Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997): “Howl”, “Ballad of American Skeletons” and “Song” [Precious Poetry, 13th Edition]

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“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection

to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…”

GINSBERG. Howl. FULL TRANSCRIPTION.

 

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“A Ballad of American Skeletons”

performed by Allen Ginsberg and Paul McCartney

The Royal Albert Hall – 1995

Said the Presidential skeleton
I won’t sign the bill
Said the Speaker skeleton
Yes you will

Said the Representative skeleton
I object
Said the Supreme Court skeleton
Whaddya expect

Said the Military skeleton
Buy Star Bombs
Said the Upperclass skeleton
Starve unmarried moms

Said the Yahoo skeleton
Stop dirty art
Said the Right Wing skeleton
Forget about yr heart

Said the Gnostic skeleton
The Human Form’s divine
Said the Moral Majority skeleton
No it’s not it’s mine

Said the Buddha skeleton
Compassion is wealth
Said the Corporate skeleton
It’s bad for your health

Said the Old Christ skeleton
Care for the Poor
Said the Son of God skeleton
AIDS needs cure

Said the Homophobe skeleton
Gay folk suck
Said the Heritage Policy skeleton
Blacks’re outta luck

Said the Macho skeleton
Women in their place
Said the Fundamentalist skeleton
Increase human race

Said the Right-to-Life skeleton
Foetus has a soul
Said Pro-choice skeleton
Shove it up your hole

Said the Downsized skeleton
Robots got my job
Said the Tough-on-Crime skeleton
Tear-gas the mob

Said the Governor skeleton
Cut school lunch
Said the Mayor skeleton
Eat the budget crunch

Said the Neo-Conservative skeleton
Homeless off the street!
Said the Free Market skeleton
Use ’em up for meat

Said the Think Tank skeleton
Free Market’s the way
Said the S&L skeleton
Make the State pay

Said the Chrysler skeleton
Pay for you & me
Said the Nuke Power skeleton
& me & me & me

Said the Ecologic skeleton
Keep Skies blue
Said the Multinational skeleton
What’s it worth to you?

Said the NAFTA skeIeton
Get rich, Free Trade,
Said the Maquiladora skeleton
Sweat shops, low paid

Said the rich GATT skeleton
One world, high tech
Said the Underclass skeleton
Get it in the neck

Said the World Bank skeleton
Cut down your trees
Said the I.M.F. skeleton
Buy American cheese

Said the Underdeveloped skeleton I
Send me rice
Said Developed Nations’ skeleton
Sell your bones for dice

Said the Ayatollah skeleton
Die writer die
Said Joe Stalin’s skeleton
That’s no lie

Said the Petrochemical skeleton
Roar Bombers roar!
Said the Psychedelic skeleton
Smoke a dinosaur

Said Nancy’s skeleton
Just say No
Said the Rasta skeleton
Blow Nancy Blow

Said Demagogue skeleton
Don’t smoke Pot
Said Alcoholic skeleton
Let your liver rot

Said the Junkie skeleton
Can’t we get a fix?
Said the Big Brother skeleton
Jail the dirty pricks

Said the Mirror skeleton
Hey good looking
Said the Electric Chair skeleton
Hey what’s cooking?

Said the Talkshow skeleton
Fuck you in the face
Said the Family Values skeleton
My family values mace

Said the N.Y. Times skeleton
That’s not fit to print
Said the C.I.A. skeleton
Cantcha take a hint?

Said the Network skeleton
Believe my lies
Said the Advertising skeleton
Don’t get wise!

Said the Media skeleton
Believe you me
Said the Couch-Potato skeleton
What me worry?

Said the TV skeleton
Eat sound bites
Said the Newscast skeleton
That’s all Goodnight

20

* * * * *

Allen Ginsberg with Jack Kerouac in San Francisco (1956)

Song

The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction

the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.

Who can deny?
In dreams
it touches
the body,
in thought
constructs
a miracle,
in imagination
anguishes
till born
in human–
looks out of the heart
burning with purity–
for the burden of life
is love,

but we carry the weight
wearily,
and so must rest
in the arms of love
at last,
must rest in the arms
of love.

No rest
without love,
no sleep
without dreams
of love–
be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
or machines,
the final wish
is love
–cannot be bitter,
cannot deny,
cannot withhold
if denied:

the weight is too heavy

–must give
for no return
as thought
is given
in solitude
in all the excellence
of its excess.

The warm bodies
shine together
in the darkness,
the hand moves
to the center
of the flesh,
the skin trembles
in happiness
and the soul comes
joyful to the eye–

yes, yes,
that’s what
I wanted,
I always wanted,
I always wanted,
to return
to the body
where I was born.

Allen Ginsberg
* * * * *

You might also like:

Portrait of Allen Ginsberg, December 1963

Allen Ginsberg’s article about cannabis: “The actual experience of the smoked herb has been clouded by a fog of dirty language perpetrated by a crowd of fakers who have not had the experience and yet insist on downgrading it. The paradoxical key to this bizarre impasse of awareness is precisely that the marijuana consciousness is one that, ever so gently, shifts the center of attention from habitual shallow, purely verbal guidelines and repetitive secondhand ideological interpretations of experience to more direct, slower, absorbing, occasionally microscopically minute engagement with sensing phenomena…”  See also: Lester Greenspoon’s comments.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Previously on Awestruck Wanderer:

Who’s next? Feel free to suggest poets in the comment box!

