For Naomi Ginsberg, 1894—1956
Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.
downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I’ve been up all night, talking, talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues shout blind on the phonograph
the rhythm the rhythm—and your memory in my head three years after—And read Adonais’ last triumphant stanzas aloud—wept, realizing how we suffer—
And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember, prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of Answers—and my own imagination of a withered leaf—at dawn—
Dreaming back thru life, Your time—and mine accelerating toward Apocalypse,
the final moment—the flower burning in the Day—and what comes after,
looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city
a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and a phantom Russia, or a crumpled bed that never existed—
like a poem in the dark—escaped back to Oblivion—
No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the Dream, trapped in its disappearance,
sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom, worshipping each other,
worshipping the God included in it all—longing or inevitability?—while it lasts, a Vision—anything more?
It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder, Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shouldering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant—and the sky above—an old blue place.
or down the Avenue to the south, to—as I walk toward the Lower East Side—where you walked 50 years ago, little girl—from Russia, eating the first poisonous tomatoes of America—frightened on the dock—
then struggling in the crowds of Orchard Street toward what?—toward Newark—
toward candy store, first home-made sodas of the century, hand-churned ice cream in backroom on musty brownfloor boards—
Toward education marriage nervous breakdown, operation, teaching school, and learning to be mad, in a dream—what is this life?
Toward the Key in the window—and the great Key lays its head of light on top of Manhattan, and over the floor, and lays down on the sidewalk—in a single vast beam, moving, as I walk down First toward the Yiddish Theater—and the place of poverty
you knew, and I know, but without caring now—Strange to have moved
thru Paterson, and the West, and Europe and here again,
with the cries of Spaniards now in the doorstoops doors and dark boys on the street, fire escapes old as you
-Tho you’re not old now, that’s left here with me—
Myself, anyhow, maybe as old as the universe—and I guess that dies with us—enough to cancel all that comes—What came is gone forever every time—
That’s good! That leaves it open for no regret—no fear radiators, lacklove, torture even toothache in the end—
Though while it comes it is a lion that eats the soul—and the lamb, the soul, in us, alas, offering itself in sacrifice to change’s fierce hunger—hair and teeth—and the roar of bonepain, skull bare, break rib, rot-skin, braintricked Implacability.
Ai! ai! we do worse! We are in a fix! And you’re out, Death let you out, Death had the Mercy, you’re done with your century, done with God, done with the path thru it—Done with yourself at last—Pure—Back to the Babe dark before your Father, before us all—before the world—
There, rest. No more suffering for you. I know where you’ve gone, it’s good.
No more flowers in the summer fields of New York, no joy now, no more fear of Louis,
and no more of his sweetness and glasses, his high school decades, debts, loves, frightened telephone calls, conception beds, relatives, hands—
No more of sister Elanor,.—she gone before you—we kept it secret—you killed her—or she killed herself to bear with you—an arthritic heart—But Death’s killed you both—No matter—
Nor your memory of your mother, 1915 tears in silent movies weeks and weeks—forgetting, aggrieve watching Marie Dressler address humanity, Chaplin dance in youth,
or Boris Godunov, Chaliapin’s at the Met, hailing his voice of a weeping Czar—by standing room with Elanor & Max—watching also the Capitalists take seats in Orchestra, white furs, diamonds,
with the YPSL’s hitch-hiking thru Pennsylvania, in black baggy gym skirts pants, photograph of 4 girls holding each other round the waste, and laughing eye, too coy, virginal solitude of 1920
all girls grown old, or dead, now, and that long hair in the grave—lucky to have husbands later—
You made it—I came too—Eugene my brother before (still grieving now and will gream on to his last stiff hand, as he goes thru his cancer—or kill—later perhaps—soon he will think—)
And it’s the last moment I remember, which I see them all, thru myself, now—tho not you
I didn’t foresee what you felt—what more hideous gape of bad mouth came first—to you—and were you prepared?
To go where? In that Dark—that—in that God? a radiance? A Lord in the Void? Like an eye in the black cloud in a dream? Adonoi at last, with you?
Beyond my remembrance! Incapable to guess! Not merely the yellow skull in the grave, or a box of worm dust, and a stained ribbon—Deathshead with Halo? can you believe it?
Is it only the sun that shines once for the mind, only the flash of existence, than none ever was?
Nothing beyond what we have—what you had—that so pitiful—yet Triumph,
to have been here, and changed, like a tree, broken, or flower—fed to the ground—but mad, with its petals, colored, thinking Great Universe, shaken, cut in the head, leaf stript, hid in an egg crate hospital, cloth wrapped, sore—freaked in the moon brain, Naughtless.
No flower like that flower, which knew itself in the garden, and fought the knife—lost
Cut down by an idiot Snowman’s icy—even in the Spring—strange ghost thought—some Death—Sharp icicle in his hand—crowned with old roses—a dog for his eyes—cock of a sweatshop—heart of electric irons.
All the accumulations of life, that wear us out—clocks, bodies, consciousness, shoes, breasts—begotten sons—your Communism—‘Paranoia’ into hospitals.
You once kicked Elanor in the leg, she died of heart failure later. You of stroke. Asleep? within a year, the two of you, sisters in death. Is Elanor happy?
Max grieves alive in an office on Lower Broadway, lone large mustache over midnight Accountings, not sure. l His life passes—as he sees—and what does he doubt now? Still dream of making money, or that might have made money, hired nurse, had children, found even your Immortality, Naomi?
I’ll see him soon. Now I’ve got to cut through—to talk to you—as I didn’t when you had a mouth.
Forever. And we’re bound for that, Forever—like Emily Dickinson’s horses—headed to the End.
They know the way—These Steeds—run faster than we think—it’s our own life they cross—and take with them. . . .
which is Naomi—
from: Selected Poems 1947-1995. Copyright 2001.
from: Selected Poems 1947-1995. Copyright 2001.