Last week in a mad fury to try and find my long lost passport–both because it may make the renewal process easier and so I can see once again the official DEPORTADO stamped unceremoniously (yet quite officially:) on the El Salvador exit page (though that, dear reader, is another story)–I found, among other pieces of forgotten nostalgia, piles of poems I had written a very long time ago. I no longer write poetry, but–as I read through this sampling of my past literary endeavor–I was pleased to both relive some of my most defining moments and to see how time has a way of mitigating that seminal silencer of one’s creative voice–the internal critic. One poem in particular, an elegy I had written for the great and courageous pioneer of Beat poetry–that freedom fighter for independent thought–Allen Ginsberg, reminded me of the important role poetry has played during several formative periods in my life.
I had the privilege of meeting, meditating, and partying with Allen Ginsberg when I was a student at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, started by Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman, as part of the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) in Boulder, Colorado. He was inspiring, generous, uninhibited, and kind…a great teacher who, for that summer at least, I considered a friend. As Charles Dickens so famously wrote, “it was the best of times…”, well…that is it, actually, as it was the very very best of times.
Elegy for Allen Ginsberg
Eleven years before you died
You told me how you had taken Ecstasy
In the unfamiliarity of your rented
Boulder house. At first you felt odd
As your skin rippled in delight,
But then exalted in the plain sight
Of your naked self reflected
In four mirrored bathroom walls.
You marveled at its power
To peel worry like paper
From your anxious mind–and how
Like a lover it took you
Back to your own flesh
Allowing an old man, again, to wish–
We went back to the party,
Down the winding wooden stairs,
And you asked me of all the boys there
Who I would most like to sleep with.
“Chris,” I replied, and you answered
with a wistful sigh—he was your first choice too.
And when death took you in such normal terms–
Liver cancer, surrounded by friends, at home–
It is said you were writing poems
The entire day before,
Dreaming, perhaps, of the perfect boy
To embody the ecstatic Howl
Of your temporal soul
And touch you immortal as you are, after all.