Ron Whitehead

Ron Whitehead

Poetry Editor

the bone man dances circles round the subterranean gloom paints pink and blue and purple until he fills the room with the smell of roses and a pandemonium moon
– ron whitehead

Poet, writer, editor, publisher, organizer, activist, performer, scholar Ron Whitehead is the author of 30 books and 37 cds. He has edited over 3,000 titles and published over 2,000. He has presented over 6,000 performances accompanied by some of the best musicians on the planet. In 2006, James Joyce scholar and author of many books, Dr. John Rocco nominated Ron for The Nobel Prize in Literature.


by Ron Whitehead

“Give me liberty or give me death.”
Patrick Henry

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
 –The Bill of Rights, 1st Amendment

“Pray for the dead; fight like hell for the living.”
  –Mother Jones

When in the course of human events
it becomes necessary for one people

to dissolve the political bonds which
have connected them with another

and to assume among the powers
of the earth the separate and equal

station to which the Laws of Nature
and of Nature’s God entitle them,

a decent respect to the opinions
of humankind requires that they

declare the causes which impel
them to separation. We hold these

truths to be self-evident, that ALL
people ALL people, not just property

owners not just the wealthy not just
the military not just the power-elite,
ALL People are created equal, that they

are endowed with certain Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty,

and the pursuit of Happiness, –
that to secure these rights,

Governments derive their powers
from the consent of the governed, –

That whenever Government becomes
destructive it is the Right of the

People to alter or to abolish it
and to institute new Government

laying its foundation on such principles
and organizing its powers in such form

as to effect the Safety and Happiness
of the people it represents. Governments

long established should not be changed
for light and transient causes; and

experience shows that humankind is
more disposed to suffer than to right themselves

by abolishing the forms to which they are
accustomed. But when a Long Train A Long Train of

abuses continues to reduce them under
Absolute Despotism it is Their Right it is

Their Duty to throw off such Government
and to provide new Guards for future

security. – Such has been our patient
sufferance and such is now the necessity Continue reading

Ron Whitehead: Touched by Muhammad Ali

I was there when Muhammad Ali and His Holiness the Dalai Lama met for the first time which was during the 2003 dedication of the Chamtse Ling Temple in Bloomington, Indiana. The interfaith temple is to promote world peace and harmony. The temple is the dream of Thubten Jigme Norbu who was the Dalai Lama’s brother.

A few minutes before this meeting took place I recited part of my poem “Searching for Abraham Lincoln” to Muhammad Ali. I had completed the lines “float like a butterfly/sting like a bee/oh Muhammad oh Muhammad won’t you please help me/cause I’m searching for Abraham Lincoln” when two Secret Service agents grabbed me from behind and threw me up against the wall and nearly killed me. They asked me what in the world I thought I was doing. I said “reciting a poem to Muhammad Ali.”

Ali came over and reached his hand through their arms and grabbed my hand and squeezed it real hard and looked me in the eyes and nodded then motioned to the agents to come on. They walked outside and climbed into a black SUV. I walked up to the temple and watched as The Dalai Lama and Muhammad Ali met for the first time.

Photo is by my longtime friend Jeremy Hogan who was official photographer for the event.
Ron Whitehead, Gonzo Today Poetry Editor

Happy Casteel


by Ron Whitehead

i’ve always loved true tales of the supernatural. i’ve always wandered through old graveyards. there was a time when i would take dates to graveyards, after a dance or a movie. i’ve had many many supernatural experiences. and not all of them were drug inspired. i’ll never forget Daddy telling me this true story. i included it in my book Beaver Dam Rocking Chair Marathon: Fragments of a Lost Text & The Bone Man Saga (Books I & II):

Happy Casteel

Just before ten P.M. Sunday night Bone’s Dad walks over and stands beside his son. Bone’s Dad the Coal Miner. His Dad the Farmer. His dad the Storyteller.

I’m goin to the house. I’ve got to go to work in the mornin.

