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PURCHASE THE DIGITAL COLLECTION (2013)
B. 6.3.26 Patterson, New Jersey/D. 4.6.97 New York, New York
So I’m on the flight home from Bombay and I read over the shoulder of the gentleman from Calcutta sitting next to me, read in his Times of India, that Allen Ginsberg has died.
So you say OH. And he says, You know this man? And I say, Well yes he was a great poet, a great man.
And he says, Yes this man visited India I think, the Indian people remember him. So we strike up a conversation that lasts until Amsterdam, where there’s a morning layover. Meanwhile back in Bombay I’ve discovered that the only pleasant Westerner I met in all of India—a young guy from Albany with whom I’d shared a pre-dawn autorickshaw ride to the Delhi train station, months earlier—happens to be on the same flight, and we’ve agreed to go see some of Amsterdam together. The gentleman from Calcutta is delighted to join us—but then being from India he isn’t allowed past the passport checkpoint.
So the two of you leave him. While still in the terminal, I bought a cup of coffee, I had to have coffee again—and I really felt it, just like Nietzsche said, I said to David, Nietzsche was right, coffee darkens things.
And Allen Ginsberg had died. Allen Ginsberg whom I’d actually seen when I was a freshman in college, he appeared at my school in the hairy flesh.
Everybody has one of these stories. Baby he’s remembered in India. He’s up there chanting, demonstrating hatha yoga, rolling his eyes. He recites some of Kaddish. Then he sings, accompanied by a beautiful young man on harmonium, his own settings of Blake’s Songs of Innocence—over the diphthong in “lamb” his voice most hideously breaking—then there’s an intermission after which he’s going to read excerpts from his own FBI files, acquired through the Freedom of Information Act.
You left. You took friends with you when you did. I thought he was awful, a joke, overrated, a thing of the past, a bellowing self-displaying pederast, and uncomfortably too big for the room.
Callow callow callow callow. Leaving David to wander I went to the Rijksmuseum, I stood and stared at The Night Watch. It reminded me of India, the same kind of finally strange. Once a year I read Howl, I read America. “America when will you send your eggs to India?” “When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?” “America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.”
How are you changed? I am made proportionately lighter.
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