Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Poems: Ginsberg's "America," "To Aunt Rose," and "Please Master"

GinsbergTime, where does it go? Since I didn't finish an entry I was working on, here are three Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) poems, each of which I feel are appropriate for the times we're living in. I first fell in love with his voice back in junior high when my class read "To Aunt Rose," the famous poem (that appears in Kaddish, I think, another masterpiece) about a late aunt who was a progressive Spanish Republican supporter. It elegizes the passing of the Leftist idealism and activism that characterized the generation of Ginsberg's parents (and which would, of course, reblossom, under a different guise, in Ginsberg's poetry of the 1960s). I found the poem revolutionary and revelatory on so many levels, and though I didn't have the language for it at the time, I was especially fascinated by Ginsberg's overt politics, his play with gender, and his queering of the lyric voice. In fact, I returned to the phrase "I an ignorant girl of family silence on the thin pedestal" about 1o or 15 times, reciting it aloud in amazement; it was, I think, one of my first moments of self-recognition, of reading a poem by a gay poet and realizing that he was probably gay and so was I.

Some years later, while an undergraduate, I came across "America" when I was reading up on Allen Ginsberg's poetry in preparation for his visit to campus, and a few days after that I chanced upon "Please Master," which I found electrifying in its explicitness, and incantatory, awful beauty. I was hoping he'd read that one aloud, but he was on best (or at least better) behavior, and sang some newer poems, to the accompaniment of a young male accordionist. He also autographed my datebook with an impromptu three-line poem; I later tore it out and it now sits on my desk upstairs (I'm too lazy to go quote it). That on the spot poetizing (which Yusef Komunyakaa also used to do), along with these three poems and others (such as "Howl," "A Supermarket in California," "At Apollinaire's Grave," "Sunflower Sutra," etc.) cemented my Ginsbergophilia, which has since waned quite a bit, though I still occasionally return to his work, always finding something new in it and always learning how a poet of talent creates something original that also profoundly engages with past traditions and with the issues of his (her) day. Here they are:

AMERICA

by Allen Ginsberg

America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January
17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I
need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not
the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come back
it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical
joke?
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I'm doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven't read the newspapers for months, everyday
somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid
I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses
in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle
Max after he came over from Russia.

I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by
Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner
candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Business-
men are serious. Movie producers are serious.
Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven't got a chinaman's chance.
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of
marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable
private literature that goes 1400 miles an hour
and twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of
underprivileged who live in my flowerpots
under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers
is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that
I'm a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly
mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as
individual as his automobiles more so they're
all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500
down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Com-
munist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a
handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and
sentimental about the workers it was all so sin-
cere you have no idea what a good thing the
party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand
old man a real mensch Mother Bloor made me
cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody
must have been a spy.
America you don't really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen.
And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power
mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers'
Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia.
Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read.
Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us
all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in
the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes
in precision parts factories, I'm nearsighted and
psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Copyright © the Estate of Allen Ginsberg

TO AUNT ROSE

Aunt Rose-now-might I see you
with your thin face and buck tooth smile and pain

of rheumatism-and a long black heavy shoe
for your bony left leg

limping down the long hall in Newark on the running carpet

past the black grand piano
in the day room
where the parties were and I sang Spanish loyalist songs
in a high squeaky voice
(hysterical) the committee listening while you limped around the room
collected the money-

Aunt Honey, Uncle Sam, a stranger with a cloth arm

in his pocket
and huge young bald head
of Abraham Lincoln Brigade


-your long sad face

your tears of sexual frustration
(what smothered sobs and bony hips
under the pillows of Osborne Terrace)

-the time I stood on the toilet seat naked

and you powdered my thighs with calamine
against the poison ivy-my tender
and shamed first black curled hairs what were you thinking in secret heart then
knowing me a man already-

and I an ignorant girl of family silence on the thin pedestal

of my legs in the bathroom-Museum of Newark.


