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Online Poems by Allen Ginsberg


A Supermarket in California
          What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for
I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache
self-conscious looking at the full moon.
          In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went
into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
          What peaches and what penumbras!  Whole families
shopping at night!  Aisles full of husbands!  Wives in the
avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, Garcia Lorca, what
were you doing down by the watermelons?

          I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber,
poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery
boys.
          I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the
pork chops?  What price bananas?  Are you my Angel?
          I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans
following you, and followed in my imagination by the store
detective.
          We strode down the open corridors together in our
solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen
delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

          Where are we going, Walt Whitman?  The doors close in
an hour.  Which way does your beard point tonight?
          (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
          Will we walk all night through solitary streets?  The
trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be
lonely.

          Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love
past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
          Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,
what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and
you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat
disappear on the black waters of Lethe?
Berkeley, 1955  
From Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. 
Copyright  1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Online source

Sunflower Sutra

I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and sat down under the huge shade of a Southern Pacific locomotive to look for the sunset over the box house hills and cry.

Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, surrounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of machinery.

The only water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that stream, no hermit in those mounts, just ourselves rheumy-eyed and hung-over like old bums on the riverbank, tired and wily.

Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust--

--I rushed up enchanted--it was my first sunflower, memories of Blake--my visions--Harlem

and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the poem of the riverbank, condoms & pots, steel knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the past--

and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset, crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye--

corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face, soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sunrays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried wire spiderweb,

leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear,

Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O my soul, I loved you then!

The grime was no man's grime but death and human locomotives,

all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black mis'ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuberance of artificial worse-than-dirt--industrial-- modern--all that civilization spotting your crazy golden crown--

and those blear thoughts of death and dusty loveless eyes and ends and withered roots below, in the home-pile of sand and sawdust, rubber dollar bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely tincans with their rusty tongues alack, what more could I name, the smoked ashes of some cock cigar, the cunts of wheelbarrows and the milky breasts of cars, wornout asses out of chairs & sphincters of dynamos--all these

entangled in your mummied roots--and you standing before me in the sunset, all your glory in your form!

A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden monthly breeze!

How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your grime, while you cursed the heavens of your railroad and your flower soul?

Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? when did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive?

You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower!

And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not!

So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck it at my side like a scepter,

and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack's soul too, and anyone who'll listen,

--We're not our skin of grime, we're not our dread bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we're all golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed & hairy naked accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown vision.

From Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. Copyright 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Online Source


America

America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January
17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I
need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not
the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come back
it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical
joke?
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I'm doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven't read the newspapers for months, everyday
somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid
I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses
in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle
Max after he came over from Russia.
I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by
Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner
candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Business-
men are serious. Movie producers are serious.
Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.
Asia is rising against me.
I haven't got a chinaman's chance.
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of
marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable
private literature that goes 1400 miles an hour
and twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of
underprivileged who live in my flowerpots
under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers
is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that
I'm a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly
mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as
individual as his automobiles more so they're
all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500
down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Com-
munist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a
handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and
sentimental about the workers it was all so sin-
cere you have no idea what a good thing the
party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand
old man a real mensch Mother Bloor made me
cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody
must have been a spy.
America you don't really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen.
And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power
mad. She wants to take our cars from out our
garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers'
Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia.
Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta-
tions.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read.
Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us
all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in
the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes
in precision parts factories, I'm nearsighted and
psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

- Berkeley, January 17, 1956

From Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. Copyright 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Online Source


