbeat.”

“Aha!” Farouk Hazim exclaimed loudly, “That is very important. You are a Romantic, be very careful my friend,” he lowered his voice in seriousness, “as strong and intelligent as you are, Romantics have a high death rate.”

He laughed in his singular, Farouk Hazim manner. If you didn’t know that Farouk came from Lebanon, you’d think he was descended from Zorba the Greek.

“None of us escape what we’re born into,” Farouk continued, “we can move from place to place, we can rub elbows with people of different classes, one can do any number of things to escape. But we can never escape.”

“I always felt the great equalizer,” I interjected, “is education. Social mobility is attained with education.”

Farouk laughed loud and long again. His eyes were gleaming when he responded,

“Yes!” he was breathless, “You are very correct. The thing about education, though, is that the more of it you have, the more you know that we can never escape that which we’re born into!” Farouk laughed and laughed.

“But I don’t understand,” I said, truly confused. “I always cite you as an example of what can be attained. I mean, look at you, ten years ago you were cleaning offices and now you own your own trucking firm. Your kids go to private schools, your wife is beautiful.”

“It still does not matter,” Farouk Hazim was shaking his head, “ there is no escape. Not for you, not for me, not for my children or my beautiful wife.”

Farouk checked his side mirror as he shifted gears. He was silent for a long moment and then continued,

“The first sounds I heard were bombs exploding in my village. The first pain I had was from shrapnel in my leg. The first thing I saw was a rifle firing. The first time I met other people was at a funeral. Aha!” Farouk suddenly said, “we have arrived!”

I looked up and saw the exit sign. Farouk turned right at the end of the off ramp. He slowly built compression in the big semi and shifted gears as we approached the city limit sign, welcoming us to Terra Azul. Everything looked familiar, as if I was born into it.

We passed the sign and I had a sinking feeling.

Written in small, graffiti-like letters next to the Chamber of Commerce plaque was the invocation,

“Death to All Who Enter Here.”

© 2006 by Justice Putnam and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

05 March 2006

That Which Does Not Kill You


Justice Putnam

I am an Immortal; that’s why it’s so hard to admit my life has been a mistake. But if you’re living forever, you might as well get used to it.

The problem with being an Immortal is that early on, when you just start being an Immortal in your youth; you think all mistakes can be rectified. But that is just youthful Immortal folly. Being an Immortal is recognizing that you make the same mistakes over and over, always thinking that it will be different the next time. And you have the rest of your Immortal life to ponder that.

It is very tiresome, pondering that which cannot be changed. Even when your children tell you that they always know you’ve loved them, you know the truth. Because an Immortal means not being tied to time and space; loved ones are ultimately neglected. Of course you embrace them and provide when you can, and they profess appreciation that you care. But an Immortal knows the truth.

Like the time a photography gig took you to Honduras. An Immortal always knows the danger. That’s why you went. And when the military broke your camera and your arm, you knew it was no different than surfing over coral, or hang gliding off El Capitan.

Or the time your son was ten and you left to work on a tuna boat in the Gulf of Alaska. You figured the experience would round you as a writer. Plus, the danger was as good as the money. Too bad money isn’t as immortal as you are. But an Immortal can always make money.

At least that’s what you told both of your wives. An Immortal knows that no amount of money can justify the absences, not really. An Immortal knows about these mistakes.

In time, an Immortal will ponder these dangers of the past, these mistakes. None of them killed you, after all you’re an Immortal; but the scars are there, for the rest of your Immortal life.

© 2005 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

02 March 2006

The Story of My Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated


Justice Putnam

New Wreck Times
Senior Travel Bureau Chief
Gerry Bronco

~ California Poet R. Justice Putnam ~

California poet, singer/songwriter, chef and raconteur, R. Justice Putnam, died in a tragic church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama Saturday night. He was alone in the church rectory preparing for the commemoration ceremonies of the four black schoolgirls killed in a similar church bombing in 1963.

Born Royal Justice Moody on 26 March 1955 in Eugene, Oregon, he attended various Catholic schools in the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountains before his mother, the be-bop jazz stylist, Patricia Harris remarried and the family moved to Southern California. Adopted by his stepfather, the historian, Jackson K. Putnam in 1964, Mr. Putnam cited the elder Putnam as having the most profound of influences on his life and written work.

"In my attempts to weave an archetypal story out of the American Landscape," Mr. Putnam was quoted in an interview with Simon Dray on KUSF "Poet’s Corner" in San Francisco, "I have used elements of the 'good and bad father.' Nothing about the 'bad father' has anything do with my dad, Jack. If I have any redeeming qualities in my life, I acquired them from my him."

Mr. Putnam published his first poem at the age of fifteen. He continued to publish poetry, short stories, plays, songs and lyrics, criticism and political essays. One day before his assassination, Mr. Putnam published an essay condemning the war in Iraq and the rampant racism that perpetuates violence here and abroad. It is believed his assassins could be either Christian or Islamic fundamentalists; he was known to take both to task and offended them regularly. A fatwa was issued for his death by the Islamic cleric al-Akim after Mr. Putnam’s folk song, "Just Like Tom Paine’s Blues" was played in public last year. Christian Internet sites called for his death because of the same song. The song used the "f" word to condemn the use of God and Religion to achieve power and terror.

He is survived by his father Jackson, his mother Patricia and her husband Tom Watanuki, siblings Mike, Zona and Zreata, his former wives, Carol and Flore, his son Israel, daughter-in-law Tabitha, his grandchildren Isaiah and Tahlia and many lovers and friends.

At Mr. Putnam’s request as specified in his living will, his ashes will be scattered around a tree on the family property in the Cascades east of Eugene. It is also his wish that friends and family remember him for his bad jokes and that they would dance as if dancing on his grave. He wished that an Irish Jig would be the most popular, but the Lindy Hop would suffice.

A plaque had been commissioned by Mr. Putnam, to be placed at the tree of his scattering. A quote from Czeslaw Milosz reads,

"Not that I want to be a god or hero.
But just to change into a tree
Grow for ages
Not hurt anyone."

© 2005 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches Strophe-Verlagswesen