"Ron was one of the heroic figures of the Cass Corridor in the '70s and '80s," wrote one fellow poet, Tyrone Williams, at an online discussion board. "A true Detroit legend, a master and an excellent fellow and stalwart friend," artist Maurice Greenia Jr. wrote in an e-mail.
Those were typical sentiments heard after Ron Allen, having fallen into a coma following a massive stroke July 31, was removed from life support at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on Aug. 10. The Detroit stalwart who would have turned 63 next month — an Army veteran (Vietnam) who found redemption in art, mooring in Buddhism and a calling to share what he'd discovered — had been facing significant health challenges for years, and relocated to Los Angeles in 2007. There he continued to write and see his work staged; he also brought texts and music together in the band Code Zero.
A co-founder of the seminal H.I.P. (Horizons in Poetry) in the early 1980s, his influence was seminal on the arts in Detroit, his own work flowering in poetry and mind-stretching theater pieces. He was, wrote Rayfield Waller in a 1995 MT profile, "a godfather of open mics and poetry readings in Detroit bars and cafes."
Online at metrotimes.com, you can read Waller's profile, coverage of the beyond-category experiences Allen put on the stage and another memorial poem by Aurora Harris. —W. Kim Heron
Trembling in the Temple of Tears at the Feet of Buddha
Ron Allen 1947-2010
After Allen Ginsberg
Who stood in the concrete fields and alleys of the Cass Corridor
With hope as wild as weeds in the everyday sidewalk cracks
Of Detroit. Deep pockets filled with poetry and Black Arts
Theater that could tell the truth of the future beyond our hidden dreams.
Who understood and shared the phraseology of Donald Goines
A holy language — spun it into surrealistic parables
And laid them upon the dead bones of America's sunken chest.
A blood fever of poetry and ideas to bring new life to our city.
Hipster, futurist, teacher of the theater and poetry of backroom cafés
Who knew the way to the heart was through song and word and not
Through the lackluster academy and institutions that built themselves
Upon their own self pride while quickly diminishing and condemning
The outside world of the streets into the skull cages of formalism.
Who knew the plight of the Bantu before America understood,
And who held twenty-four-hour peace vigils sitting Shiva for freedom
And equality in South Africa before the television and newspapers would
Report the daily murders and violence in the broken houses of Soweto.
Who held, with tenderness, the grieving hands of Detroit mothers
And grandmothers whose children had been lost to murder — killed
By other children in the mean streets of Detroit under vanishing skies
Of gray smoke, blue metal revolvers in the night.
Who put prayer in motion through Zen workshops and
Provoking koans that kept folks thinking of and dreaming for
New answers in the universe of ourselves beyond the here and now
And beneath the heart and skin of God.
Who was aware of the brewing hatred in America's "post-racial"
21st century between city & suburb, black & white, rich and poor.
The invisible barriers that continue to kill the spirit and destroy
Who we are and what we should become.
Beautiful Buddha angel spirit who left Detroit to live
In warm sunshine of Los Angeles and to build
Another community of art and life in a distant city
Where pain was as real as the broken hearts
Of our Detroit. Where theater was not respected nor welcomed.
Where you took Zen meditation to the nth degree,
And beyond the long road that led you
Through Vietnam, Cass Corridor, LA and back
To your Detroit — of community and grace.
You now, sweet Brother man, have returned to us
To live forever in the shade trees of our memories.
Eastside forever – reminding us always of who we all can
Be if we trust each other and heal and nurture
Each other back to life once again in the spirit of love and art.
Detroit poet M.L. Liebler's Working with Words is to be released in October by Coffee House Press. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
From Inside the 6
For poet Ron Allen, 1947-2010
by Aurora Harris
I - August 8, 2010 8:24 a.m.
Outside looked summer hazy gray
Reading poem from 1999 poetry workshop
I said she is the snowstorm then
Eight twenty three three tones
I hear three electronic Buddhist tones
Three quick high pitched Buddhist tones
Eeeee eeeee eeeeee
A technological bell warning through ether
Through window into my left ear
Communication of the OneOne tone
I know what time it is
We know what time it is
We were talking about violence peace
The Up From City’s Devastation Here
Coq a vin in moderation man
With his toe-less dancing feet
Craving Temple Bar two-step heat
That you talking tones to me?
Everything you said you don’t want
Virgo to Virgo I’m handlin’ it
Just found list of Buddhist Temples
Just called Peter phone is ringing
Just called Peter it’s only 6
Even the text message is Buddhist
call buddhist temple for ron please
Buddhism - Wilshire Center & Los Angeles Area
I found list of numbers Ron
I’m throat singer saying it Ron
So you can be Laughing Buddah
Remember I told you about books
Books of dead titles not so?
Egyptians, Tibetans, titles have different meanings
Western words changes meanings and understanding
I will break the six now
It was all about ether
It is all about nonviolence
It was all about peace
It is all about peace
II - August 21-22, 2010 9:43 a.m.
Speak to me
Speak through rising chronic tears
Speak through velvet nights awakening sound
Gray, rainy morning haze
Polish my ears with shattering tropes
Speak into a semblance of light
Broken patterns of woven night sky
Speak to me
Speak through uninterrupted street words
Speak inherited heartbeats
Speak into the secret sauce of jazzy dreams
Spit shine planets with stone washed fingers leaking poems
Speak a stack of verbs walking surreal sky
Speak dialogues of twisted friction in frameworks of truth
Speak to me straight like a wall of ocean’s waves
Speak through genies in cactus needles
Rub a peyote trip out of penny in your pocket
Speak into rhythmic grinding of ego into bone dust
Speak a deluded soul into blue streaks of meditation
Taste molecules of your existences
Speak to me, brother
Float past graffiti rainbows talking backwards
Float past the Bhardo of Dharmata into pure Buddhahood
Float on the luminous path of the Wisdom of Discernment
Speak to me, Speak to me
Black birds gather on telephone wires for 11:00 a.m. morning music
Black birds’ bodies dotting the sky/ are simple notes / of this morning’s beauty
You appearing as 4/4 time/ treble clef 8th notes / F B D E with/ rests in between
You speaking vibrational bird song on electric currents of chatter
You speaking through memories of erratic streams
You who milked the nipple of being
You who blows through a thighbone trumpet
You who appears as a swarm of fireflies
Speak to me, brother Speak to me
Note: The Egyptian Book of the Dead is known as the "Spells of Coming (or Going) Forth By Day"
The Tibetan Book of the Dead is known as the "Bardo Thodol" ... a guide for the dead and dying. Aurora Harris is a Detroit poet and educator who blogs at