Kaddish, Part I

For Naomi Ginsberg, 1894-1956

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on
   the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.
downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I've been up all night, talking,
   talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues
   shout blind on the phonograph
the rhythm the rhythm--and your memory in my head three years after--
   And read Adonais' last triumphant stanzas aloud--wept, realizing
   how we suffer--
And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember,
   prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of An-
   swers--and my own imagination of a withered leaf--at dawn--
Dreaming back thru life, Your time--and mine accelerating toward Apoca-
   lypse,
the final moment--the flower burning in the Day--and what comes after, 
looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city
a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and a phantom
   Russia, or a crumpled bed that never existed--
like a poem in the dark--escaped back to Oblivion--
No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the Dream,
   trapped in its disappearance,
sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom, worship-
   ping each other,
worshipping the God included in it all--longing or inevitability?--while it
   lasts, a Vision--anything more?
It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder,
   Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shoul-
   dering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant--and
   the sky above--an old blue place.
or down the Avenue to the south, to--as I walk toward the Lower East Side
   --where you walked 50 years ago, little girl--from Russia, eating the
   first poisonous tomatoes of America frightened on the dock 
then struggling in the crowds of Orchard Street toward what?--toward
   Newark--
toward candy store, first home-made sodas of the century, hand-churned ice 
   cream in backroom on musty brownfloor boards--
Toward education marriage nervous breakdown, operation, teaching school,
   and learning to be mad, in a dream--what is this life?
Toward the Key in the window--and the great Key lays its head of light
   on top of Manhattan, and over the floor, and lays down on the
   sidewalk--in a single vast beam, moving, as I walk down First toward
   the Yiddish Theater--and the place of poverty
you knew, and I know, but without caring now--Strange to have moved
   thru Paterson, and the West, and Europe and here again,
with the cries of Spaniards now in the doorstops doors and dark boys on
   the street, firs escapes old as you
--Tho you're not old now, that's left here with me--
Myself, anyhow, maybe as old as the universe--and I guess that dies with
   us--enough to cancel all that comes--What came is gone forever
   every time--
That's good!  That leaves it open for no regret--no fear radiators, lacklove,
   torture even toothache in the end--
Though while it comes it is a lion that eats the soul--and the lamb, the soul,
   in us, alas, offering itself in sacrifice to change's fierce hunger--hair 
   and teeth--and the roar of bonepain, skull bare, break rib, rot-skin,
   braintricked Implacability.
Ai! ai!  we do worse! We are in a fix!  And you're out, Death let you out,
   Death had the Mercy, you're done with your century, done with 
   God, done with the path thru it--Done with yourself at last--Pure
   --Back to the Babe dark before your Father, before us all--before the
   world--
There, rest.  No more suffering for you.  I know where you've gone, it's good.
No more flowers in the summer fields of New York, no joy now, no more 
   fear of Louis,
and no more of his sweetness and glasses, his high school decades, debts,
   loves, frightened telephone calls, conception beds, relatives, hands--
No more of sister Elanor,--she gone before you--we kept it secret you
   killed her--or she killed herself to bear with you--an arthritic heart
   --But Death's killed you both--No matter--
Nor your memory of your mother, 1915 tears in silent movies weeks and
   weeks--forgetting, agrieve watching Marie Dressler address human-
   ity, Chaplin dance in youth,
or Boris Godunov, Chaliapin's at the Met, halling his voice of a weeping Czar
   --by standing room with Elanor & Max--watching also the Capital 
   ists take seats in Orchestra, white furs, diamonds,
with the YPSL's hitch-hiking thru Pennsylvania, in black baggy gym skirts
   pants, photograph of 4 girls holding each other round the waste, and
   laughing eye, too coy, virginal solitude of 1920
all girls grown old, or dead now, and that long hair in the grave--lucky to
   have husbands later--
You made it--I came too--Eugene my brother before (still grieving now and
   will gream on to his last stiff hand, as he goes thru his cancer--or kill
   --later perhaps--soon he will think--)
And it's the last moment I remember, which I see them all, thru myself, now
   --tho not you
I didn't foresee what you felt--what more hideous gape of bad mouth came 
   first--to you--and were you prepared?
To go where?  In that Dark--that--in that God? a radiance? A Lord in the 
   Void?  Like an eye in the black cloud in a dream?  Adonoi at last, with
   you?
Beyond my remembrance! Incapable to guess! Not merely the yellow skull
   in the grave, or a box of worm dust, and a stained ribbon--Deaths-
   head with Halo?  can you believe it?
Is it only the sun that shines once for the mind, only the flash of existence,
   than none ever was?
Nothing beyond what we have--what you had--that so pitiful--yet Tri-
   umph,
to have been here, and changed, like a tree, broken, or flower--fed to the 
   ground--but made, with its petals, colored, thinking Great Universe, 
   shaken, cut in the head, leaf stript, hid in an egg crate hospital, cloth
   wrapped, sore--freaked in the moon brain, Naughtless.
No flower like that flower, which knew itself in the garden, and fought the
   knife--lost
Cut down by an idiot Snowman's icy--even in the Spring--strange ghost 
   thought some--Death--Sharp icicle in his hand--crowned with old
   roses--a dog for his eyes--cock of a sweatshop--heart of electric
   irons.
All the accumulations of life, that wear us out--clocks, bodies, consciousness,
   shoes, breasts--begotten sons--your Communism--'Paranoia' into
   hospitals.
You once kicked Elanor in the leg, she died of heart failure later.  You of 
   stroke.  Asleep?  within a year, the two of you, sisters in death.  Is
   Elanor happy?
Max grieves alive in an office on Lower Broadway, lone large mustache over
   midnight Accountings, not sure.  His life passes--as he sees--and
   what does he doubt now?  Still dream of making money, or that might 
   have made money, hired nurse, had children, found even your Im-
   mortality, Naomi?
I'll see him soon.  Now I've got to cut through to talk to you as I didn't
   when you had a mouth.
Forever.  And we're bound for that, Forever like Emily Dickinson's horses
   --headed to the End.
They know the way--These Steeds--run faster than we think--it's our own
   life they cross--and take with them.

