Notes From A Tribute To Allen Ginsberg By Sharon Olds


She places a shoebox on the table, undoing the string,

& says she remembers the City Lights edition of Howl was small

enough to keep under her clothes. She spoke about the line, his

use of the long line, & how talking was not permitted by her

family at dinner.

String isn’t used much in this way anymore. It was the

kind of string kept for years and for which we one day find our

heart’s bursting, the things inside scattering out, almost forcing

us to return. His was the string she undid as she spoke of poetry

introducing itself to her.

She takes the lid off the shoebox, carefully lifting out a

white mask she had made of her face as a child. She lifts it out

as if she were someone removing from a big storefront window

a tiny white card that reads “Closed for mourning.” Tying the

mask behind her head, she says, “Whatever is written upon

the forehead of a mask, these are the words written in that per-

son’s heart.”

She sits a moment in silence, in memory of the person

of the mask on her face, and the words she had placed upon

the forehead of the mask, words she had written when she

wore that face. They were from “Supermarket in California,” a

poem he had written about the hunger of love that reaches

beyond the grave & the nectar of speech & unknowingly, a girl.

What American did you have when Charon quit poling his

ferry and you stood watching the boat disappear on the black

waters of Lethe were the words she had painted upon the forehead

of the mask of the girl she had been at the table. It was the long

line of his poems, placed against her skin, that made him, she

said, the first person she let be her.



8 July 1994



[Published in The Dance Of Yellow Lightning Over The Ridge:

Poems 1993-1997. © 1998 by Jim Cohn.]




The Dance Of Yellow Lightning Over The Ridge: Poems 1993-1997
(Writers & Books Publications, 1998)