An excerpt from 2012 newsletter (written by JoAnn Wypijewski)
“That first group of campers arrived at Tree Frog Farm on July 21. Only hours before, in Germany, Alexander Cockburn had died. Our political and journalistic collaborator, our supporter, our great friend for decades, Alex had once spent summers at the farm. With Andy and John Scagliotti and others, he was part of the brilliant, gamesome world that inspired so many of us who were young with the joy of politics, the joy of writing and doing—of living at an angle to the settled universe.
[Picture at Treefrog 1985, Katherine Kilgore, Andy Kopkind, John Scagliotti, Will K. Wilkins, Daisy Cockburn, Alex Cockburn]
The Occupiers could not have known as they set out for Kopkind that their presence would not just affirm the historical continuity of radical energy but also be a balm for grief. As the wonderful historian Peter Linebaugh says, “Sometimes you need the class.” At an impromptu evening gathering they listened to stories that people from the neighborhood told remembering Alex. At the end, a camper offered a poem by Nazim Hikmet, one of the great poets of the twentieth century, whom most of us had never encountered. So in the dark of the farm’s back field, with torches blazing, came this ‘On Living,’ which goes in part
Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example—
I mean, without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
I mean you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees—
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.
Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery—
which is to say we might not get up
from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast. . .
Let’s say we’re at the front—
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind—
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.
…If you would like a copy of the Zeitgeist mailed to you please send your name and address to John Scagliotti, The Kopkind Colony, 158 Kopkind Rd, Guilford, VT 05301
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