Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Memoriam

I've been reading Tennyson and various other poets thinking about the recent death of my old friend Kris Bristow and the death two years ago of Craig Duvelius. Kris died from a sudden illness and Craig from an accidental overdose. I was reading Howl earlier and was struck by the first few lines of one of my favorite poems of all time.

Excerpt from Howl by Allen Ginsberg:

For Carl Solomon

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking
for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking
in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating
across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw
Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the
scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing
obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in
the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating
all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns,
wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of
joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and
tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan
rantings and kind king light of mind,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar
to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping
down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills of Empire
State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories
and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails
and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and
nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of
ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,


As you know, the poem itself is very long. Certain lines just strike me today.
Like these:

who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a
vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to
Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded &
in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, &
now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each
other's salvation and light and breasts, until the soul
illuminated its hair for a second,

Obviously, the Denver lines are about Neal Cassady. He's one of my favorites also.

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