“The U.S. vs John Lennon”, article about the astonishing documentary…

OneSheet (Page 1)
JOHN LENNON AS PUBLIC ENEMY

How the Beatle became a menace to the U.S. Establishment
as revealed by Leaf’s and Scheinfield’s pulsating documentary

After the Beatles broke-up, John Lennon certainly wasn’t willing to simply let things be. Even tough he remained faithful to the pacifist creed once stated in “Revolution” (“If you talk about destruction / don’t you know that you can count me out?”), he was ready to enlist as a warrior in the growing armies of hippies and beatniks protesting against the genocidal war in Vietnam. Adding his voice to this choir of discontent, John Lennon was bound to clash with the American authorities.

After the Fab Four had disbanded, George Harrisson sought his peace of mind and spiritual serenity in Hare Krishna and Eastern religion, while McCartney went on a solo-career that would consolidate his stardom. But Lennon had other plans in mind than singing mantras or writing silly love songs. The “rebel Beatle” was about to throw himself head-on in the social and political struggles of his times and would soon become one of the most outspoken cultural icons campaigning for love, peace, freedom – in synthesis, for the “brotherhood of man” utopia “Imagine” told us about.

Details of this exciting and turbulent saga can be found in The U.S. Against John Lennon, a documentary by David Leaf and John Scheinfield which chronicles how Lennon and Yoko got so deeply involved in the most urgent political turmoils at the dawn of the 70s. Some of the songs composed during that period were hymns for the pacifist movement, such as “Give Peace a Chance”, while protest-songs like “Power to the People” reached wide-spread acceptance amongst the American citizens who were flooding the streets for mass demonstrations that helped re-shape the Cold-War era.

Lennon, in the Sixties, was no stranger to rebellion and had been seduced more than once by the counter-cultural magnet, speaking up against the stablishment. He had, for example, embarked on LSD trips, becoming one of the enthusiasts of Albert Hoffman’s potion, siding with other gurus such as Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey. Much of the historical importance of the band lays in their amazing capacity to innovate and evolve: they went from being a naive yeah-yeah-yeah pop-band and transformed into an astonishing psychedelic cosmic trip, kick-started with albums like Revolver and Sgt. Peppers. The world knew well from those days the capacity that Lennon and his peers had of being pioneers.

In 1968, in the White Album era, the Beatles had already deviated a lot from the mainstream currents of pop music and were now experimenting with extravagant instruments and journeying in India in order to gather wisdom first-hand from the Maharishi. Some years before, Lennon had raised a lot of controversy when he stated that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ. This statement was far from a sociological lie, given the dimensions of mass hysteria raised by the Beatlemania. But Lennon’s phrase wasn’t swallowed smoothly by some Christians who, offended by this claim, went on to burn the records and posters of the herectical Liverpool quartet. In the mid sixties, Lennon was already some sort of a troublemaker, with a tongue behaving like a viper. However, nothing prepared the world for what he would stand-up for in the 70s.

In his solo-career, Lennon showed no signs of slowing down on his path to religious and political criticism, as we can hear in songs such as “God”, “Working Class Hero”, “Gimme Some Truth” or the era-defining “Imagine”, arguably one of the most unforgetable pieces 20th century popular music. Politically, he became more and more out-spoken against the ills he perceived in the world, and perhaps considered himself as someone who could inspire the masses muh in the way leaders such as Gandhi or Che Guevara did.

When he chose to live in America, Lennon was due to become, in the eyes of authorities, a dangerous rebel to be closely watched and whose wings should be quickly clipped. His involvement with people who were deemed by the FBI and the CIA as “radicals” – such as John Sinclair or Black Panthers activists – ended up turning Lennon into some kind of public menace to the mainstream political establishment. Soon the U.S. would be anxiously spying on Lennon and just looking for an excuse to kick him out of the country. A couple of joints found in his possession would be enough. His powerful voice of dissent had become a great nuisance for the warmongers who whished he kept his mouth shut about foreign policy matters. But Lennon wasn’t willing to shut up. He stood up in the face of danger, thus inspiring a whole generation to shake-off its letargy and “take the power back”, as decades later the hard-rockers Rage Against the Machine would enshrine in an earth-shaking protest song.

The documentary The U.S. Against John Lennon is truly an impressive dive into this historical context of the early 70s, a film bursting with great images from the archives and scenes from a country in turmoil. Inspired both by Gandhi’s pacifism and by the Hippie-era Flower Power ideas, Lennon provided fuel to the fire of love and peace. History would never forget the mottos: “make love, not war!” and “war is over (if you want it”). For these and many other reasons, The U.S. Against John Lennon is a deeply inspiring film, a testament to the courage and far-sighted-vision of one of the greatest cultural icons of the 20th century. When the film ends, we can’t avoid the feelings of gratitude and admiration towards this artist and warrior who enlightned us so much in our path to empowerment.

John e Yoko

Article by Eduardo Carli de Moraes
Toronto, Ontario
416 271 2852
educmoraes@hotmail.com