Library of Cultural References

  • Library: Cultural References in Poetry

Somewhere in the Buddha Night

Our own Jimmy Stewart found the following poem on the Internet.

tonight I heard Allen Ginsberg died
and cried for the Beat not to be buried
like Emily Bronte or Hitler
in that dirt bunker
of eternity

I wept in silence
for the grace of Ginsberg
and his generation

Jack Kerouac and company
the midcentury march
poetry and art on the cutting edge

tonight I heard Allen Ginsberg die
in the eye of a sly solstice
that deception of April spring
while I performed poetry and song
in New Cumberland Pennsylvania
at a pub called The Wire

tonight I heard Allen Ginsberg die
and cried for the Beat
tapping my feet to a song
Dean Moriarty's Dream
then -- On the Road in America

two times I saw you in the flesh
the first in Philadelphia
at a spring rally
the Hare Krishna had
taken over a strip of downtown Philadelphia

You were uptown
at the campus of the University of Pennsylvania
giving an open air reading on the lawn
with your famous accordian
It was 1974

The other time I recollect, was the next year
at Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review
in a small Niagra Falls auditorium
you were touring with the troops
Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Joan Baez,
Joni Mitchell, Rivera the fiddler,
members of the band,
the entourage at hand

I remember the sight of you,
Buddha belly,
the long bearded Jew,
a high priest in black,
strolling the aisle back and forth,
a poet stroking the base of his beard,
a thinking man's Rodin
in motion, taking trodden steps
like the lead-laden weight
of an elephant's gait
his footprints on a solemn slate of history

You were composing verse
in the tercets of silence
like a mime pining the air
as Dylan sang from his Desire album
Isis, Hurricane Carter,
Sarah, the sentimental stuff
coined in the past

later your verse would appear
as postscript in Rolling Stone Magazine
with a picture of you and Dylan reminiscing
singing at Kerouac's grave

We wonder now how to honor you
should we howl at the wind
pretend you can hear, say Kaddish
the Jewish prayer for the Dead
anoint your Buddha head
with tendrils of sainthood
or the irreverent imprint of a poet
like Walt Whitman who held nothing
back, as if both of you
prodigy and son, were naked
to a blushing world

It was your Sunflower Sutra poem
an ode to the Haight Ashbury generation
I remember most
the one I kept crumpled in my guitar case
in the plastic purse where steel strings,
not verse, are usually kept
that, and your reference to Blake and boys,
the way you toyed with language,
bounced your voice
like silly putty off the minds of poets,
come-by-lately lookers, hookers,
curiosity seekers in the crowd.

Holy, holy, holy,
is poetry sung
the life lived rung by rung
in harmony with the self

Verlaine, Rimbaud,
were taken by the undertow
now you succumbed,
to the rumble of the drum

Holy, holy, holy,
is the rim of the canyon,
the chagrin where clouds gather
and the sun sets
on the face of the day

tonight I heard you die
in the irony of Spring
then thought you might be drifting
like Hale-Bopp, in a vacant lot,
on the dark corridor of sky
puffing on peyote
like a mischievous child
with rhyming Jack, pretending
to map out a trip, Neal Cassidy style,
in the desert with Dean Moriarty all the while enamored with lovers and peers,
dining with ancient poets,
or scorning Hitler for the debt of his deeds,
picking weeds, like a Dharma bum

on the run to another gig
in the city, or country,
in that garden of paradise
somewhere in the Buddha night

(Contributed by Jimmy Stewart)

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