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
Elegies for the Post-Modern American Poets, Part I
NYC October 18-28th, 2002
[Note: This is actually the coda for two-volume collection of poems written in the style of
the poets of the Norton anthologies of American and British poets. This was written from
the Norton Anthology of Post-Modern American Poets. ––RR]
I took individual words and thought about them until I got their weight and
volume complete and put them next to another word, and at this same time I
found out very soon that there is no such thing as putting them together
without sense. —Gertrude Stein
I. (for Charles Olson)
is the almost impossible
hidden blood of my arm
no longer here
II. (for John Cage)
“Klangfarbenmelodie has not taken the place of bel canto.
It has extended our realization of what can happen.”
You can always in any moment
disappear into an adventure
and not just in a metaphoric sense—
knowing everything is mostly chance,
something the mind arranges later
into something other than what it was
when it became solely in order to be.
III. (for James Laughlin)
Christmas morning snow pours
through the open windows
onto my empty hotel bed.
IV. (for Robert Duncan)
Dawn begins as a copper
semi-dimness across the pond
where the herons fall, until
the sky become a mosaic,
the clouds quickening into fire.
V. (for Lawrence Ferlinghetti)
The desire for anything
is like trying to get water
from a cloud reflected in a pond.
VI. (for Hilda Morley)
bewilder us is
enough to make it so—
whatever it was
was never wholly
given to us
as a kind of seeing but
more like a fish
who cannot imagine
the nature of its
own rainbow scales.
VII. (for Charles Bukowski)
Never before, never again,
whirling out of darkness and whirling
back, darkening into darkness
until it is as if it had never been.
VIII. (for Barbara Guest)
I was dreaming
“wild gardens rise
into delicate skies—“
surrounded by fireflies.
IX. (for Jackson Mac Low)
Soon we will be allowed to die,
all that will be left
will be our absence.
X. (for Jack Kerouac)
“… following free deviation (association) of mind into limitless …
seas of thoughts.”
Her face has grown older
in the silvery lamplight,
her smile as thin as ice
in the center of a lake.
XI. (for Philip Whalen)
At my age I am devoted entirely
to observing gardens and the visual arts,
especially how a brushtip of ink flashes black to silver
as it dries from action to design, saying something
without knowing what it’s saying, as does
everything born in this overall design.
XII. (for Denise Levertov)
there is a love for all things temporal—
for radiance and for color that separates
the living from the dead.
XIII. (for James Schuyler)
The wind is an oracle in the pale leaves,
and the shortening days make this mad October
sunset visible on my walk home from the subway.
XIV. (for Jack Spicer)
“We must become singers, become entertainers.”
—Jack Spicer, 1949
The random is always more than enough
and usually more profound than what’s
been planned, and the randomness helps us
to remember that everything is temporary
and out of our control—and by that I mean
everything, and don’t get me started on what
we’ve lost forever or what we’re unaware of—
in ourselves and others, in the everything
of everything’s everything along with all
that’s never been imagined, never even thought,
and everything ignored or passed over—especially
everything that caught our attention solely because
it flashed so brightly it could not be ignored,
and now it’s at the bottom of some drawer
if it exists at all, halfway between the
misremembered and the forgotten.
XV. (for Kenneth Koch)
Who praised modesty without restraint,
who got lost inside his own sentences,
who wanted like a magician to astonish us—
which is what I remember most of all.
XVI. (for Frank O’Hara)
How it goes when it goes over the course of an evening
is that what we had in common was everything
that wasn’t us, and we were afraid that if we stopped talking
we would become invisible.
Meanwhile everything that surrounded us
became completely transparent.
That wasn’t our fault. We didn’t understand
what was really going on, and things
haven’t changed at all since then.
It’s like heat waves over asphalt
or ripples above a radiator—something catching my attention
for an instant as if it might have something to say.
But whatever it’s trying to tell me I can’t understand
because what it’s trying to tell me is that it’s best
that we and everything is just so for only a moment.
XVII. (for Allen Ginsberg)
the sky is vacant
as if dreaming
of past winds
XVIII. (for Robert Creeley)
ceased to be, and
between us was
the man I was
who saw me
XIX. (for Larry Eigner)
from the small
to the partial
in the early
XX. (for John Ashbery)
the small self
inside my fingers
XXI. (for Hannah Weiner)
Eyes have never been enough for grieving,
as if grieving were something one could
measure out, or that it could be forgotten
or that we would come to the end of it
in any way other than with the end of us.
And with that, a huge silence descended
without any of us knowing precisely what it meant.
