No 83 & 84
in memory of Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)
I am I, old father Fisheye that begat the ocean, the worm at my
Own ear, the serpent turning around a tree…
Working for minimum wage & wearing a paper hat
you served me ice cream from behind a stainless steel counter.
I couldn’t decipher the strangely Latin flavors.
“You choose,” I said, “something chocolate.”
Soft, deft diabetic hands scooped cream into sugar-cone,
offered with folded napkin.
“I need a place to stay,” you said, almost embarrassed.
Aren’t you lofted on immortal Blakean cloud?
You set up stations of herbs, flasks & electronic monitors in my studio apartment—
strange apothecary, like Melquiades or Harry Smith
& the appearance of a long, empirical stay.
As soon as your lab is erected,
you fold it down again into shiny, stacked aluminum cases &
wave goodbye at the door.
Sad pressure in my chest as you turn to the darkening street.
What was your deduction, what evidence gathered?
For what journey did you prepare across the astral splay
of northern belt Milky Way?
The radio announced your death as I drove icy I-96
listening to a long lost tape of a family Christmas feast, Detroit, 1972:
gasoline up to 52c/gallon, Nixonian energy crisis, price of potatoes rising.
The history of Monopoly lucidly explained to attentive uncles by my father,
a budding insurance executive dreaming his own red hotels & green houses.
And you, teacher, already battle-scarred in revolution games
were immersed in your new mindfulness practice in cities far away.
This very night I sat at holiday table you dreamed of kissing
Einstein’s salty thumb.
Flying back to Arizona over the flat, roadless west Texas earth
I studied the crinkled web of arroyos,
manifold Apachean tributaries,
olive sagebrush shelves & shadeless dusty groves—
not even cattle mulling the alkaline reaches.
I thought of your “mashed jack rabbits” en route to Reno,
frosty Steens Range radio enumerations,
your Czechoslovakian sneakers marking the Oregon frost
as you got sick at roadside.
Who will talk to America now,
erase its borders & keep track of its prisoners?
A sleety March night in ’88,
seven of us crammed into Tom Peters’ Capri,
you on my lap speaking of Reznikoff’s old neighborhood woman
with bacon hanging from her lips like a dog tongue,
Ma Rainey’s black bottom vowels,
the nuances of Sapphic meter.
On Arapahoe Ave. I watched you
walk off coughing in the cold haiku rain.
You covered your palsied face & I thought,
I hope he doesn’t die.
We stooped to read the Rocky Mountain News
through the warped plexiglass of the box:
the streets of Beijing buzzing with revolt
& the lone student staving off the tank:
your Bolshevik DNA atwitter.
A steamy July afternoon & long elevator ride
twenty-three floors above anthill Babylon for radio show.
Looking down on the sooty railyards,
metal heaps & blackened warehouses,
your Cassidean Denver long gone,
you sang “Father Death Blues”
while I tapped beat on the counter top.
The host opened the lines for Denver to speak with the noble bard:
an eerie gap as all the Front Range
from Loveland to Buffalo Creek &
east into the alfalfa flat prairie
& all the hot metropolis beneath
The host repeated,
“Come on Denver! Ask Allen Ginsberg…anything!”
The dead air crackled like Kerouac’s haunted radio gaps
listening to The Shadow in old time Lowell.
I winced at the thought of America enslumbered,
in need of the Lion’s Roar.
& you just learning how to grow old,
floss regularly, oil your feet
& eat your morning millet.
A fly on your forehead as you took my picture,
fireworks, children & beer—poets under the tent.
A hug & I begged you to play softball.
“It’d kill me,” you said.
We stood under a catalpa in the summer field & I remembered then:
your glasses punched by a black kid in Patterson.
Never one for such games:
would-be labor lawyer, borsht-lover,
eulogizer of revolutionaries,
mouth of West Wind—
ole Father Fisheye.
Son of Abraham
Son of Whitman
& Prajna Paramita
I vow to forever wield thy sunflower,
its corolla of bleary spikes,
to lift thy scepter, throw thy sickle—
to step in the same river twice.
I will finish Brothers Karamazov
conjure a million hungry Russians,
memorize the Buddhist categories of heaven & hell
& let my ego die on an Arizona knoll.
I vow to kiss Moloch on his baby-eating lips,
invite the demon for green tea on my good rug.
They say when you died your mouth made an O.
They administered the final liquid blue Buddhist food
& closed your lips for the last time—
something for the trip.
No worm to be at your ear.
The Detroit News printed “Flower Power!” & “Smoke Dope!”
beside your obituary.
I knew you as crystal-headed sage
in crisp white, buttoned business shirts;
first-thought wizard of candid snapshots & scholarly blues
who gave up his seat at the auditorium for late arrivals;
haiku meditator explaining the updraft from the marsh,
taking off his shirt, putting it on again;
treaty-maker between San Francisco and Kazakhstan—
who appeased rioting streets with mantric calm.
Now ashes in the snow
dharma-nutrient of Red Feather Lakes.
April, 1997- April, 2006
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The