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Tibetan lamas say
the worst thing you can do
to break your vow
is to rape your mother at noon
on an alter during her period
when she’s a nun, nobly born
& a relative of your guru.

No, I didn’t do that
but neither did I look
the homeless woman in the eye
as sure as I gaze at these stars.  

– Patricia Donegan

More Posts On Poetry Include:  Shitcanned In So and So

Mortality By John Betjeman

The first-class brains of a senior civil servant
Shiver and shatter and fall
As the steering column of his comfortable Humber
Batters in the bony wall.
All those delicate re-adjustments
“On the one hand, if we proceed
With the ad hoc policy hitherto adapted
To individual need…
On the other hand, too rigid an arrangement
Might, of itself, perforce…
I would like to submit for the Minister’s concurrence
The following alternative course,
Subject to revision and reconsideration
In the light of our experience gains…”
And this had to happen at the corner where the by-pass
Comes into Egham out of Staines.
That very near miss for an All Souls’ Fellowship
The recent compensation of a ‘K’ –
The first-class brains of a senior civil servant
Are sweetbread on the road today.

Mortality by John Betjeman

You Can't Pin Me Down

All of my hymns to depravity
Are really just odes to the Lord
He in his infinite wisdom
Sense of theater and the absurd
All of my psalms of violence
Are really just tributes to love
I’ve been scavaging like a vulture
Looking for the peace of the dove

You can’t pin me down

I will be a cloud of smoke
I will be a dream
I will be a crown of thorns
Up on Calvary
I will be a lover
In the throws of lust
I will be ashes
I will be dust

You can’t pin me down

Hence forth comes a mystery
In our darkest nights
In our deepest dreams

You can’t pin me down

– J. Brown

Great Podcast On Allen Ginsberg

Otis Gibbs – Thanks For Giving A Damn

I mentioned the other day that riding home from a gig I heard a great podcast about Allen Ginsberg.  Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell was playing it in his car.  Above is a link to the podcast series, Thanks For Giving A Damn by Otis Gibbs, and the podcast we listened to is Episode 115.  If you scroll down you see that Kevin is interviewed for this podcast series as well.  I’ve actually only heard the one, but I imagine if the others are anything like it they are quite interesting.  The Ginsberg podcast featured Ben Schafer telling what it was like to be an assistant for Ginsberg.  The link above is with iTunes, but the podcasts are free.

Neal Cassady Drops Dead

Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s tears shampoo his beard
Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s lips tighten and thin
Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s hosed down in a barn
Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s howl becomes a growl

Everyone has babies
Babies full of rabies
Rabies full of scabies
Scarlet has a fever
Ringlets full of ringworm
Angel of distemper
Poor little fella has got rubella
Liver full of fungus
Junior full of gangrene
Minor’s melanoma
Tykes full of gripe. 
Whippersnapper’s scurvy
Urchin made of acne
Get that thing away from me!

Victim, or life’s adventurer
Which of the two are you?
Victim or life’s adventurer
Which of the two are you? 

Lyrics by Morrissey

Last night I heard a brilliant podcast about Allen Ginsberg.  I don’t remember the name of it, but I will try to find it and link to it somehow.  In the meantime I have been thinking of these lyrics by Morrissey.  Everything dies.  The only thing you can choose is to live life to the fullest or not in the meantime.

The Silence and the Violence of Rain

Unsaid

The surprise thunderstorm draped
our town in linen. Even the mansard roofs
softened, and the businessmen
on the Square stopped to spy
blouses of rain
fall off the old opera house.
But mostly—
the miracle of lightning
quieted us.
That split second of light and heat
leaving the scent of old newspapers and salt.

By Dave Malone

It’s an absolute downpour in Austin right now.  Hence the poem about rain.

The Silence and the Violence of Rain

Winter Song by Nico

Winter Song by Nico.  Most of the people I know, from Texas to Pennsylvania and beyond, are in a deep freeze.  The period between New Years and spring is the hardest part of the year as far as I’m concerned.  Even the great Hunter Thompson could not survive this season as he titled his suicide letter, “Football Season is Over.”  I’ve never really taken to winter, either to its sports or its color scheme.  However, there is a strange and dark poetry, a certain kind of magic, that winter can bestow, that I would be a fool to deny.  This song, from Nico’s timeless Chelsea Girl album, is a prime example:

Winter Song

The snow on your eyelids that curtsy with age
Is freezing the stares on tyranny’s wings.
The bitter is hard and the warmth of your skin
Is diseased with familiar caresses.

Withdrawing from splendor and royal decay
Among all the triumphs and jaded awards
The angry and blazing circus of sun
Blasphemes as the crown prince arises.

You cannot beget all the sins that you owe
To the people of paradise magic
Pretend to answer passion and form
With foreign rationalizations.

Primroses are the jewels that lurk
Among masks of pleasure that flicker with doubt
Embraces of fame that’s simultaneously fear
To advance and demand to be recognized.

The river shall flow through hollow green faces
Of caricature’s resentment etched out of the tongues.
Both reluctant princess asleep before birth
The classical sensitive failures.

