There were naked people traipsing through the fountain at the Rose Gardens at Lake Harriet Monday afternoon, and who can blame them?
In separate polls released Monday, Minneapolis was named the homo and hipster capital of the free world. You can look it up.
On the same Monday, the majority of the sixth-grade health students at St. Anthony Middle School deemed a presentation on the birds and bees and male and female anatomy “beautiful” but ultimately “disgusting,” the St. Paul Pioneer Press carried a front-page five-column above-the-fold photo of the Dalai Lama sporting a Golden Gophers visor and the banner headline “An appeal for compassion,” and Minnesota poet laureate Robert Bly gave a reading at a Nicollet Avenue church that midway through found him asking the 500 faithful, three times, “Everywhere people are longing for a deeper life, yes?”
The deeply Minnesotan crowd was eventually cajoled into shouting “Yes!,” by the great sage, who had apparently mesmerized the lot of them with his wise billowing words accompanied by drums and electric sitar.
Folks reverently followed along with the poet’s words via his books, like church-goers with their missals. One woman sat in the front pew holding a big teddy bear clad in a Gophers football jersey. Bly sat in the middle of the church altar, comfortable in his own skin if not his own mortality, a Southwest Minnesota farm kid turned poet-guru who spoke of love, desire, nature, and springtime on a glorious stormy Monday in Minneapolis.
Me, I sat up in the balcony with a buddy, listening to words ricochet off stained glass: “We are thirsty souls.” “We are infinite creatures.” “[With middle age], it is as if the river shores were opening up.” “We all have friends, but we all need a soul-friend, right?” “I feel closer to what language can’t reach.” “We are perishable, my friends.” “It’s a mammal’s delight.”
It was the great big “I don’t know” that poetry affords in a sea of opinion and news and a quiet, communal celebration of the florgasm exploding all around us after one of the darkest, coldest winters on record. No biggie, but it should be noted that a few hundred people spent a couple hours quietly doing devotions to rebirth and the written word while living out what the original green partier St. Francis Of Assisi said: “What we are looking for is what is looking.”
At one point, Bly’s trembling hands dropped the small stack of books he’d been holding. The gaffe cut through to the quiet (“intelligent-looking” audience) and made the icon as human as his poems. He finished off the night by reading from his new collection of poems, “Talking Into The Ear Of A Donkey,” then we split for the Uptown Theater’s late showing of “Cave Of Forgotten Dreams,” a documentary about the discovery of the first paintings by the first artists.
It was earthy like the fecund spring soil itself, but after all that dust we opted for the human aquarium that is Chino Latino, where Axe boys and Maxim girls did the mating dance of service industry night. I ended my Monday with the dog at the Rose Gardens under the crescent moon, where more naked fountain dancers twirled under the stars.
“C’mon, the water’s fine,” chirped one half-clothed fairy, and hell if I might not join them.
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.