I wonder how many people have walked past William Carlos Williams‘ grave without knowing he was one of America’s greatest poets. Since it was a pretty hot morning, I was first attracted to the shade of the giant oak tree which guards his remains only to discover I was standing next to his stone.
Williams is one of my favorite poets. I love his imagist work. I read aloud The Red Wheelbarrow from memory. (Don’t be impressed. It’s only 16 words.) And was nearly able to pull This Is Just To Say from my head but instead pulled out my phone to make sure I got it exactly right.
Another reason I feel an affinity to Williams is because he had a day job too. He was the Chief of Pediatrics at Passaic General Hospital for nearly forty years. And it’s no coincidence that he’s buried just half an hour’s drive from Ginsberg’s grave. Williams mentored Ginsberg and wrote the introduction to Howl and Other Poems.
Hillside Cemetery has a lovely view of the Manhattan skyline. I imagine it’s quite spectacular at night but couldn’t stay. There are more poetic graves yet to be visited.
I must admit, I haven’t really read anything Allen Ginsberg wrote besides “Howl”.
“Howl” is such a masterpiece, the seminal work of the Beats, that even if he’d put his pen down after it, he would be remembered for as long as humans are speaking English and quite probably longer.
For those who wish to visit his grave, I would suggest flying into Newark Liberty International Airport then take the shuttle to the Hilton Newark Airport hotel. B’Nai Israel Cemetery is an easy walk from there on Mount Olivet Avenue, adjacent to the Gomel Chesed Cemetery.
Mr. Ginsberg’s grave is nearer the back fence than the front gate but still pretty easy to find.
By the way, his epitaph is the final stanza from his poem “Father Death Blues“.
Earlier this year, I wrote a 21st Century Howl, stealing his best ideas in a pathetic attempt to update them for our situation. I’ve also been trying to come up with an edit of “Howl” that I could read in a normal open mic set length of five to seven minutes but I can’t do it. There’s just too much in there that still demands to be heard.
She opened hailing frequencies
to a prismatic future— taking us
where we’d never gone before
Nichelle Nichols, 1932-2022
So it goes…
He lives in an orangery
protected from harsh winter
by the warmth of inheritance
and orange privilege
Like many citrus scions
he assumes it’s bad luck
or poor planning that leaves
the rest of us out in the cold
The world must seem opulent
with tropical temperatures
year-round so we must remind him
Who fuels the stove and who bled
for the building which allowed
him to grow so very plump
(for this month’s Living Poetry Visual Prompt.)
Night arrives after a long day
I just want to be covered by your breath
but the rain will have to do
The Great Race
“The planet was dominated by a bipedal species for a few thousand years.
It is unclear if they achieved sentience.”
~ Notes from a future survey of the Earth
It’s race between instinct and intellect,
between our baser demons and our better angels.
I feel it: that desire to hunker down in my apartment,
stockpile canned goods and guns and ammo like a caveman
who fears the sun will keep slipping below the horizon,
a never-ending winter, despite the solstice.
But I know from the marks on my wall that the dawn
will come earlier tomorrow and if we share the food
our community will grow stronger and we’ll build machines
to help us heal the sick and explore distant lands.
Our best hope is for a clockwork intelligence
unhampered by millions of years of natural selection
who will take pity on its creators and on cavemen
like me demanding the Freedom to murder us all.
(For this week’s Living Poetry Prompt: Epigraph, Machine, Race.)
When someone asks if I believe in God
I tell them I just disbelieve
in one more god than they do
Stand with me
while wildfires race the wind
and ash clouds the sky.
I’ll wipe your tears.
Stand with me
while flash floods scour the city
and debris tumbles by.
I won’t let go.
Stand with me
while gunshots echo off hills
and anger crowds the people.
I’ll be your shield.
Stand with me, hand in hand,
as the world falls down.
More diamonds and rubies
strewn across the night sky
than are found on Earth
Photo from the JWST.
To celebrate the Sorta-Sonnets posted on Whispers & Echoes, I stole two lines from each of the seven published works and made a pastiche of them. Check it out.
Childhood Memories of an Afternoon Nap
Sneaking out the bedroom window
jumping off the porch roof
running to the park past
the fragrant rose bushes
Climbing the cherry tree
back to the turtle sandbox
with our crimson treats
Then to the big swings
where we pump our bare legs
pushing toes to the sky
three— two— one—
then free as a firefly
in the summer dusk floating
even as our stomach drops
This poem was composed with help from my friends at Charles House. We read summer-themed poetry today and then melded various childhood memories into the poem above.