Photo by Allen Ginsberg
12th Street, Manhattan, where he lived, 1980s

WAKING IN NEW YORK
Libretto - Poems by ALLEN GINSBERG

PERSONALS AD
Cosmopolitan Greetings, Harper Collins, New York, 1994

Poet professor in autumn years

seeks helpmate companion protector friend

young lover w/ empty compassionate soul

exuberant spirit, straightforward handsome,

athletic physique & boundless mind courageous

warrior who may also like women and girls, no problem,

to share bed meditation apartment Lower East Side

help inspire mankind conquer world anger and guilt,

empowered by Whitman, Blake Rimbaud Ma Rainey and Vivaldi,

familiar respecting Art’s primordial majesty, priapic, carefree,

playful harmless slave or master, mortally tender passing swift time,

photographer, musician, painter, poet, yuppie or scholar–

Find me here in New York alone with the Alone

going to lady psychiatrist who says, Make time in your life

for someone you can call darling honey, who holds you dear,

can get excited an lay his head on your heart in peace.

 

MAY DAYS 1988
Cosmopolitan Greetings, Harper Collins, New York, 1994

I

As I cross my kitchen floor the thought of Death returns,

day after day, as I wake & drink lemon juice & hot water,

brush my teeth & blow my nose, stand at toilet a yellow stream

issuing from my body, look out curtained windows, across the street

Mary Help of Christians R.C. Church, how many years

empty the garbage pail, carry black plastic bags to the sidewalk,

before I boil the last soft egg,

day after day glance my altar sitting pillow a sidelong look & sigh,

pass bookcases, Greek lyrics & volumes of Military Industrial Secrecy?

How many mornings out the window Springtime’s grey clouds drift

over a wooden owl

on the Rectory roof, pigeons flutter off the street lamp to an iron fence, I

return to kitchen

oatmeal cooking in an iron pot, sit in a wooden chair, choose a soup-

spoon, dreaming out the window eat my gruel

as ailanthus trees bud and grow thick green, seaweed in rainy Atlantis,

lose leaves after snowfall, sit bare-branched in January’s rusty winds?

snap photographs focus’d on the clothesline, courtyard chimneypots a

Block away?

How many years lie alone in bed and stroke my cock

or real the Times on a pillow midnite, answer telephone talk, my

Stepmother

or Joe in Washington, wait for a knock on the door it’s portly Peter

sober hesitant

inquiring supper, rarely visiting, rueful a life gone by – you got the

monthly rent?

armfuls of mid morn mail arriving with despairing Secretaries –

rise and tuck my shirt in, turn the doorlock key, go down hallway stair,

enter New York City, Christine’s Polish restaurant around East 12th

Street corner on 1st Avenue

taxi uptown to art museums or visit Dr. Brown, chest x-rays, smoking

cough or flu

Turn on the News from Palestine, Listen to Leadbelly’s tape lament,

Black Girl, Jim Crow, Irene – and

Sunday Puerto Ricans climb concrete steps week after week to church.

 

II

Sox in the laundry, snap on the kitchen light midnite icebox

raid, sun-dried tomatoes, soft swiss cheese & ham, Pineapple juice,

low rent control $260 per mo, clear sanded gymseal’d floors, white

walls,

Blake’s Tyger on the bedroom bookcase, cabs rattling on dark asphalt

below,

Silence, a solitary house, Charles Fourier on bedside table waiting

inspection, switch light off –

Pajamas in drawer for sleep, 80 volumes behind the headboard for

browsing –

Irving Howe’s Yiddish Poetry, Attila József, Sashibusan Das Gupta’s

Obscure Religious Cults, Céline, De Vulgaris Eloquentia -

What riches for old age? What cozy naps and long nights’ dreams?

Browsing in Persepolis and Lhasa?

What more ask existence? Except time, more time, ripe time & calm

& Warless time to contemplate collapsing years, tho body teeth brain

elbow ache,

a crooked creak at backbone bottom, dry nostrils, mottled ankle

& smart tongue, how many years to talk, snap photos, sing in theaters

improvise in classroom street church radio, far from Congress?

How many more years eyes closed 9 A.M. wake worrying

the ulcer in my cheek isn’t cancer? Should I have charged Burroughs’

Biographer for photos

reprinted from 40 years ago? Miles the editor’s stylistic competence OK

for Lit Hist Beat Generation? Should I rise and meditate

or sleep in daylight recuperate flu? Phone ringing half an hour ago

What’s on the Answer Machine? Give back Advances to Harper’s?

Who promised deadlines for this photo book? Wasn’t I up 2 A.M.

revising Poems?

Spontaneous verse?!? Take a plane to Greenland, visit Dublin?

PEN Club meet May 17, decision Israeli Censorship Arabic Press?

