H e a r t   S o n s   &   H e a r t   D a u g h t e r s   of   A l l e n   G i n s b e r g

N a p a l m   H e a l t h   S p a :   R e p o r t   2 0 1 4 :   A r c h i v e s   E d i t i o n






Your Wisdom Eye Gleams


sitting in neon Chinese eating thick rice soup, steamed clams

and the shrimp with lobster sauce I ordered: “it’s okay...I just have

to watch the salt,” you said to my dietary questions

and now you’re gone, poet of the front lines

poet of beatnik, original bearded then briefly clean shaven

dharma student and seducer of straight boys

well, we who were primarily straight


Neelie Cherkovski remembering you, said: “he never let me pay

for a meal.”         And you, even last Christmas when I was flush

wouldn't let me buy that dinner for us

I borrowed hundreds from you as a spendthrift drug-addled

young man, thinking I’d “earned” it with my ass...    

...that scared first night in Boulder with you, wanting to be

accepted for my heart and young writer’s mind, so would suffer

that to have a connection, any connection, with The Bard—living

spark of Whitmanic honesty and American singer—confronter

brave voiced taker-on of Time Magazine and CIA...

I was used to being used when seduced by those few other

men lovers. Except by you: romantic in your affection and desire

to fall asleep in my arms, bald pate and curly beard near my

smooth chest...

another hot Boulder night, 1977

end of Naropa term, I’d been your apprentice at Kerouac School of

 Disembodied Poetics—and occasional bed partner—wrote letters

for you, helped transcribe Peter Orlovsky’s smiling vegetable

poems, eating your pork chop, kasha and mushroom gravy dinner,

then going to a dance, stripping off my shirt to Bob Marley

“Hey, that’s ageist,” you yelled at “Crazy Baldhead” song

but bent to kiss my flat belly and boy nipple—I turned you down to

pursue cute Kansas poet-girl rest of eve, ending up kissing her

nipple but like you, no sexy story-end that night.


And you never held it against me if I didn’t want you

was always eager to have a meal at Vesulkas when I came to

Lower East Side visit, tho after Naropa I was on H. whenever in

NYC and would have sex with you without erection, sometimes

sucking or jerking you off, other times just sleeping together after

walking the wind-swept east 10th street Thompkin’s square block

to your apartment for dessert of stewed fruit and conversations

about writers, drugs, politics.


Yes, strange to visualize you as I bend to slick prostration board

20 years after that first summer, I now Vajrayana Buddhist too

—I wonder if you completed your ngondro (preliminary practices)

if your wisdom mind knew you’d die, if thru static coma you

picked nearly to the day, the ten-year anniversary of your teacher

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s paranirvana passing?

And there you are, picture next to my own dead folks, you

the speech guru, bard, strident voiced, gentle lover—the inquisitive

friend and generous soul with the old old eyes—smiling as I bend,

then stretch out full on the board, touch forehead down, folded

prayer hands—all of us bowing to the Guru of Original Mind—

push up back to stand, wishing to benefit all beings by my efforts

as you did with your Lion’s Roaring Voice of the Non-Self

Triumphant, the Great Truth of Liberation you sang and shouted

for all to hear with your Indian harmonium from the ’60s and your

basso profundo “Gospel Noble Truths,” or “Don't Smoke” song

(which I would have told you had I been home when you called

goodbye, a new friend saw you sing in mid-80s Philly and said: 

that’s it, I’ll never smoke again,” and hasn’t

such was your power of Speech)

and I’m still in shock...

have read all of “Kaddish” again, and again in sections for

friends who call with your death news—no one could imagine it—

my heart cave aches anew, my father gone three years, followed by

mother, then NYC Aunt and now, you.

I once thought you the “good father” who fought the good

fight and didn't give up to raise kids and develop the lush habit

that you were somehow bigger than my own Dad whose body

nourished mine, gave me his poisoned gifts and sweetness of mien

and mid-west corniness I mix with the urbanity you suavely wore.


So…yes, I caw the crow song like the day of my Father’s funeral

the end to “Kaddish”—and maketh of the caw a ratchet whir as I

struggle not forget anything of you, even your surprising ass-pinch

just18 months ago, night of San Francisco R. LaVigne gallery

show, week after our DNA Nightclub poetry fund-raiser for Lama

Tharchin Rinpoche’s Vajrayana Foundation—no big sex come-

on—just a reminder of your affection.

I could rarely bring myself to talk about my own poems with

you, you were usually kind but unenthusiastic, so kept to mutual

friends, politics or new musicians you liked.

A few years back, we spoke at length on your birthday

I had called midnight NYC time to wish you happiness and we

shared teaching stories. I was having hard time with high school

kids, the enormity, the strangulation of paperword and you agreed

even your few college courses were a lot of reading work.


Last Christmas picked you up at airport, drove thru the city of

Saint Francis, to the Trident Hotel, talking of investments

stock market, and how strange it was to stand with poet buddy

Marc Olmsted (who had introduced us 20 years ago)

on Lower Haight street corner in the rain, discussing our portfolios

of inheritance monies we hoped to retire on:  “the stock market’s

risky,” you advised and told me to call someone you trusted, how

your money was well invested.

