May Elegy for Allen Ginsberg

Michael Rothenberg

Chips of light in cypress coming along way back there
Streets hustled on wheels
Rubber souls, leather heels
Steel concrete
Pedestals climbing...
What have I returned for?

To watch barefoot son walk over longest mile in whole wide century?
Oil changed. Teeth cleaned
Home again after 6,000 miles walkabout
San Francisco to Indiana to Nashville to Miami
Miami to Nashville to Indiana to New York
To Indiana to Nashville to San Francisco

On road with cell phone that's when I heard he died
Hawk feather rearview mirror, wind blown
Mettalica thunders carnivorous interstate power grid
Driving truck stop chicken sandwich to blue nights
Mildewed Florida motel room. Bodyworn bloodstained bed sheets
I slept in the other bed

1 a.m., just in from Gallup, N. M.
Greeted by low growling black lab, neck hair raised:
"Hi, Standley, remember me?"
All house sleeping. I put Queen on stereo loud
Pick 6 year old son up from bed. "We will, we will rock you!"
Rocking him back and forth under confused gaze of Standley
Then Nancy comes turns music off

Another time in May, all's clear
Nancy and Cosmos gone to choir for few hours
I'm distracted by fat pink and blue markers
Sort through mail. Automobile insurance
2 speeding tickets. 6 tickets to 3 Cyndi Lauper shows...

Remember, Allen
I went to pick you up at Denver airport
You told me you wanted to meet Ma Rainey
I told you I wanted to meet Cyndi Lauper
Allen Ginsberg, dead at last!

3:15 p.m at a Tennessee payphone
I find out from Nancy
Finally, I said
I dreamed of you, Allen
Outside of house on Miami Beach where I was born
Spoke. You didn't understand what I was saying

Called Wanda in New York, still Tennessee payphone
Bleak funereal rain under
Mrs. Winners' Chicken and Biscuit sign
"It will be a different world without him"
No longer phantom father interjecting self in my poetry
You had terrible taste in poetry, Allen!
I was hurt you endorsed Antler!
Then had chutzpah to die during National Poetry Month!

Allen, come back, I miss you, you were great!
Howling loud after death
Lung memory swollen bigger than life telling us to speak up!
Self-promoting, Allen, dead at last
Naturally self-promoting organism full of success
Speaking through final poems
Breathes before coma to ten thousand disciples of Allen
I won't forget you read my Russian journals
Told me you dreamed them
At Naropa marked my poem "New Country" so it would be right

Verse line, verse, your body
Burns on pyre, sending your body
Down floating, burns, East River, now
Wondering if fair young angel boys will sing
Your songs in heaven?

Cover Prior Next

The 2River View, 3_2 (Winter 1999)