TOPANGA MESSENGER -- April 22, 2004

"The Passing of Princess"

by Pablo Capra
Photo by Bruce Dath

Princess, a horse known to many from the moving cycle of poems written by her owner Bond Johnson in Idlers of the Bamboo Grove, died on April 2 at age 34.

As Bond’s poems relate, he was forced to live apart from Princess after his house burned down in the Malibu fire of 1993. Fortunately, horse-lover King Zimmerman agreed to let Princess live with him in Lower Topanga.

“Where else would a Princess live / If not with a man called King?” Bond writes.

In a sadly prophetic moment, King told Bond “It’s only a trial, / But you know, Bond, / She’ll likely still be here / When I die.” King was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing Pacific Coast Highway in 2002. Shortly afterwards, State Parks relocated all of King’s tenants except Princess.

Princess endeared herself to several Lower Topangans. In addition to Bond’s poems, she appears in the poems of David Hayward and Catherine Holliss, who says that she decided to move to Lower Topanga after meeting Princess. In part, Princess became a symbol of Lower Topanga, and the stress of having to leave.

In April 2003, Bond built a small corral, then walked with Princess from Lower Topanga all the way to his home at Malibu Lodge, just past Tuna Canyon on PCH. But spurred by homesickness, the old horse tried to walk back to Lower Topanga when no one was looking. Bond found her unharmed on the PCH, and brought her back to her new corral, “As close to the old place / As we could get.”

Princess lives on in Idlers of the Bamboo Grove: Poetry from Lower Topanga Canyon, available at Lobal Orning. Below is one of Bond’s poems from the book:

"Soon Enough Now"

(For Princess)

Soon enough now
The water in the corral will be dry
And there will be no need to fill it.
Soon enough now the grain cans
Will rest unopened,
Then be turned out for the birds.
Soon enough now the sun
Will cross the whole sky
Looking for a horse
Whose brown coat
It can dapple with shadows of Sycamore leaves,
And find only the empty earth
Where she used to walk.
So in these autumn days,
Let us banish
All who would scorn the mystery of such things.
Let us live each day left
With full hearts and open eyes,
So that when the end comes
We will know
That nothing
Stood in the way
Of us and the love we shared.


"A Palisadian Jazz Poet Speaks"

by Caroline Ryder
Photo courtesy of David Hayward

A decade after Beat author Jack Kerouac prophesized the American "rucksack revolution", Dave Hayward, a talented young jazz musician with a taste for liquor, found himself right in the middle of it. It was 1970 and the 28-year-old musician was touring the country with Janis Joplin and her hippie entourage, riding the wave of the new counterculture. But unlike Joplin, Hayward had little time for flower children. "I did the sixties hard-core but I was never a hippie," says Hayward, who has lived in the Palisades since he was a child. "I never shared those values. I was more of a libertarian, if anything. For me, those times were just about the music."

Dave had been playing the trumpet since he was a teenager, and got his first real break at 24. Completely inebriated, he somehow managed to persuade jazz legend Sonny Rollins to let him play with him. "He was playing a show in Hollywood and I was there, totally loaded," remembers Dave. "He took a break and I went up to him and asked if I could stand in. I would never have done that sober. It's like asking God if you can stand in for him." But Rollins was impressed by his enthusiasm, and invited Dave to join him for six months, playing venues in New York City. The two remain friends to this day. "It was the single greatest musical experience of my life," said Hayward. "If you had asked me at the age of 16 who I would die to work with, it would have been Sonny Rollins."

Hayward went on to tour with big-name musicians including The Righteous Brothers, and was asked to join Joplin's band in 1970. By then, the "phoniness" of the hippie movement was already starting to grate. "They thought it was very chic to hate anything ‘conventional'," he said. "But behind the peace and love slogans, there was violence and elitism, which I hated."

Even though Joplin was an icon of the movement he despised, they became friends - thanks to their shared love of booze. "She and I were the only alcoholics in the band," explained Hayward, who has been sober since 1974. "But she would always take things to the extreme."

When he heard she had died of a heroin overdose six months after they finished the tour, he wasn't surprised. "We used to worry about something like that happening," he said. "I remember she'd do her sound check in the afternoon, and her roadie was always wondering whether she'd O.D. before the evening's gig."

Over the years Hayward found himself drawn to other art forms, especially poetry. "I'm a musician, and I started to realize that all great poetry has music in it," he said. He was inspired by the poetry of WH Auden and Dylan Thomas, joking "they were alcoholics, just like me." After publishing some poems with the Topanga Poets, he recently put out his own collection, a 51-page book called "The Lowered Bucket". He will read from it at Village Books in the Palisades this month, in a collaborative reading with poet, pacifist and – dare we say it – peacenik John Harris.

"I suppose you could say I'm a hippie," said Harris, founder of the Venice Poetry Workshop, LA's oldest poetry workshop, who fostered a generation of Los Angeles writers as a mentor and publisher. He also ran famous bookstore ‘Papa Bach', a hub for Conscientious Objectors during the Viet Nam War. "Dave and I do have our differences in opinion when it comes to politics and so on," said John, "but we do have a lot of things in common – jazz and poetry. That's all you need."

Dave Hayward and John Harris appear at Village Books (310 454 4063), 1049 Swarthmore Ave., Pacific Palisades, Thursday April 8 at 7.30pm in celebration of National Poetry Month.

An Excerpt from "Clatter"
A poem from "The Lowered Bucket" by Dave Hayward

I'm simply a bucket in a hole
Banging my way up and out
In to the light.

Musician, poet, joined at the root, sessile
I rattle and splash my way back
To pure expectancy;
Non-being, out of reach.

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