Call C—O—Yiddish translator poetess Zionist yenta?

Write concentration camp expert moralist Elie Wiesel, what’s his word

"Arabs shd throw words not stones?" – that quote accurate from the

Times?

Should I get up right now, crosslegged scribbling Journals

with motor roar in street downstairs, stolen autos doctor’d at the curb

or pull the covers over achy bones? How many years awake or sleepy

How many mornings to be or not to be?

How many mornings Mays to come, birds chirp insistent on six-story

roofs?

buds rise in backyard cities? Forsythia yellow by brick walls & rusty

bedsprings near the fence?

 

III

How many Sundays wake and lie immobile eyes closed remembering

Death,

7 A.M. Spring Sunlight out the window the noise a Nuyorican Drunkard on the corner

reminds me of Peter, Naomi, my nephew Alan, am I mad myself, have

always been so

waking in N.Y. 61st year to realize childless I am a motherless freak

like so many millions, world from Paterson Los Angeles to Amazon

Human & Whales screaming in despair from Empire State Building

Top to Arctic Ocean bottom--?

May 1-3, 1988

 

 

 

 

LUNCHTIME
Cosmopolitan Greetings, Poems 1986-1992, Harper Collins, New York, 1994

Bird chirp in the brick backyard Radio

piano chopping gentle chords next door

A rush of tires & car exhaust on 14th Street

Delighted to be alive this cloudy Thursday

February window open at the kitchen table,

Senior Citizen ready for next week’s angiogram.

February 20, 1992, 1:15 P.M.

 

 

 

THE CHARNEL GROUND
Cosmopolitan Greetings, Poems 1986-1992, Harper Collins, New York, 1994

Upstairs Jenny crashed her car & became a living corpse, Jake sold grass

the white-bearded potbelly leprechaun silent climbed their

staircase

Ex-janitor John from Poland averted his eyes, cheeks flushed with

Vodka, wine who knew what

as he left his groundfloor flat, refusing to speak to the inhabitant

Apt. 24

who’s just put his boyfriend in Bellevue, calling police, white the artistic

Buddhist composer

on sixth floor lay spaced out feet swollen with water, dying slowly of

AIDS over a year –

The Chinese teacher cleaned & cooked in Apt. 23 for the homosexual

poet who pined for his gymnast

thighs & buttocks – Downstairs th’ old hippie flower girl fell drunk

over the banister, smashed her jaw –

her son despite moderate fame cheated of rocknroll money, twenty

thousand people in stadiums

cheering his tattooed skinhead murderous Hare Krishna vegetarian

drum lyrics –

Mary born in the building rested on her cane, heavy-legged with heart

Failure on the second landing, no more able

to vacation in Caracas & Dublin – The Russian landlady’s husband

from concentration camp disappeared again – nobody men-

tioned he’d died –

tenants took over her building for hot water, she couldn’t add rent & pay

taxes, wore a long coat hot days

alone & thin on the street carrying groceries to her crooked apartment

silent –

One poet highschool teacher fell dead mysterious heart dysrhythmia,

konked over

in his mother’s Brooklyn apartment, his first baby girl a year old, wife

stoical a few days –

their growling noisy little dog had to go, the baby cried –

Meanwhile the upstairs meth head shot cocaine & yowled up

and down

East 12th Street, kicked out of Christine’s Eatery till police cornered

him, ‘top a hot iron steamhole

near Stuyvesant Town Avenue A telephone booth calling his deaf

mother – sirens speed the way to Bellevue –

past whispering grass crack salesman jittering in circles on East 10th

Street’s

southwest corner where art yuppies come out of the overpriced Japanese

Sushi Bar -- & they poured salt into potato soup heart failure

vats at KK’s Polish restaurant

Garbage piled up, nonbiodegradable plastic bags emptied by diabetic

Sidewalk homeless

looking for returnable bottles recycles dolls radios half-eaten

hamburgers – thrown-away Danish –

On 13th Street the notary public sat in his dingy storefront, driver’s

Lessons & tax returns prepared on old metal desks –

Sunnysides crisped in butter, fries & sugary donuts passed over the

Luncheonette counter next door –

The Hispanic lady yelled at the rude African-American behind the Post

office window

"I waited all week my welfare check you sent me notice I was here

yesterday

I want to see the supervisor bitch don’t insult me refusing to look in –"

Closed eyes of Puerto Rican wino lips cracked skin red stretched out

on the pavement, naphtha backdoor open for the Korean family dry

cleaners at the 14th Street corner –

Con Ed workmen drilled all year to bust electric pipes 6 feet deep in

brown dirt

so cars bottlenecked wait minutes to pass the M14 bus stopped mid-

road, heavy dressed senior citizens step down in red rubble

with Reduced Fare Program cards got from grey city Aging Department

offices downtown up the second flight by elevators don’t

work –

News comes on the radio, they bomb Baghdad and the Garden of Eden

Again?