XXII. (for Kenward Elmslie)
As Above, So Below
the white sun
the silver mist
the swirling rapids
XXIII. (for Ed Dorn)
a stillness in her eyes
as if everything that ever was
was a nothing that never was.
Later she said she saw the same in me.
It was in that state of mind that we began to discuss
living in Peru. But we were in the state of exhaustion
that follows love so we lingered and did nothing.
XXIV. (for Harry Mathews)
like shining wires
in the autumn sunset
and what never will be—
Just so, I kissed her.
XXV. (for Gregory Corso)
We will all one day be
swept out the door
with all the other dust—
just as the dust upon our
floor is the dust of those
who have been swept before.
XXVI. (for Gary Snyder)
radiating out of the body
as a pulse into the glittering
nets of language
XXVII. (for Jerome Rothenberg)
Having opened my heart an
angel from an angel’s
other kind of world
entered my eyes
in the language of snow.
XXVIII. (for David Antin)
There was a time when I would
have come with more, a lot
more and not so long ago
either—or so she told me,
I really can’t remember.
XXIX. (for Keith Waldrop)
full moon memory
among the rocks, I have
heard the darkness become
terror becoming darkness.
The broken world
enters our world
and our world
falls slowly backwards
as if it were not,
my knees giving
out under me.
XXX. (for Michael McClure)
splashings of paint are an
extension of me as a gesture
in the midst of it, entering into it
the way it becomes what I am
XXXI. (for Amiri Baraka)
As if undone by the empty cathedral’s
colored light that pours down from
wherever all energy comes from—
all of it shining in the song of a woman
empty of all but the song she is singing.
And the sound of the song singing
triggered something in my heart
that showered down upon me
the hidden history of ourselves
in flames, all of us in flames, burning!
XXXII. (for Diane di Prima)
on what old
bones are still mine.
XXXIII. (for Ted Berrigan)
Turns into writing
—“A Final Sonnet”
the? white dead
whose eyes know:
XXXIV. (for Anselm Hollo)
The best way to get there
is to wander in
XXXV. (for Joseph Ceravolo)
I felt you brush
between us like the full moon
shivering in a lake.
XXXVI. (for John Wieners)
It was October and it was raining
and you turned away from me
when my make-up began to run.
XXXVII. (for Robert Kelly)
the urge to union
is baited with the pleasant
against the ordinary
we prepare for the unexpected
it’s the least
we can do
if the air
XXXVIII: (for Clayton Eshleman)
I was lifted for an instant
and saw how soon we would
be earth, broken off and carried away
by rainstorms, and then in the distance
the one transcendence available to us,
when we would exist solely
as words upon a page.
XXXIX: (for Rosmarie Waldrop)
The one transcendence
that is available to us
is how we enter into
the story at all by opening
our inner self to the gaze
that will consume us.
And with that gesture
we become ink,
across the emptiness
XL: (for Gustaf Sobin)
Not only is the message
of cinema kinetic but
its essence is shadow
dancing with light
through a lens that examines
everything as it disappears
and smoke and mist
and then gets lost
in its own metaphor,
as a wave with all the ocean
behind it is obliterated
by the rocks, and snow
disappears into the waves
where only its shadows breathe.
XLI: (for Russell Edson)
Out of one life and into another
thrust down with the roots
where the future flowers bloom
you may have already reappeared
by now, for you were always a language
that demanded immersion in a body.
XLII: (for John Giorno)
Essentially all we
ever really accomplish
is to warm the air.
XLIII: (for Jayne Cortez & Clarence Major)
to make flames
out of our own bodies
XLIV: (for Diane Wakoski)
In chilly blue waters
my bones are torn apart
and amber light pours out of them
as they decompose.
Elegies for the Post-Modern American Poets, Part II
Boulder, Colorado November 28th-30th, 2002
I keep painting until I’ve painted myself out of the picture.
—Willem de Kooning
XLV: (for Susan Howe)
I thought I was
a character in a Child ballad.
Winter’s grey leaves
scattered before me.
XLVI: (for Kathleen Fraser)
in the foreground
strawberries in this case
becomes for an instant
XLVII: (for Bill Berkson)
a fire has sapphires in it
The moon lowers out of sight
and suddenly the sky is peppered
with white magnificences.
XLVIII. (for Ed Sanders)
“One must study … a long time,”
the master said.
XLIX. (for Clark Coolidge)
You wrote from what you didn’t know
barren, like a wind of darkness,
scouring your friends for traction.
L: (for Stephen Rodefer)
To be the mystery of everything that has ever been
written. If you held me to it I couldn’t write another word.