Then, waiting for a busy restaurant table, I told you of a

poem, just an image really, from the summer Buddhist retreat I’d

been on.                “What is the image?” you commanded and off

we went, haiku seeking.

“NO!  Don’t try to sound so Buddhist,” you yelled at my first

attempt, and finally you were satisfied with the little thing and

wrote it in a notebook.    Supper arrived, and we spoke of

Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, whom you never met, and when I told

you I’d been looking for such a kind Lama all my life said: 

that’s what everyone wants!” like it was obvious—why hadn't I seen it


That night, driving you home, you spoke of congestive heart

problems and how they might get you a new heart.

“Can you imagine? an old guy like me, with a new heart?”

You invited me to see Beck, whose Grandfather you knew,

but I was busy and so declined—now regretful...

Then, later news of your illness:  I hadn’t known about your liver

the dreaded Hep C hit lots of i.v. drug takers and me—

and you never mentioned it.  


So…yes, I was shocked into tears hearing of cancer

diagnosis after a rough April Fool’s night of missed new lover

connection (thought I’d been stood up and sat wailing-sad

in lonely cabin—only comfort: thought of Lama Tharchin, my

head in his sweet lap—all sleepy-eyed I fell, blue heart HUNG

seed-syllable spinning towards dream land, ta-da, ta-da)

standing in Vajrayana Foundation kitchen, next morning’s

wrench of terminal news as tears sprang 

and I clutched the living girlfriend of Marc O., shook with the

message that you wanted I should call you soon but would get the

phone number of the hospice from him via letter too late

that I had no idea I wouldn’t say my goodbyes

that I wouldn't see your wise old eyes

that I wouldn't again take your arm to help you

             cross the street.

I would have read your poems out loud with you

asked you questions

asked more about the political world you knew

your insights grown from the soil of rich imaginings...


And like all bad news it got worse in the following days as

the papers picked up the story, until Saturday, when your old friend

and my sangha brother Sheppard told me details: you had gone

from stroke into coma and thence the bardo of becoming...

and so we did our own ngondro, as is our habit now

replacing the drugs and crazy drunks, and my prayer bead mala

snapped during mandala offerings: I offer my own meager poet

skills and my friendship 20 years, and the thread breaks

and has always broken and will break, and it is a dream that I am

doing ngondro

is a dream that you are gone

is a dream new love and I imagine you in pure-land

Copper Colored Mountain, with rivers of amrita in sandalwood forests

is a dream that we ever ate shrimp together and wrote haiku

and danced to reggae and smoked hash in Rome…


...that summer,1980, you gave me Julian Beck’s phone number

I was going to Europe, Paris to stay at Sister’s, and wanted to do

Rome before big International Poetry Festival. I de-trained, called

Living Theater but the caretaker said I couldn't stay there, so spent

my dwindling cash on a pensione, yogurt, prosciutto and melon

coffee and bread and wore out my tennis shoes walking ancient

streets everywhere alone the week before you arrived and spent my

last $20 on canary yellow canvas shoes with leather soles.

You were staying at the American Hotel, with the McClures,

Corso, Jackie Curtis and George Scrivani, I rode around in taxis

with you, went to parties. In your room you got me stoned on hash

and asked me to fuck your ass and spank you; I obliged, your gritty

shit wiped on extra sheets. I was secret snorting the last of the coke

I had brought from NYC in the bathroom, still high on Italian

morphine copped with Burroughs so, as usual, couldn’t keep a

hard-on for you...

And how, now sober, I ramble on about drugs and sex! 

...also many walks with you, long talks about Buddhism and writers and

music, dinners in Chinese restaurants and coffee in

North Beach or drives to and from the airport


my first trip to NYC, Xmas of ’79, took the red-eye, arrived

at dawn, taxi to college friend’s vacant upper west side apartment

fell to fitful slumber, woke 10 a.m. for first gray daylight look at

Big Apple, and saw you briskly walking to building across the

street!      I fumbled with window to call out, but you’d gone inside

to pose with Peter for those famous pen and ink nude drawings

the coincidence of you being my first waking NYC sight

never escaped me:  You were King of Gotham, Pied Piper of St.

Mark’s Place, the sophisticate who’d surprise me with invitations

to galleries and readings and introductions...

...tho always felt the stain of the catamite, the “you-

wouldn't-be-here-if-you-weren't-cute” vibe I later realized at heart

of own neurotic mind—plenty of good feelings and times together

after I declared myself straight, got married, as AIDS began its

rampage—plenty of younger straight boys, or safe-sexed gays to

fuck which is how, amazingly, you didn't get virus yourself....


Olmsted wrote 20 years ago about you: 

“I slept with Socrates/ wouldn’t you?”

and so it was true...

ever the teacher, you sat me down for early shamatha (insight

meditation) instruction in Boulder (even tho I’d been to the Zen

center many times), adjusting my posture with a flirty squeeze

After sitting we gazed out over red brick apartment house

sunset and you asked me what I saw, gave primary “first thought,

best thought” observation/writing instruction.