   Magnificent, mourned no more, marred of heart, mind behind, mar-
ried dreamed, mortal changed--Ass and face done with murder.
   In the world, given, flower maddened, made no Utopia, shut under
pine, almed in Earth, blamed in Lone, Jehovah, accept.
   Nameless, One Faced, Forever beyond me, beginningless, endless,
Father in death.  Tho I am not there for this Prophecy, I am unmarried, I'm
hymnless, I'm Heavenless, headless in blisshood I would still adore
   Thee, Heaven, after Death, only One blessed in Nothingness, not
light or darkness, Dayless Eternity--
   Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some
of my Time, now given to Nothing--to praise Thee--But Death
   This is the end, the redemption from Wilderness, way for the Won-
derer, House sought for All, black handkerchief washed clean by weeping
--page beyond Psalm--Last change of mine and Naomi--to God's perfect
Darkness--Death, stay thy phantoms!

II
   Over and over--refrain--of the Hospitals--still haven't written your
history--leave it abstract--a few images
   run thru the mind--like the saxophone chorus of houses and years--
remembrance of electrical shocks.
   By long nites as a child in Paterson apartment, watching over your
nervousness--you were fat--your next move--
   By that afternoon I stayed home from school to take care of you--
once and for all--when I vowed forever that once man disagreed with my
opinion of the cosmos, I was lost--
   By my later burden--vow to illuminate mankind--this is release of
particulars--(mad as you)--(sanity a trick of agreement)--
   But you stared out the window on the Broadway Church corner, and
spied a mystical assassin from Newark,
   So phoned the Doctor--'OK go way for a rest'--so I put on my coat
and walked you downstreet--On the way a grammarschool boy screamed,
unaccountably--'Where you goin Lady to Death'? I shuddered--
   and you covered your nose with motheaten fur collar, gas mask
against poison sneaked into downtown atmosphere, sprayed by Grandma--
   And was the driver of the cheesebox Public Service bus a member of 
the gang?  You shuddered at his face, I could hardly get you on--to New
York, very Times Square, to grab another Greyhound--

From Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. Copyright 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Online Source


CIA Dope Calypso

In nineteen hundred forty-nine
China was won by Mao Tse-tung
Chiang Kai Shek's army ran away
They were waiting there in Thailand yesterday

Supported by the CIA
Pushing junk down Thailand way

First they stole from the Meo Tribes
Up in the hills they started taking bribes
Then they sent their soldiers up to Shan
Collecting opium to send to The Man

Pushing junk in Bangkok yesterday
Supported by the CIA

Brought their jam on mule trains down
To Chiang Mai that's a railroad town
Sold it next to the police chief's brain
He took it to town on the choochoo train
Trafficking dope to Bangkok all day
Supported by the CIA

The policeman's name was Mr. Phao
He peddled dope grand scale and how
Chief of border customs paid
By Central Intelligence's U.S. aid

The whole operation, Newspapers say
Supported by the CIA

He got so sloppy and peddled so loose
He busted himself and cooked his own goose
Took the reward for the opium load
Seizing his own haul which same he resold

Big time pusher for a decade turned grey
Working for the CIA

Touby Lyfong he worked for the French
A big fat man liked to dine & wench
Prince of the Meos he grew black mud
Till opium flowed through the land like a flood

Communists came and chased the French away
So Touby took a job with the CIA

The whole operation fell in to chaos
Till U.S. intelligence came in to Laos

Mary Azarian/Matt Wuerker

I'll tell you no lie I'm a true American
Our big pusher there was Phoumi Nosavan

All them Princes in a power play
But Phoumi was the man for the CIA

And his best friend General Vang Pao
Ran the Meo army like a sacred cow
Helicopter smugglers filled Long Cheng's bars
In Xieng Quang province on the Plain of Jars

It started in secret they were fighting yesterday
Clandestine secret army of the CIA

All through the Sixties the dope flew free
Thru Tan Son Nhut Saigon to Marshall Ky
Air America followed through
Transporting comfiture for President Thieu

All these Dealers were decades and yesterday
The Indochinese mob of the U.S. CIA

Operation Haylift Offisir Wm Colby
Saw Marshall Ky fly opium Mr. Mustard told me
Indochina desk he was Chief of Dirty Tricks
"Hitch-hiking" with dope pushers was how he got his fix

Subsidizing the traffickers to drive the Reds away
Till Colby was the head of the CIA

-January 1972

From Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. Copyright 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Online Source


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