Without blinking he went on.

Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you five dollars an hour for every hour you last from right now on.

After a short pause

I was standin over there watchin this mess just now and remembered somethin I’d like to tell you. I’ve never told this to anyone other than your Mother.

His voice had a serious almost ominous tone.

According to the results of Amos Peabody’s Standardized International I.Q. and Aptitude Test, Bone’s Dad qualifies as a mechanical genius. Without formal training (he didn’t finish 10th grade) he could assemble and disassemble and reassemble the world’s largest earth-stripping machine, 70 stories high with several million parts and pieces. This he could do singlehanded. Besides being a surgeon he was an operator. He manipulated the monster’s controls with such deftness that, though the stripping bucket could hold and lift several full railroad cars, he could maneuver it down down down and pick up a marble sized stone and not stir dust. He could turn the machine and walk it hundreds of yards on its gigantic duck feet and drop the marble stone into a crystal wine goblet a child held 133 feet below and never crack the goblet. He was a gifted individual.

Bone’s Dad could also repeat, without stopping, thousands of jokes that, due to his shy yet animated storytelling ability, made Bone laugh for days, made him laugh until he cried. But

His Dad was straight as the tobacco rows he planted. He never told a lie, or fabricated a story, so on this warm summer night, when he said

I want to tell you somethin I’ve never told anyone but your mother

without stopping the rocker, with Eve on a chair by his side, Bone sat up to listen hard.

I was born durin the Great Depression. I have many memories about people I knew as a boy. Times, as they were called, were hard, but the man I’m tellin about was a portly gentleman who lived on Rough River. His humble dwellin consisted of two rooms, on a hill, overlookin the river. He was married to a silent little woman who worshipped him. They had no children. His wife was never seen unless he called for her or gave her an order which she obeyed without question.

Day and night he roamed the hills. If anythin was stolen he got the blame, but he paid no mind. He strutted around like a millionaire.

He had a deep impressive voice. He was always optimistic. Had he lived another time he might have been a success. To hear him tell it his fox hounds were always the best. His horse was the fastest and the best at pullin a heavy load.

There was always a boat tied on his side of the river. But he was smart. If he was accused of stealin a boat that showed up tied to his dock he said he had caught it driftin downstream. And maybe he had.

One day he found a nest of duck eggs on the river bank. He put them in his hat and took them home. His wife was sick in bed. He told her since she was goin to have to stay in bed for a while he would put the eggs in bed with her and she could hatch them. She didn’t say a word.

His wife would shine his cracked and worn shoes and iron his shirt so he looked his best. He had straight hair slicked down tight and he bounced when he walked.

He loved to shoot pool. He would saddle his sorrel mare and ride to town Saturdays and stay til midnight. Sometimes the boys turned his horse loose. She would go on home and he would have to walk.

If things got rough enough he ran moonshine whiskey but the thing I remember most about him happened years later.

The phone rang late one cold winter night. Your mother answered it. She said it was for me. She handed the phone to me. It was Happy. He said he remembered when I was a boy. He said he wanted someone to talk to. He said he had been sick and had already died and gone to a place he thought I might call Heaven but he had permission to return and talk to someone about his life and what it was like since he had passed over. For two hours we talked about the other side about the angels and about some people we knew that he had met again.

The next mornin before work I drove to town and asked if anyone had heard from Happy.

His body had been found the day before by Spadge Tooley. Happy apparently had been dead for three days. He died alone in his little two room home overlookin Rough River.

Why did Happy call you instead of someone else Bone asked.

I’ve wondered that for years.

Neither Bone nor his Dad said anything for a long minute.

I’ve got to get goin now. It’s late.

Bone’s Dad had pulled back into himself. He rarely revealed any deep personal emotional stuff. He struggled and suffered keeping those feelings and stories buried.

It was time for Bone’s five minute break.

I’d like to talk about this again sometime Bone said.

Bone turned when his Dad didn’t respond.

He was gone.