What a life he had. Lawrence Ferlinghetti was the original beat poet — and an original human being. I was a big fan of his when I was in my teens.

I wanted to go visit his San Francisco bookshop, “City Lights” and listen to Allen Ginsburg recite, “HOWL!”

Author Lawrence Ferlinghetti – Photo: PBS

An unapologetic proponent of “poetry as insurgent art,” he was also a publisher and author. I thought he was the coolest guy on the planet. I thought I’d add just one more. Aside from being very cool, his poetry was rather humorous. I particularly like this next one. It helps if you’ve seen Chagall’s windows.

Sometime During Eternity . . .

Sometime during eternity
                                                      some guys show up
and one of them
                     who shows up real late
                                                      is a kind of carpenter
     from some square-type place
                                             like Galilee
         and he starts wailing
                                         and claiming he is hip
           to who made heaven
                                      and earth
                                                     and that the cat
                  who really laid it on us
                                                is his Dad
         And moreover
            he adds
                        It’s all writ down
                                             on some scroll-type parchments
         which some henchmen
                 leave lying around the Dead Sea somewhere
               a long time ago
                                      and which you won’t even find
        for a coupla thousand years or so
                                                or at least for
     nineteen hundred and forty seven
                                                     of them
                           to be exact
                                            and even then
        nobody really believes them
                                                  or me
                                                           for that matter
         You’re hot
                        they tell him
         And they cool him
         They stretch him on the Tree to cool
                        And everybody after that
                                                              is always making models
                                         of this Tree
                                                         with Him hung up
         and always crooning His name
                                    and calling Him to come down
                                and sit in
                                                on their combo
                          as if he is the king cat
                                                           who’s got to blow
                     or they can’t quite make it
                     Only he don’t come down
                                                        from His Tree
         Him just hang there
                                      on His Tree
         looking real Petered out
                                         and real cool
                                                            and also
                  according to a roundup
                                                   of late world news
            from the usual unreliable sources
                                                              real dead

They were on display for a few weeks at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on their way to Jerusalem. A friend and I waited hours to get into the museum and see the windows where were stained glass. The museum had set lights behind them and they glowed.

Don’t Let That Horse . . .

Don’t let that horse
                             eat that violin
   cried Chagall’s mother
                                    But he
                     kept right on
And became famous
And kept on painting
                             The Horse With Violin In Mouth
And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
                                       and rode away
         waving the violin
And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across
And there were no strings

Categories: Anecdote, obituary, poem

Tags: , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. THANKS So much. I just made a precious discovery!


  2. Oh my, I had no idea he was still alive. If interested in Howl, see the very different film of that title with James Franco as Ginsberg. He reads Howl throughout the film.


  3. The second album I did, while working at Elektra Records, was in 1972 for a group called “The Aztec Two Step” based on impressions sparked by the poems of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

    See it was like this when
    we waltz into this place
    a couple of Papish cats
    is doing an Aztec Two Step
    And I says
    Dad let’s cut
    but this dame
    comes up behind me see
    and says
    You and me could really exist
    Wow I says
    Only the next day
    she has bad teeth
    and really hates

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti


  4. The poem is ironic and in many ways, shows real faith. Deep faith — but not in the standard way.


  5. Many years ago, when I was teaching seniors at an all-boys’ Catholic high school, our classes took turns selecting readings for Mass. One of my classes had not chosen a reading, so I gave them the above poem to red aloud. The class looked at me in dismay, but the young priest said he was impressed that they had chosen it. There was a huge sigh of relief from my students.


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