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Death of Peter Orlovsky




“The Shellean farmer astride hid Pegasusian tractor” as Gregory Corso once knighted

him passed on today, May 30 2010 to the elysian fields, a bardo of becoming. First

glance hour earlier Peter was resting with “trach” in throat in orange sheets at the kind Vt

Respite Center in Williston, Vermont (but no extra tubes/ heroic measures for this

advanced cancer on his lung!), a copy of the Songs of Saraha by his pillow, photo of

beloved Allen Ginsberg companion of many years on the wall, other Buddhist images,

iPod of music he loved including chants by Buddhist nuns, cards from friends and out the

window a bird feeder with finch and red-winged blackbirds landing/taking off. Chuck

and Judith Lief, faithful guardians and friends at his side. He had been moved less than

48 hours earlier from intensive care at a hospital in Boston, finally to hospice. His body

we were touching we noticed suddenly turned cold like death was in the room. We got

the nurse. Judy and I stepped out when suddenly Chuck called us back. Peter had opened

his eyes. Chuck said “It might be the last time”. By his side now, looking into his eyes

told out love, I thanked him for his presence in our lives, his poetry his care and love for

Allen, his work at Naropa. Ah, I thought a flash of recognition shivering through! slight

movement of mouth,  light coming in on his handsome face through the window now,

and  Judy singing om a hum vajra guua padma siddhi hum in crystal voice said “don’t be

afraid”. Joined in. Last breathes, one coming late, staggered: his heart/breath stopt.  Poet

Christina Lovin in room with nurse gave gentle witness who checked the clock 11:39 I

think or so a.m. Earlier we’d played recording of Peter singing his Raspberry Song with

great heart-soaring yodel and  “how sweet you are”. “Make my grave shape of heart so

like a flower be free aired and handsome felt” ( “The Snail”). Tibetan Book of the Dead

readings, in full final repose arranged with blue shirt, hands folded, consciousness a

joyful gardener sprite? no fear, no fear working its way out…



5.30. 2010

Vermont Studio Center



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