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.”

                                                      —John Cage


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,

and all that will be left
will be our absence.




X.                              (for Jack Kerouac)


“… following free deviation (association) of mind into limitless …

seas of thoughts.”

—Jack Kerouac


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)


In autumn

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)


and remembered

when he

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


in darkness




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)


         I saw

      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)


the brightness

      like shining wires

in the autumn sunset

stream slowed




         What was

   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)


original mind

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)


Without doors.


red river—

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:

—“Bean Spasms”




XXXIV.               (for Anselm Hollo)


The best way to get there

is to wander in

some sense.




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


then suddenly

nothing is—


as 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

of submission


we become ink,

a bridge


across the emptiness

of white.




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


into film

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.


for I


it a



The way

early tulips

climb through

spring snow.




XLVI:                    (for Kathleen Fraser)


When something

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)


between silences


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)


Her childhood

writing became

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

radiantly dark.




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


—Michael Palmer


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

against regret.




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.

—August Kleinzahler


Too lexical



is more than

a little



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


On the

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)


Lost possibilities


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)


Becoming Alabaster


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

independent                                monologues,

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/.]