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?
Poet: Allen Ginsberg
Born: 3 June 1926, New Jersey, USA
Died: 5 April 1997, New York, USA
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was a poet, philosopher and writer. In the 1940s as a student of Columbia College he began a close friendship with WS Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, forming the core of the Beat Generation. He opposed militarism, economic materialism and sexual repression. He embodied various aspects of this counterculture with his views on drugs, openness to Eastern religions and hostility to bureaucracy. Ginsberg is best known for the poem ‘Howl’ which denounces the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity within the United States at the time. It became the subject of an obscenity trial in 1957 s it described heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws mad homosexual acts a crime in every state. The poem reflected Ginsberg’s own sexuality and his relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner. ‘Howl’ was ruled as not obscene.
Ginsberg was a Buddhist and studied eastern religious disciplines and lived modestly. He took part in decades of political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. His poetry called attention to the plight of the refugees of Bangladesh.
He died in New York City from liver cancer via complications of hepatitis. His ashes are buried in his family plot in Gomel Chesed Cemetery in Newark, New Jersey, USA.