But I am only interested in what happens next,
in what is writing itself forward.
LI. (for Robert Grenier)
I’m astonished by the sea,
by anything greater than I can imagine,
anything that can turn my breath into steam.
Silence is always pulled by the sun like a rose,
the way music is something on the page,
and something else again more strange.
LII: (for Lyn Hejinian)
inevitable and true.
Then a pause.
The tree was actually a distraction
she told me, and the real tree
was in its shadow.
LIII: (for Miguel Algarin)
I have created myself
by dissolving into something
the nothing that I am.
LIV: (for Tom Clark)
Must everything be a
question this evening?
I have escaped from
writing that wanders
into the sky.
I want as the air must want
to be pierced by something
LV: (for Ron Padgett)
(MM Joe Brainard)
I think of you often,
you who now inhabit the air—
Do you ever think of me?
LVI: (for Ann Lauterbach)
Across the sea’s surface a film dazzlingly lit
by the sky’s transience—sentimental,
the remembered self being essentially an absence.
LVII: (for William Corbett)
A swallow descends like a wave
about to break and roughens the dark water
with a splash into many dimensions—
LVIII: (for Tom Mandel)
to fill my hand with your hair
its pale light brought
close to my nose
as I do now
in order to remember it.
LIX: (for Michael Palmer)
“Ultimately there is a definition that occurs as Gregory Bateson argues ‘by
There was always a refusal of certainty despite
whatever I learned I knew there was always more,
and certainty was too often the echo of something
happening far away, something you were hearing
across a silence that wasn’t really silent but both lively
and dangerous—and everything we haven’t experienced
for ourselves can only be something thrown across this gulf
or thrown against the silence until it sticks, or rising out of its
ruins in reverse, transforming everything like a cover of snow.
LX: (for Ray DiPalma)
When there is a thought of it or even when there is no
thought of it but only an apprehension of the marvelous
I am missing, how everything is a part of everything else,
including everything I miss.
LXI: (for Maureen Owen)
All That Glitters is not snow
It was something that’s been passed down
through the women that the men don’t
understand, & how it came back to me
when I first saw the Milky Way.
LXII: (for Paul Violi)
easy, like snow.
I think I’m about to snow.
The dead cannot kiss!
Let this be our defense
LXIII: (for Michael Davidson)
He seems to delight rather than to despair,
to be in an open field in the season of lightning
or is this non-chalance something that comes
when one gets older?
In this Persian design ghostly voices
are calling from the falling water,
and when he bends down to look closer
he sees himself reflected in the shallow pool
and steps out of the poem right before it ends.
LXIV: (for Marjorie Welish)
A lyricism or at least a ceaseless
murmuring as one by one
we’re called away.
If there is a pattern
it is beyond me, but
I know it must include
many winters and an
equal number springs.
The flower at least flowers
before it disappears, as if
in return for our affection.
LXV: (for Lorenzo Thomas)
To those incomprehensible
to everyone but themselves:
it’s the others
who are always wrong.
LXVI: (for Anne Waldman)
The Poet’s Three Tasks
To guide through the darkness.
To see what we see in the world.
To set something down before it passes.
LXVII: (for Alice Notley)
At first she associated with darker concerns
bordering on the mystical, and sang what she
wanted into being, and the writing particularly
flickered when it came into contact with something
like the blue light in the center of a flame,
or the glow just before a storm
or a white dress as it gets rained on,
the light inside an emerald,
stained glass in a cathedral at night,
obsidian with purple flowers.
LXVIII: (for Bernadette Mayer)
Old message never sent.
What did you expect? Don’t ask someone other than a poet
to review a long poem that is as much about the song
as what it is in words. You’ll get a vaporous nowhere
in the flesh report, a voice from a world of shadows
you don’t recognize, abstractions beyond anything
in the pious, even Dante or Gerard Manley Hopkins.
LXIX: (for Wanda Coleman)
How Silicon Becomes Glass
What I would give to speak of things
not exhausted nor monstrous.
Even my dreams have dreams.
I’d like to psychoanalyze those.
The impulse to become is still
greater than the pain of becoming.
LXX: (for Ron Silliman)
Language is first of all communication
before it’s art. Daylight fills the yellow
room in spring, but it’s somber in winter
when its closed curtains keep out the sky.
The sky is burnt sienna. The stars flicker & go out.
I see everything as it appears after dark.
I see the people who fill obituaries every day.
Wind is distorted by the sky it flies through.
Some of us are storms, some of us besieged,
but we’re all here under the same restrictions.