A million starve in Sudan, mountains of east stacked on docks, local

Gangs & U.N.’s trembling bureaucrat officers sweat near the equator arguing over

wheat piles shoved by bulldozers – Swedish doctors ran out of medicine – The Pakistan taxi driver

says Salman Rushdie must die, insulting the Prophet in fictions –

"No that wasn’t my opinion, just a character talking like in a poem no judgment"-

"Not till the suns rejects you do I," so give you a quarter by the Catholic

church 14th St. you stand half drunk

waving a plastic glass, flush-faced, live with your mother a wounded

look on your lips, eyes squinting,

receding lower jaw sometimes you dry out in Bellevue, most days

cadging dollars for sweet wine

by the corner where Plump Blindman shifts from foot to foot showing

his white cane, rattling coins in a white paper cup some weeks

where girdling the subway entrance construction sawhorses painted

orange

guard steps underground –And across the street the NYCE bank

machine cubicle door sign reads

Not in Operation as taxis bump on potholes asphalt mounded at the

crossroad when red lights change green

& I’m on my way uptown to get a CAT scan liver biopsy, visit the

cardiologist,

account for high blood pressure, kidneystones, diabetes, misty eyes &

dysesthesia –

feeling lack in feet soles, inside ankles, small of back, phallus head,

anus –

Old age sickness death again come round in the wink of an eye –

High school youth the inside skin of my thighs was silken smooth tho

nobody touched there back then –

Across town the velvet poet takes Darvon N, Valium nightly, sleeps all

day kicking methadone

between brick walls sixth floor in a room cluttered with collages & gold

dot paper scraps covered

with words: "The whole points seems to be the idea of giving away the

giver."

August 19, 1992

 

 

 

 

JUMPING THE GUN ON THE SUN
White Shroud Poems 1980-89, Harper Collins, 1986

Sincerity

is the key

to living

in Eternity

If you love

Heav’n above

Hold your ground,

Look around

Hear the sound

of television,

No derision,

Smell your blood

taste your good

bagels & lox

Wash your sox

& touch wood,

It’s understood

This is it

wild wit

Make your love

on earth above,

home of the brave,

Save yr grave

for future days

Present here

nothing to fear

No need to sigh

no need to die

before your time

mentally whine

stupidly dine

on your own meat

That’s what’s neat

Mortally great

Immortally sweet

Incredibly deep

makes you weep

Just this once

Don’t be a dunce

Take your cap

off Hear my rap

Sincerity

is the key

to living

in Eternity

Makes you wise

in your own eyes

makes the body

not seem shoddy

Makes your soul

completely whole

empty, final

indefinable

mobile, total-

ly undeniable

Affirmative action

for no faction

for all men

women, too

mother, brother,

even for you

Dead soul’d, sick

but really quick

with breath & thick

with blood in yr prick

Walking alive

on riverside drive

up on Broadway

shining gay

in New York

waving your dork

waving your mind

or living behind

your meaty masque

magnificent task

all you could ask

as if pure space

gave you a place

in Eternity –

To see the City

Stand all day

Shine all night

Bright starlight

streaming the height

Watery lawn

warmed by the sun

Bathed in the moon

green grasses of June

80 times only

Don’t be lonely

Roses are live

Cockroaches thrive

in plastic garbage

maggots salvage

your dead meat

Horses eat

golden hay

in golden day

Young kids jump

in the City dump

Take the lump

in your throat

and sing out

yr holy note

of heart’s delight

in living light

Day Night

Sincerity

is the key

to living

in Eternity

April 5, 1995

 

MANHATTAN THIRTIES FLASH
Collected Poems 1947-1980, Harper Collins, New York, 1984

Long stone street inanimate, repetitive machine Crash cookie-cutting

dynamo rows of soulless replica Similitudes brooding tank-like in Army

Depots

Exactly the same exactly the same exactly the same with no purpose but

Grimness

& overwhelming force of robot obsession, our slaves are not alive

& we become their sameness as they surround us – the long stone streets

inanimate,

crows of executive secretaries alighting from subway 8:30 A.M.

bloodflow in cells thru elevator arteries & stairway glands to typewriter

consciousness

Con Ed skyscraper clock-head gleaming gold-lit at sun dusk.

1988

 

SONG
Collected Poems 1947-1980, Harper Collins, 1984

The weight of the world

is love.

Under the burden

of solitude,

Under the burden

of dissatisfaction

the weight,

the weight we carry

is love.

Who can deny?

