The Story of My Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
New Wreck Times
Senior Travel Bureau Chief
~ 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