Thursday, April 5, 2012

Allen Ginsberg's Parinirvana

[Allen holding an abbreviated version of his poem "Gone, Gone, Gone" (Gone gone gone / gone with yesterday / gone gone gone /all gone old & gray / Gone, gone, gone /Gone to graveyard play / with spells & / Tombstones Gay!") January 1997. Photo: c. Richard Nagler, used with permission]

["Things I'll Not Do (Nostalgias)" - original Ginsberg manuscript 3/30/1997]

Trungpa's parinirvana yesterday, Allen's today (well, in Buddhist terms, not, strictly speaking, a parinirvana, but 15 years to the day, since his passing.
Allen was famously active right up to the last moment, compassionate too, asking his friends, if there was anything they might need. Rosebud Pettet notes, in her definitive account, two days before, that he had been "busy, writing and making phone calls to his friends all over the world, saying goodbye. Amiri Baraka said Allen (had) called him and (had) said, "I'm dying, do you need any money?"
The poems, the writings, scribbled on paper and in notebooks, continued, likewise, almost up to the very end. This ("Things I'll Not Do (Nostalgias)"), among the most poignant (and one of the key poems in the Death & Fame collection - the editors have written most illuminatingly about this elsewhere - Allen's spidery handwriting, the real challenges and revelations of transcription!)

Things I'll Not Do (Nostalgias)

Never go to Bulgaria, had a booklet & invitation,
Same Albania, invited last year, privately by Lottery scammers or recovering alcoholics,
Or enlightened poets of the antique land of Hades Necromanteion,
Nor visit Lhasa live in Hilton or Ngawang Gelek's household & weary ascend Potala,
Nor ever return to Kashi, "oldest continuously inhabited city in the world", bathe in Ganges & sit again at Manikarnika ghat with Peter, visit Lord Jagganath again in Puri, never back to Birbhum, take notes, tales of Khaki Baba
Or hear music festivals in Madras with Philip
Or return to have chai with older Sunil & the young coffeeshop poets,
Tie my head on a block in the Chinatown opium den, pass by Moslem hotel, it's rooftop Tinsmith Street Choudui Chowh Nimtallah Burning ground, nor smoke ganja on the Hooghly
Nor the alleyways of Achmed's Fez, nevermore drink mint tea at Soco Chico, visit Paul B. in Tangier
Or see the Sphinx in the Desert at Sunrise or sunset, morn & dusk in the desert,
Ancient collapsed Beirut, sad bombed Babylon & Ur, Syria's grim mysteries, all Araby & Saudi deserts, Yemen's sprightly folk,
Old opium tribal Afghanistan, Tibet-Templed Baluchistan,
See Shanghai again, nor cares of Dunhuang
Nor climb E.12th Street's stairway 3 flights again
Nor go to literary Argentina, accompany Glass to Sao Paolo & live a month in a flat, Rio's beaches & favella boys, Bahia's great Carnival
Nor more daydream of Bali, too far Adelaide's festival to get new song sticks
Not see the new slums of Jakarta, mysterious Borneo forests & painted men & women,
No more Sunset Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, Oz on Ocean Way,
Old cousin Danny Leegant, memories of Aunt Edith in Santa Monica,
No more sweet summers with lovers, teaching Blake at Naropa,
Mind Writing Slogans, new modern American poetics, Williams, Kerouac,
Reznikoff, Rakosi, Corso, Creeley, Orlovsky,
Any visits to B'nai Israel graves of Buba, Aunt Rose, Harry Meltzer and Aunt Clara, Father Louis,
Not myself except in an urn of ashes.

March 30, 1997 AM
[reprinted from Collected Poems 1947-1997, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, New York, 2006]


  1. we walked at the Committee after Janine's phone call. Daffodils starting to come up. cp sat on the porch writing.

  2. William called me to come to tea and crackers, we sat there and he told me about Allen's calls to say good bye. Every detail precious and solid. Pride in what kind of man he had been friends with.