Latin class is always boring – Mr. Morrison is very short, and he looks like a young stout woodland nymph. He is very enthusiastic about his declensions.
Taylor is my Greek friend she is very tan and very studious she thinks she’s very sexy but she’ll never admit it.
Becky is my best friend she thinks she’s very sexy and admits it every day.
Harley is very determined and pale she is really transparent and her eyebrows look like a line of oily black staples in a thin arch.
They are the only ones who might pay attention. Maybe Jordan sometimes with her gaping fish mouth/blank carp eyes, low-cut shirts I don’t like her boobs none of us do – who is she trying to impress our Latin Professor Forest Sprite?
And Latin class is often very boring.
I was remembering that movie I watched with my dad – Neal Cassady’s wild cross-country trek perhaps to reach NY World Fair perhaps to drive drive in speed trances, over speed bumps – talking to drown out buzzing that followed him everyday of his bedlamite life he always walked with his feet soles an inch above others. In this way it is easy to get tired and lose your footing. Buzzing followed him from California, Texas backwards segregated swimming pools, and licked at the pits of his knees, stuck with saliva like a postage stamp – buzzing stuck on him until he collapsed because he lived too much in those four and one-fifth decades that were actually very lonely despite their being very busy and cramped and joyful, really joyful. Really holy.
So Allen Ginsberg was Neal’s Sometimes Lover: he loved him sometimes.
Most times, but it’s difficult to love a madman. And they were both madmen.
And in this movie they talked about “Howl”. This was my sponge period; I had much room for soaking up. The opening lines were beautiful I stored it in my secret brain folds and tweezed it out with my computer keys during Latin class.
All of Howl is not on the internet anymore. I copy and pasted it just in time it’s open in a Word document on my computer in fancy typewriter font like back in ’55 with young Allen sweating by his California window.
Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926. I was born seventy years later, and a year before he died. I first read “Howl” in Latin class and continued on my way to US History shaky up a flight of stairs and then read during History trying not to tremble, trying to tremble and then after school in an empty classroom.
I think this was the time of my big Understanding and now all my ennui meant something no one had to believe it just me and Allen is dead nothing actually matters. And I discovered I could be a nihilist I was. (This is reflection on my young Nietzschian-self who believed that it wasn’t important what anyone did and then my a-little-bit-older-self who decided that I wasn’t hard-core enough to be a real radical and my now post-Great-Enlightenment-Ginsberg-Self who knows she is beyond -cores because true nihilism is the absence of definition and there is no way to be a nihilist and no way not to be one…)
Allen Ginsberg was a very sad man. He was very happy, but too smart not to be very, very sad. I spent two months of my life reading and re-reading an extensive Ginsberg biography. I read it everywhere and got confused looks or impressed nods. (My math teacher spent a whole week trying to be my friend. He thinks I’m a clever girl; he knows that I should be doing well on my math tests: my work shows that I haven’t reviewed the topics, my work shows complete lack of understanding of material, I try to pass off elaborate doodling as homework when he walks around the room, etc.)
Anyway, from my intense perusal of Allen Ginsberg: a Biography, I concluded three things:
1. There are some really beautiful-inside-outside people that maybe don’t need to give reasons for doing questionable things.
2. I would never speak to or know Allen, and because of this my life wouldn’t be worth all that much. (I accepted this, and it was okay.)
3. Honesty (not little-truth: white lies and the like are alright), real nakedness, is the only crucial thing. Beyond that, everything is relative.
On Reading America:
I’ve discovered a new sensation. There’s a certain feeling of suddenly getting the urge to sing. A song gets stuck in the head and must come out. Sometimes I restrain myself; if I am in a silent room of people, if others around are sleeping. But I’ll often sing aloud unabashed. However, now I have words stuck in my head, long sentences that have their own tunes, but not many people can hear those tunes. It runs in a loop: “America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.” I want to recite to myself, like one would sing to themselves, but I can’t. People don’t talk to themselves like that. I know I should care very little what people think, and I often do care very little, but I can hardly even say these words aloud when I’m by myself.
Just a fascinating concept, I suppose.
I cried when I read America I cried in America I cried on my way to the grocery store and now I cry when I read TIME magazine. I wriggled in my seat when my teacher mentioned the Wobblies, Eugene V. Debs, spoke of Sacco and Vanzetti in passing…
And once I made Taylor’s computer background a smiling naked Allen Ginsberg because she is so prissy and prude. It was almost hilarious because she laughed and everyone else laughed. He stood there grinning – white and a little bit saggy at the hips, and he was pale so that he really glowed in tiles against her computer screen. Taylor’s the worst. She should have been embarrassed. She would have been angry if I was an unpopular girl. She’ll do anything to be cool; she just wants some friends, man, be cool…
There is always someone very important. Usually it’s your mother, your dead grandfather, your science teacher who unknowingly prevented you from killing yourself. My “someone very important” is Allen Ginsberg. He is my mother, more mother than Mother, my dead grandfather who everyone loved so much that he dropped dead before I was born; I know that if I choose to die in a forest with pretty flowers under paternal oak tree with big and friendly wolves to pick at my carcass, I will scrawl his Eastern Ballad in swirls in the dirt.
Allen Ginsberg was practically a machine. He was a machine, not in the robot-no-soul sense, but in his infinite production. That dusty type of morning feeling, that exhausted, creative, speedy-elevated churning-out of gorgeous phrases. He lived in the strange condition of being too tired to sleep yet so awake, too eternal and saintly to think of rest, in a whirling, tornado, holy haze of poesy.
Allen Ginsberg was troubled by what he couldn’t do. He couldn’t bring Neal Cassady back to life. He couldn’t slurp Kerouac back up out of the bottle that killed him. In the end he found that he couldn’t make Peter Orlovsky just normal crazy instead of rabid crazy. He knew that everything stretched out too infinitely in all directions for anything that he had done or could ever do to make a dent on the grand scheme of things.
Allen Ginsberg did more in one lifetime than two people will do in all their lifetimes. He made more good-looking, good-sounding, good-tasting stuff than three-hundred years of the future, than a baker, than anyone can ever hope to.
It wasn’t enough.
He wrote this poem five days before he died in it he wrote of the prettiest things that can happen to a person and the prettiest things that never happened to him. He lived enough for everyone.
March 30 1997, AM
“No mor sweet summers with lovers, teaching Blake at naropa…
Any visits to B’nai Israel graves of Buda, Aunt Rose, Harry Meltzer and
Aunt Clara, Father Louis
Not myself except in an urn of ashes”
The poem is entitled “Things I’ll not do (nostalgias)”. I see Him sitting with some paper, very sleepy with the weight of imminent death. He chugged too much and lost some fuel, and he was like some animal that keeps running even after it becomes lame with fatigue.
I must admit it stings a little that he left me so suddenly without saying goodbye.
Jessica Wolfsohn, Age 16, Grade 11, The Hewitt School, Silver Key