“But what to write about?” I asked

“Wordsworth said:  ‘emotions recollected in tranquility,’ so

write about what’s powerful, what’s up, in that moment of

quietude, from past or present...”

which advice I use and give to this day

also: “If you are reasonably good looking, and ask 20 people

to sleep with you, one will agree.”        or: “Just write 5 minutes every

day—by the end of your life you’ll have more good poetry than

people will care to read.”

or: (as I quoted to new love just last week) “imagine your

lover as corpse already rotting; so is vaporous Desire and Mind.”

such sanity rare!


And Sheppard and I finish ngondrotho somehow manage

to break my other mala too—and then do phowa (ritual for

transference of consciousness after death) for you:  Visualize you

at one with feminine deity-principle Yeshe Tsogyal, we both got

clear smiling sense of you, happy out of time, no real confusion in

after-death bardo state.         And my crown aperture, from whence

consciousness exits at death, glows warm in the spring air as I walk

to my car, done with what limited good I can do, donation money

in pocket and a phone call in to Lama Tharchin for him to also

perform phowa, and realize that all over the world prayers and

memorials are being said and planned, that the consciousness of

the planet was tweaked by your passing—that your life and words

had meaning

and you would not be forgot:

not swept under fundamentalist rug

not glossed over by bigoted historians or spurious

conservative columnists and the hate preaching radio of Iowa

not forgot by the hundreds of lovers and students, fans by

thousands, read by millions in all language, kind friend of Beings

and enemy of Moloch towers from Manhattan to Moscow,

Podunk or Beijing, defender of Speech—you railed a few years

ago to find that your own “Howl” again banned from many

Public Radio airways...

And you never rested on Laurels, never retired to tomatoes

in Cherry Valley, never gave up on politicians or Buddhism, poets

or taxi drivers.                  And would always ask after my love life

who I was sleeping with, tell me about your successes there, not

bragging, amused that you still got laid—bald, Bell’s Palsy droop-

cheeked—older looking than my own father three years ago before

his death’s head rictus...


One of our last meetings: 8 a.m. coffee and trip to airport—

we sat in the Trieste talking about Mayakowski and how he died

broken hearted and reviled...

The day before we’d driven around the City, to art book

publisher/ poet Andrew Hoyem, past new Bay Bridge area lofts

which got you excited, you talked of moving from Lower East Side

walk-up—hard on your legs—we stopped off at Shig’s where you

always stayed, and talked about Peter’s drug rehab and the

Addict’s Personality:  “I don’t understand:  Peter, Gregory,

Burroughs, Marc, You—you’re all smart guys; how’d ya get

hooked? I could never do that every day.” Explaining the disease

aspect, the mental obsession, the spiritual distress and emotional

immaturity of the addict/alcoholic gave you pause:  “I went to Al

Anon meetings for awhile...it helped dealing with Peter when he

was tweaked on speed, cleaning the sidewalk with a toothbrush...”


Later, vegetarian, oil and fat free, Chinatown dinner with

Bob Sharrard, you posing us in Kerouac Alley behind City Lights

yelling: “just look natural,” when I got camera nervous.  

After coffee, saying good night on windswept corner of

Green and Grant,

so…you sleeping with someone tonight?”


You once gave Diane di Prima a tape of your favorite American

Blues, and were listening to Ma Rainey’s “CC Ryder” last week

when you entered the Coma of No Return.

And Laura Nyro, ’60s songwriter/ singer, died cancer

four days after you.                       When I found out, listened to her

“And When I Die”—soothing lyric early spiritual teaching for me:

My troubles are many

they’re as deep as a well

I swear there ain’t no heaven

but I pray there ain't no hell


I wonder if you’d ever met/ talked Buddhism with her

before she retired to garden and family and ovarian cancer death.     

Remembering another old favorite song of yours:

Good night Irene, Irene good night

Good night Irene, good night Irene,

I’ll see you in my dreams....


Back to that summer of ’77 at Naropa, having dinner

with William Burroughs (another student, T., spilled red wine all

over his suited formality) and Gregory Corso (prophetic bard of the

iron constitution)—both addicts—yet somehow now keen eyed

mourners of you.


Later it was “Jazz-Po”—a goofy folk music and poetry night—

when we learned Elvis Presley had died and you played harmonium

with Handsome Peter on guitar, singing “Good Night Irene,” “Keep

it Clean (in your between),” “Gospel Noble Truths” and others—

lots of stage confusion, improvised lyric and not much jazz—but

you were from the Blues—and we sang along, swigging beer in the

stifling auditorium

I remembered that night, 20 years later, preparing for your

Memorial Reading main SF synagogue, xeroxed “Gospel Noble

Truths” lyric for poets and mourners, got my guitar and led a

sing-a-long because Kral Marales, King of the May, was dead:

Long live the King!



Santa Cruz Mountains

April 1997/ March 2010



[Originally published in NHS 2010, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs10/index.html.]