In dreams

it touches

the body,

in thought

constructs

a miracle,

in imagination

anguishes

till born

in human –

looks out of the heart

burning with purity –

for the burden of life

is love,

 

but we carry the weight

wearily,

and so must rest

in the arms of love

at last,

must rest in the arms

of love.

No rest

without love,

no sleep

without dreams

of love –

be mad or chill

obsessed with angels

or machines,

the final wish

is love

–cannot be bitter,

cannot deny,

cannot withhold

if denied.

the weight is too heavy

–must give

for no return

as thought

is given

in solitude

in all the excellence

it is excess.

the warm bodies

shine together

in the darkness,

the hand moves

to the center

of the flesh,

the skin trembles

in happiness

and the soul comes

joyful to the eye–

yes, yes

that’s what

I wanted,

I always wanted,

to return

to the body

where I was born

San Jose, 1954

 

 

 

WAKING IN NEW YORK
Collected Poems 1947-1980, Harper Collins, New York, 1984

I

I place my hand before my beard with awe

and stare thru open-uncurtain window

rooftop rose-blue sky-thru

which small dawn clouds ride

rattle against the pane.

lying on a thick carpet matted floor

at last in repose on pillows my knees

bent beneath brown himalayan blanket, soft–

fingers atremble to pen, cramp

pressure diddling the page white

San Francisco notebook–

And here am on the sixth floor cold

March 5th Street old building plaster

apartment sin ruin, super he drunk

with baritone radio AM nose-sex

Oh New York, oh Now our bird

flying past glass window Chirp

–our life together here

smoke of tenement chimney pots dawn haze

passing thru winds soar Sirs–

How shall we greet Thee this Springtime oh Lords–?

What gifts give ourselves, what police fear

stop searched in late streets

Rockefeller Frisk No-Knock break down

my iron white-painted door?

Where shall I seek Law? In the State

In offices of telepath bureaucracy–?

In my disease, my trembling, my cry

–ecstatic song to myself

to my police my law my state my

many selfs–

Aye, Self is Law and State Police

Kennedy struck down knew him Self

Oswald, Ruby ourselves

Till we know our desires Blest

With babe issue,

Resolve, accept

this self flesh we bear

In underwear, Bathrobe, smoking cigarettes

up all night–brooding, solitary, set

alone, tremorous leg & arm–

approaching the joy of Alones

Racked by that, arm laid to rest,

head back wide-eyed

Morning, my song to Who listens, to

myself as i am

To my fellows in this shape that building

Brooklyn Bridge or Albany name–

Salute to the self-gods on

Pennsylvania Avenue!

May they have mercy on us all,

May be just men not murdered

Nor the State murder more

That all beggars be fed, all

dying medicined, all loveless

Tomorrow be loved

well come & be balm.

March 16, 1964

 

II

On the roof cloudy sky fading sun rays

electric torches stop–

auto horns–The towers

with time-hands giant pointing

late Dusk hour over

clanky roofs

Tenement streets’ brick sagging cornices

baby white kite fluttering against giant

Insect face-gill Electric Mill

smokestacked blue and fumes drift up

Red messages, shining high floors,

Empire State dotted with tiny windows

lit, across the blocks

of spire, steeple, golden topped utility

Building roofs–far like

pyramids lit in jagged

desert rocks–

The giant the giant city awake

in the fist warm breath of springtime

Waking voices, babble of Spanish

street families, radio music

floating under roofs, longhaired

announcer sincerity squawking

cigar voice

Light zips up phallos stories

beneath red antennae needling

thru rooftop chimneys’ smog

black drift thru the blue air–

Bridges curtained by uplit apartment walls

one small tower with a light

on its shoulder below the "moody, water-loving giants."

The giant stacks burn thick gray

smoke, Chrysler is lit with green,

down Wall street islands of skyscraper

black jagged in Sabbath quietness–

Oh fathers, how I am alone in this

vast human wilderness

Houses uplifted like hives off

the stone floor of the world–

the city too cast to know, too

myriad windowed to govern

from ancient halls–

"O edifice of gas!"– Sun shafts

descend on the highest building’s

striped blocktop a red light

winks buses hiss & rush

grinding, green lights

of north bridges;

hum roar & Tarzan

squeal, whistle

swoops, hurrah!

Is someone dying in all this stone building?

Child poking its black head out of the womb

like the pupil of an eye?

Am I not breathing here frightened

and amazed–?

Where is my comfort, where’s heart-ease,

Where are tears of joy?

Where are the companions? In

deep homes in Stuyvesant town

behind the yellow-window wall?

I fail, book fails–a lassitude,

a fear–tho I’m alive

And gaze over the descending–No!

Peer in the inky beauty of the roofs.

April 18, 1964

 

Copyright Allen Ginsberg, by permission