I read a little Ginsberg today—reminded of the much younger than I am would be poet claiming Ginsberg was a waste of time—unless you enjoyed reading about lured homosexual romps in cheap hotels—a complete waste of time. We were in line for barbecue after morning sessions of poetry, most of it terribly bad. The young kid in front of me in line read his poems that morning while I snored somewhere toward the back of the auditorium. I tried my best to stay awake, but the kid wrote poems as if the words had been cut from the pages of popular magazines, thrown in a hat, and then pulled out one at a time and glued onto a page. I actually knew a guy who wrote poetry that way. It all sucked, but in the writing group we were in, everyone else thought him brilliant. So who is to know or say who or what is a waste of time.
Moloch eats our children still, I wanted to say, but instead offered some witticism by Vonnegut who claimed everyone knew the brightest minds of their generation majored in engineering. I have known a few very smart engineers, I tell no one in particular. But I have also written reports for a few engineers who didn’t know squat. Bat shit dumb, one might say. Meanwhile, García Lorca is doing something seditious down by the watermelon.
If you don’t like Ginsberg, fine. If you don’t like Whitman, fine. If you don’t like Ezra, that’s fine too.
Anne Sexton tries to lure me into some suicidal pact with her—she can be seductively sneaky that way. Poor John tries to tightrope the rail of a Minnesota bridge. And Allen goes shopping for images, in his hungry fatigue, in a supermarket in California in 1955. I still lived on the island with its tadpole rains. Wouldn’t get to California until 1956—the year I met Julie, who more or less told everyone in our fifth grade class I was her new boyfriend, and that settled that—though we didn’t talk at school. Allen finds himself chasing Whitman, seeking some direction. Whitman is tending the wounded in a hospital tent in the folds of history. And Ginsburg changes the way we look at the world and poetry, or at least the few who thought about poetry, the world, tire pressure, and the b-flat tenor sax solos.
Julie died a few years ago in Arizona. In a way the world ended when she died, or the world where I would find her, both of us old, and tell her I remembered her, that I was ten and didn’t know how to talk to a girl—still don’t, I could say, but I’ve learned to bullshit my way through it now, though everyone knows I’m just bullshitting my way through it.
So I’m wasting my time with Ginsberg, sitting with Kerouac on a busted rusty iron pole—Ginsberg who, for whatever his faults, saw Moloch’s America as clearly as anyone before or since.
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running
money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast
is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch who is now president, now senator, now judge, news commentator, NFL owner, and who owns a local bike shop. Everywhere, even in the cereal we eat, the Smart Water we drink.
Mock Ginsberg if you must, call him a lousy poet, a waste of time, whatever, but at least he wasn’t whining Prufrock, J. Alfred who measured his life with coffee spoons and descended the stairs worrying over what she might think. Do I dare, or do I dare. Shit, yes.