for ike stein (february 9, 1926–july 15, 2005)


the older we get
the more of our friends
must leave us behind

to serve out our sentence
on this bitter earth, bereft
of their presence

in our lives & left
to navigate without them
thru the courses our lives may take,

& no matter whether
we may see them or not
in the flesh, as the years

go rolling on by us, the times
& the places & circumstances
that have determined our character

& the people who helped shape us
live on within us so long
as we may have life—oh,

let us treasure our friends
in death as in life
& remember what they gave us

like ike stein was to me
when i was a very young man
seeking an escape route

from the land of the white people
& looking for salvation
in jazz & poetry & weed,

working at hatfield’s record shop
at 2nd & saginaw
& stealing every side i wanted

even if they had to be special-ordered,
living with lyman woodard
in an attic apartment at 923 e. kearsley street

& spending our sunday afternoons
at ike stein’s house
on the south side,

smoking reefers
& listening to miles davis records
on ike's big sound system,

ike was a beautiful cat
who came from texas, a big tenor player
with the texas zebra

& other wild bands, but now playing piano
strictly for himself at home
& pursuing a living in flint

as the publisher, editor & writer
of a little street sheet, like 8-1/2
by 14 inches, with 3 folds

so you could stick it
right there in your pocket,
i can’t call  the name of it

but it was full of hip gossip
& even some facts, & you could see
what kind of music

was playing in town
& where it was at,
& ike sold these little ads

to pay for the printing
& make himself a few bucks
while he hustled around town

making all the happening sets
& passing out his street sheet
to everyone he saw,
 
& at the end of each issue
ike wrote a groovy column
that always ended: ‘nuf sed’

ike taught me that i could write
about whatever i wanted,
& get it printed up somehow

& get it out on the streets
& into the hands of the people
i wanted to read it

& to express my thoughts & feelings
about what was happening
in the form of a newspaper column

& to shape my own course
& follow it
wherever it might lead—

then i knew ike in detroit
selling wigs on the streets,
mr. wiggs he was called,

& then he had a shop on plum street
called little things, & i lived
with my first wife up above it

when she was pregnant
with my daughter sunny
in our tiny attic crib

& i knew ike in ann arbor
after i got out of prison
& he had a store called little things on state street

& i knew his wife barbara roberts in flint
where she had a beauty shop on industrial avenue
right down from where tom allen & i would stand

& listen for hours to the teachings
of the barefooted prophet named j.c.
who was our spiritual & earthly leader,

& barbara roberts had a young son
named reggie roberts, who would grow up
into a great hammond b-3 organ player from flint

& i knew ike's second wife chris
in detroit & ann arbor
when they ran the store together

& i knew ike back in detroit in the 70s
& early 80s, when little things had moved
into trappers alley in greektown

& he was presenting jazz concerts with roy brooks
right there back in the alley
like he used to do in flint before i knew him,

back in the early 50s when he & willie metcalf
had some kind of nightspot, & they brought
miles davis to flint with his horn in a paper bag,

miles was staying in detroit
trying to kick his heroin habit, & ike & willie
brought him up to flint to play,

& on that fateful night
when i met my future wife
it turned out that it was her sister chris

who was married to ike stein
& one day he would be my brother-in-law
27 years after we had met,

& finally i knew ike again
when he & chris had the trading post
military surplus store in ferndale,

& their son ameer
& their daughter nonie
& then ameer’s daughter raven

& then i moved to new orleans
& ike & chris split up
& i didn't see him again—

now ike stein is laid to rest,
he lived 79 years on this wretched planet
with his big heart

& his beautiful smile,
always bringing intelligence & love
into the lives of his friends

& leaving this troubled world
a better place
than he had found it



                     oxford, mississippi july 18, 2005
                     detroit, august 20, 2005




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