It is as it is. If you don’t like what I’m saying
every poem rests between another two.
LXXI: (for Bob Perelman)
Start with what you already know how to get across.
They say that in this kind of marble
there’s always a patch of no color,
transparent, like water. And just who
is this “they” you ask?
LXXII: (for Nathanial Mackey)
It’s the joy inside the multiformity
underneath the repetitions in jazz,
or your skin, how it gives off
light as if it’s whispering to some part
of me I don’t yet understand.
LXXIII: (for Rae Armantrout)
Her desire to use silence and the impulse
to silence was neither transparent nor did it
pose as flame. She washed it down with a
black liquid and sang. The precision of her
language was something I never understood.
LXXIV: (for Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge)
To she oblique and often misunderstood:
They have concentrated you as fluid—
your heat sweeps across the ice
in order not to be afraid.
On the open windowsill the dark
red chrysanthemum is like a cloud of smoke.
The snow’s luminous shadow glows with light
on the blue of open water. How in the cold
her body seems more foreign to me than ever.
LXXV: (for Leslie Scalapino)
To discover anything in words is an illusion.
To obey is to avoid disharmony.
We should DO MORE ourselves.
LXXVI: (for Bruce Andrews)
The desire to inform has a history and
underneath it is a sense of duty which may be the shot of
whiskey that you need. If you don’t like it, you can
silver it over into something you prefer.
LXXVII: (for Barrett Watten)
On the level of form.
There is no language but one issuing from a person
no longer here. It speaks from an inner silence
that sometimes opens and a voice comes out.
And then it ends. And all you’re left with
are you inexactitudes, your errors in transcription,
and your monotonous voice, ruining everything.
LXXVIII: (for August Kleinzahler)
Each word is a shape carved in time.
is more than
At dusk August is lavender
& golden dust. After nightfall
August is a smaller sky,
a warm room, the smell of
burning wood an ether.
LXXIX: (for Eileen Myles)
How I Chose What I Was about to Choose
shady side of the street
the shadows are mostly ice.
LXXX: (for Jessica Hagedorn)
A Broken Mirror
This is for Rose who is dead.
This is for the one who was the glass,
from the one who was the foil.
LXXXI: (for Charles Bernstein)
Actively involved with the discontinuous
and the continuity of the voice within
until apart from it I have no real existence.
LXXXII: (for John Yau)
At the speed at which something
dissolves into something else,
the air was no longer dry with light
but white as the words describing it.
LXXXIII: (for Jim Carroll)
How cold the waves were—
and the white flowers spreading
on the rocks were frost,
and I was left with nothing
that was not shattered or shivering.
LXXXIV: (for Carla Harryman)
In the habit of a body
When the narrative is imitating anything
“in the mode of” it is something
false and dim.
Repeatedly the visible world
suspends something in front of me
and then makes it disappear.
It wants me to believe in the darkness,
in what’s missing, it tells me all of life
has descended from its ruins.
But in the nature of all flesh
I keep forgetting.
LXXXV: (for Maxine Chernoff)
Normal sentence structure explores acoustic relations
in its landscape as if marble might start talking.
But thunder in a rain-storm no longer astounds us,
nor the endless white of lightning nor the shadows it discloses.
LXXXVI: (for Jimmy Santiago Baca)
Then I awoke out of nothing into the air.
I am a silence
between the edge of fire
and those in the dark behind me
singing the songs the old ones sang
in an effort to keep me going forward.
LXXXVII: (for David Trinidad)
Her enthusiasm spun simultaneously into two
while her wildest ideas danced in front of her.
LXXXVIII: (for Dennis Cooper)
Why I’m Unable to Think Clearly About it
In one sense this is a world governed by style alone.
In some ways it’s one shadow after another.
It’s a man standing in a shaft of moonlight
interrupted by passing clouds until he dies.
LXXXIX: (for Diane Ward)
She sees a grey light like silk
on a not-quite-white glow. It
flickers like a silent film of
something lovely and rough.
One wave after another rose lifting me
into the night sky, glimmering in the
darkness, the way life flows out at the end
of autumn. And then winter descends, and in the spring we number those still breathing, and in summer a sprawling golden sun
returns everything to the way it was,
one wave after another returning us
to the sky, glimmering with darkness.
["Elegies" was originally published as #32 in a self-published series for Laocoon Press, December 25, 2002. It was republished in 2004 by Elik Press, Salt Lake City Utah. Reprinted here by permission of the author. Originally published in NHS 2013, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/_special_edition_nhs_2013/.]