The worshipping wicked cling to the dark of your heart
Lying there and wait with your angels
Moan and ravish from dawn to dusk
The avaricious young lovers.

the crunch

Too much
too little
or not enough

too fat
too thin
or nobody

laughter or
tears
or immaculate
non-concern

haters
lovers

armies running through streets of blood
waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking virgins

or an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of Marilyn Monroe

many old guys in cheap rooms without
any photographs at all

many old women rubbing rosaries
when they’d prefer to be rubbing cocks

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movements of
the hands of a clock

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it blinking in neon signs
in Vegas, in Baltimore, in Munich

there are people so tired
so strafed
so mutilated by love or no
love
that buying a bargain can of tuna
in a supermarket
is their greatest moment
their greatest victory

we don’t need new governments
new revolutions
we don’t need new men
new women
we don’t need new ways
wife-swaps
waterbeds
good Columbian
coke
water pipes
dildoes
rubbers with corkscrew stems
watches that give you the date

people are not good to each other
one on one.
Marx be damned
the sin is not the totality of certain systems.
Christianity be damned
the sin is not the killing of a God.

people are just not good to each other.

we are afraid
we think that hatred means strength
we think that New York City is the greatest
city in America.

what we need is less brilliance
what we need is less instruction

what we need are less poets
what we need are less Bukowskies
what we need are less Billy Grahams

what we need is more
beer
a typist
more finches
more green-eyed whores who don’t eat your heart
like a vitamin pill

we don’t think about the terror of one person
aching in one place

alone
untouched
unspoken to
watering a plant
being without a telephone that will never
ring
because there isn’t one.

more haters than lovers

slices of doom like taffeta

people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other

and the beads swing and the clouds cloud
and the dogs piss upon the roses
and the killer beheads the child like taking a bite
out of an ice cream cone
and the ocean comes in and out
in and out
under the direction of a senseless moon

and people are not good to each other.

By Charles Bukowski.  I used to read a lot of Bukowski the last few years I lived in Pennsylvania.  I wanted to post something of his here, so I started reading some of his poems tonight.  Even though I read many, I kept coming back to this one, which was actually the first one that I read.  The language is so visceral.  It’s beautiful and vulgar at the same time.  If you have ever watched the show Deadwood I believe you will understand that even vulgarity, taken far enough, used in the right way, with the right combination of words and meter, can become something truly beautiful.  At least I do…

Death, Mortality, Abraham Lincoln, and His Secretary of War

disunion_jamie_cabinet-blog427

If you want to know why Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals is such a thing of beauty, look no further.  The following two pages (at least on my Kindle) shows you how jam packed this book is with ideas and humanity.  Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton were polar opposites in personality, but were a perfect team when working together.  The one thing they both personally shared was a deep understanding of mortality due to the fact that both of them suffered the tremendous loss of loved ones.  As well as losing family members, Lincoln’s first love died when he was young.  Stanton lost his first wife at an early age.  Excerpt:

That Lincoln was also preoccupied with death is clear from the themes of many of his favorite poems that addressed the ephemeral nature of life and reflected on his own painful acquaintance with death.  He particularly cherished “Mortality,” by William Knox, and transcribed a copy for the Stantons.

Oh!  Why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of lightning, a break of the wave,
He passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

He could recite from memory “The Last Leaf,” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, and once claimed to the painter Francis Carpenter that “for pure pathos” there was “nothing finer…in the English language” than the six-line stanza:

The mossy marble rest
On lips that he has prest
  In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
  On the tomb.

Yet, beyond sharing a romantic and philosophical preoccupation with death, the commander in chief and the secretary of war shared the harrowing knowledge that their choices resulted in sending hundreds of thousands of young men to their graves.  Stanton’s Quaker background made the strain particularly unbearable.  As a young man, he had written a passionate essay decrying society’s exaltation of war.  “Why is it,” he asked, that military generals “are praised and honored instead of being punished as malefactors?”  After all, the work of war is “the making of widows and orphans – the plundering of towns and villages – the exterminating & spoiling of all, making the earth a slaughterhouse.”  Though governments might argue war’s necessity to achieve certain objectives, “how much better might they accomplish their ends by some other means?  But if generals are useful so are butchers, and who will say that because a butcher is useful he should be honored?”  

Three decades after writing this, Stanton found himself responsible for an army of more than 2 million men.  “There could be no greater madness,” he reasoned, “than for a man to encounter what I do for anything less than motives that overleap time and look forward to eternity.”  Lincoln, too, found the horrific scope of the burden hard to fathom.  “Doesn’t it strike you as queer that I, who couldn’t cut the head off of a chicken, and who was sick at the sight of blood, should be cast into the middle of a great war, with blood flowing all about me?”  

One Hand is Kind, One Hand is Cruel

Baby, let me remind you
You’re ahead one
And behind two

I’m the kind to lay it on the line
But this world is as vicious as love is blind

One hand is kind, the other is cruel
You can have the Kingdom, but may never rule
One hand is cruel, the other is cruel
You can enter the Court, but only as a fool

Baby, let me explain
Most are only as generous
As they are vain

I’m the kind whose always on time
You’re the toast of the town, but there’s another in line

One hand is kind, the other is cruel
You can have the Kingdom, but may never rule
One hand is kind, the other is cruel
You can enter the Court, but only as the fool

Oh I’ll caress your neck
But if you ever talk back, if you ever talk back…
I’m the kind that lays it on the line
Time after time, after time, after time…

Another set of song lyrics from the distant past.  I found some old demos and I clearly don’t have any other blog ideas yet.  Hey, at least I’m honest!  The idea at the time was that the God of the Old Testament was talking to mankind in the form of a relationship song.  However, I think that unless I explained that it just comes across as a piece of sexist clap-trap.  Hey, again, at least I’m honest…