Aunt Rose

Hitler is dead, Hitler is in Eternity; Hitler is with
Tamburlane and Emily Bronte


Though I see you walking still, a ghost on Osborne Terrace

down the long dark hall to the front door limping a little with a pinched smile
in what must have been a silken
flower dress

welcoming my father, the Poet, on his visit to Newark

-see you arriving in the living room
dancing on your crippled leg and clapping hands his book
had been accepted by Liveright


Hitler is dead and Liveright's gone out of business
The Attic of the Past and Everlasting Minute are out of print

Uncle Harry sold his last silk stocking Claire quit interpretive dancing school
Buba sits a wrinkled monument in Old
Ladies Home blinking at new babies


last time I saw you was the hospital

pale skull protruding under ashen skin
blue veined unconscious girl
in an oxygen tent the war in Spain has ended long ago
Aunt Rose

Copyright © the Estate of Allen Ginsberg

PLEASE MASTER

Please master can I touch your cheek
please master can I kneel at your feet
please master can I loosen your blue pants
please master can I gaze at your golden haired belly
please master can I gently take down your shorts
please master can I have your thighs bare to my eyes
please master can I take off your clothes below your chair
please master can I kiss your ankles and soul
please master can I touch lips to your muscle hairless thigh
please master can I lay my ear pressed to your stomach
please master can I wrap my arms around your white ass
please master can I lick your groin curled with soft blond fur
please master can I touch my tongue to your rosy asshole
please master may I pass my face to your ball,s
please master, please look into my eyes,
please master order me down on the floor,
please master tell me to lick your thick shaft
please master put your rough hands on my bald hairy skull
please master press my mouth to your prick-heart
please master press my face into your belly, pull me slowly strong thumbed
till your dumb hardness fills my throat to the base
till I swallow and taste your delicate flesh-hot prick barrel veined Please
Master push my shoulders away and stare into my eye, & make me bend over the table
please master grab my thighs and lift my ass to your waist
please master your rough hand's stroke on my neck your palm down my backside
please master push me up, my feet on chairs, till my hole feels the breath of your spit and your thumb stroke
please master make me say Please Master Fuck me now Please
Master grease my balls and hairmouth with sweet vaselines
please master stroke your shaft with white creams
please master touch your cock head to my wrinkled self-hole
please master push it in gently, your elbows enwrapped around my breast
your arms passing down to my belly, my penis you touch w/ your little fingers
please master shove it in me a little, a little, a little,
please master sink your droor thing down my behind
& please master make me wiggle my rear to eat up the prick trunk
till my asshalfs cuddle your thighs, my back bent over
till I'm alone sticking out your sword stuck throbbing in me
please master pull out and slowly roll into the bottom
please master lunge it again, and withdraw to the tip
please please master fuck me again with your self, please fuck me Please
Master drive it down till it hurts me the softness the
Softness please master make love to my ass, give body to center & fuck me for good like a girl,
tenderly clasp me please master I take me to thee,
& drive in my belly your selfsame sweet heat-rood
your fingered in solitude Denver or Brooklyn or fucked in a maiden in Paris carlots
please master drive me thy vehicle, body of love drops, sweat fuck
body of tenderness, Give me your dog fuck faster
please master make me go moan on the table
Go moan O please master do fuck me like that
in your rhythm thrill-plunge and pull-back bounce & push down
till I loosen my asshole a dog on the table yelping with terror delight to be loved
Please master call me a dog, an ass beast, a wet asshole
& fuck me more violent, my eyes hid with your palms round my skull
& plunge down in a brutal hard lash thru soft drip-fish
& throb thru five seconds to spurt out your semen heat
over & over, bamming it in while I cry out your name I do love you
please Master.

Copyright © the Estate of Allen Ginsberg

2 comments:

  1. John,

    I would add this to my blogroll, but I need to figure out your full name so that I'll know where it goes in the list. If you're interested, drop me a line at silliman@gmail.com

    Ron

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