Kaddish, Part I

Allen Ginsberg

 

For Naomi Ginsberg, 1894-1956

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on
   the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.
downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I've been up all night, talking,
   talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues
   shout blind on the phonograph
the rhythm the rhythm--and your memory in my head three years after--
   And read Adonais' last triumphant stanzas aloud--wept, realizing
   how we suffer--
And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember,
   prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of An-
   swers--and my own imagination of a withered leaf--at dawn--
Dreaming back thru life, Your time--and mine accelerating toward Apoca-
   lypse,
the final moment--the flower burning in the Day--and what comes after,
looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city
a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and a phantom
   Russia, or a crumpled bed that never existed--
like a poem in the dark--escaped back to Oblivion--
No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the Dream,
   trapped in its disappearance,
sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom, worship-
   ping each other,
worshipping the God included in it all--longing or inevitability?--while it
   lasts, a Vision--anything more?
It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder,
   Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shoul-
   dering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant--and
   the sky above--an old blue place.
or down the Avenue to the south, to--as I walk toward the Lower East Side
   --where you walked 50 years ago, little girl--from Russia, eating the
   first poisonous tomatoes of America frightened on the dock
then struggling in the crowds of Orchard Street toward what?--toward
   Newark--
toward candy store, first home-made sodas of the century, hand-churned ice
   cream in backroom on musty brownfloor boards--
Toward education marriage nervous breakdown, operation, teaching school,
   and learning to be mad, in a dream--what is this life?
Toward the Key in the window--and the great Key lays its head of light
   on top of Manhattan, and over the floor, and lays down on the
   sidewalk--in a single vast beam, moving, as I walk down First toward
   the Yiddish Theater--and the place of poverty
you knew, and I know, but without caring now--Strange to have moved
   thru Paterson, and the West, and Europe and here again,
with the cries of Spaniards now in the doorstops doors and dark boys on
   the street, fire escapes old as you
--Tho you're not old now, that's left here with me--
Myself, anyhow, maybe as old as the universe--and I guess that dies with
   us--enough to cancel all that comes--What came is gone forever
   every time--
That's good!  That leaves it open for no regret--no fear radiators, lacklove,
   torture even toothache in the end--
Though while it comes it is a lion that eats the soul--and the lamb, the soul,
   in us, alas, offering itself in sacrifice to change's fierce hunger--hair
   and teeth--and the roar of bonepain, skull bare, break rib, rot-skin,
   braintricked Implacability.
Ai! ai!  we do worse! We are in a fix!  And you're out, Death let you out,
   Death had the Mercy, you're done with your century, done with
   God, done with the path thru it--Done with yourself at last--Pure
   --Back to the Babe dark before your Father, before us all--before the
   world--
There, rest.  No more suffering for you.  I know where you've gone, it's good.
No more flowers in the summer fields of New York, no joy now, no more
   fear of Louis,
and no more of his sweetness and glasses, his high school decades, debts,
   loves, frightened telephone calls, conception beds, relatives, hands--
No more of sister Elanor,--she gone before you--we kept it secret you
   killed her--or she killed herself to bear with you--an arthritic heart
   --But Death's killed you both--No matter--
Nor your memory of your mother, 1915 tears in silent movies weeks and
   weeks--forgetting, agrieve watching Marie Dressler address human-
   ity, Chaplin dance in youth,
or Boris Godunov, Chaliapin's at the Met, halling his voice of a weeping Czar
   --by standing room with Elanor & Max--watching also the Capital
   ists take seats in Orchestra, white furs, diamonds,
with the YPSL's hitch-hiking thru Pennsylvania, in black baggy gym skirts
   pants, photograph of 4 girls holding each other round the waste, and
   laughing eye, too coy, virginal solitude of 1920
all girls grown old, or dead now, and that long hair in the grave--lucky to
   have husbands later--
You made it--I came too--Eugene my brother before (still grieving now and
   will gream on to his last stiff hand, as he goes thru his cancer--or kill
   --later perhaps--soon he will think--)
And it's the last moment I remember, which I see them all, thru myself, now
   --tho not you
I didn't foresee what you felt--what more hideous gape of bad mouth came
   first--to you--and were you prepared?
To go where?  In that Dark--that--in that God? a radiance? A Lord in the
   Void?  Like an eye in the black cloud in a dream?  Adonoi at last, with
   you?
Beyond my remembrance! Incapable to guess! Not merely the yellow skull
   in the grave, or a box of worm dust, and a stained ribbon--Deaths-
   head with Halo?  can you believe it?
Is it only the sun that shines once for the mind, only the flash of existence,
   than none ever was?
Nothing beyond what we have--what you had--that so pitiful--yet Tri-
   umph,
to have been here, and changed, like a tree, broken, or flower--fed to the
   ground--but made, with its petals, colored, thinking Great Universe,
   shaken, cut in the head, leaf stript, hid in an egg crate hospital, cloth
   wrapped, sore--freaked in the moon brain, Naughtless.
No flower like that flower, which knew itself in the garden, and fought the
   knife--lost
Cut down by an idiot Snowman's icy--even in the Spring--strange ghost
   thought some--Death--Sharp icicle in his hand--crowned with old
   roses--a dog for his eyes--cock of a sweatshop--heart of electric
   irons.
All the accumulations of life, that wear us out--clocks, bodies, consciousness,
   shoes, breasts--begotten sons--your Communism--'Paranoia' into
   hospitals.
You once kicked Elanor in the leg, she died of heart failure later.  You of
   stroke.  Asleep?  within a year, the two of you, sisters in death.  Is
   Elanor happy?
Max grieves alive in an office on Lower Broadway, lone large mustache over
   midnight Accountings, not sure.  His life passes--as he sees--and
   what does he doubt now?  Still dream of making money, or that might
   have made money, hired nurse, had children, found even your Im-
   mortality, Naomi?
I'll see him soon.  Now I've got to cut through to talk to you as I didn't
   when you had a mouth.
Forever.  And we're bound for that, Forever like Emily Dickinson's horses
   --headed to the End.
They know the way--These Steeds--run faster than we think--it's our own
   life they cross--and take with them.
   Magnificent, mourned no more, marred of heart, mind behind, mar-
ried dreamed, mortal changed--Ass and face done with murder.
   In the world, given, flower maddened, made no Utopia, shut under
pine, almed in Earth, blamed in Lone, Jehovah, accept.
   Nameless, One Faced, Forever beyond me, beginningless, endless,
Father in death.  Tho I am not there for this Prophecy, I am unmarried, I'm
hymnless, I'm Heavenless, headless in blisshood I would still adore
   Thee, Heaven, after Death, only One blessed in Nothingness, not
light or darkness, Dayless Eternity--
   Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some
of my Time, now given to Nothing--to praise Thee--But Death
   This is the end, the redemption from Wilderness, way for the Won-
derer, House sought for All, black handkerchief washed clean by weeping
--page beyond Psalm--Last change of mine and Naomi--to God's perfect
Darkness--Death, stay thy phantoms!
II
   Over and over--refrain--of the Hospitals--still haven't written your
history--leave it abstract--a few images
   run thru the mind--like the saxophone chorus of houses and years--
remembrance of electrical shocks.
   By long nites as a child in Paterson apartment, watching over your
nervousness--you were fat--your next move--
   By that afternoon I stayed home from school to take care of you--
once and for all--when I vowed forever that once man disagreed with my
opinion of the cosmos, I was lost--
   By my later burden--vow to illuminate mankind--this is release of
particulars--(mad as you)--(sanity a trick of agreement)--
   But you stared out the window on the Broadway Church corner, and
spied a mystical assassin from Newark,
   So phoned the Doctor--'OK go way for a rest'--so I put on my coat
and walked you downstreet--On the way a grammarschool boy screamed,
unaccountably--'Where you goin Lady to Death'? I shuddered--
   and you covered your nose with motheaten fur collar, gas mask
against poison sneaked into downtown atmosphere, sprayed by Grandma--
   And was the driver of the cheesebox Public Service bus a member of
the gang?  You shuddered at his face, I could hardly get you on--to New
York, very Times Square, to grab another Greyhound--
 
From Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Used with permission.

Poems by This Author

Howl, Part III and Footnote to Howl by Allen Ginsberg
Carl Solomon! I'm with you in Rockland
Howl, Parts I & II by Allen Ginsberg
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked
A Supermarket in California by Allen Ginsberg
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked
New Stanzas for Amazing Grace by Allen Ginsberg


Further Reading

Poems About Illness
A Litany in Time of Plague
by Thomas Nashe
Afternoon at MacDowell
by Jane Kenyon
Against Elegies
by Marilyn Hacker
Anxieties
by Donna Masini
Auld Lang Syne
by Jennifer L. Knox
Beasts
by Carmen Giménez Smith
Bedside
by William Olsen
Breathing
by Josephine Dickinson
Christmas Away from Home
by Jane Kenyon
Cognitive Deficit Market
by Joshua Corey
Evening
by Gail Mazur
Everyone Gasps with Anxiety
by Jeni Olin
Having it Out with Melancholy
by Jane Kenyon
Her Body Like a Lantern Next to Me
by John Rybicki
Hospital Writing Workshop
by Rafael Campo
In Memory of W. B. Yeats
by W. H. Auden
Losing It
by Margaret Gibson
Mastectomy
by Wanda Coleman
Phases
by Michael Redhill
Prayer for Sleep
by Cheryl Dumesnil
R.I.P., My Love
by Tory Dent
Sick
by Shel Silverstein
The Embrace
by Mark Doty
The Land of Counterpane
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Nurse
by Michael Blumenthal
The Sick Child
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Sick Rose
by William Blake
The Subalterns
by Thomas Hardy
The Transparent Man
by Anthony Hecht
The Visit
by Jason Shinder
To Amy Lowell
by Eunice Tietjens
Tubes
by Donald Hall
Units
by Albert Goldbarth
Visits to St. Elizabeths
by Elizabeth Bishop
Waking in the Blue
by Robert Lowell
When I Consider How My Light Is Spent
by John Milton
Poems about Jewish Experience
A Little History
by David Lehman
Afterlife
by Joan Larkin
An Old Cracked Tune
by Stanley Kunitz
Fugue of Death
by Paul Celan
Hey Allen Ginsberg Where Have You Gone and What Would You Think of My Drugs?
by Rachel Zucker
In a Country
by Larry Levis
In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport
by Emma Lazarus
In the Park
by Maxine Kumin
It had been long dark, though still an hour before supper-time.
by Charles Reznikoff
Jew
by Michael Blumenthal
Kissing Stieglitz Good-Bye
by Gerald Stern
Notes on the Spring Holidays, III, [Hanukkah]
by Charles Reznikoff
The Poem as Mask
by Muriel Rukeyser
Poems About Mothers
Disciplines [If there is prayer, there is a mother kneeling]
by Dawn Lundy Martin
a woman peeling apples, with a small child
by Pattie McCarthy
Beasts
by Carmen Giménez Smith
Chorus
by Catherine Barnett
Exile
by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Getting Close
by Victoria Redel
Jugglers
by Francisco Aragón
Lucky
by Tony Hoagland
Mama, Come Back
by Nellie Wong
Measurement Fable
by Rusty Morrison
Metamorphosis
by James Richardson
Mother
by Lola Ridge
Mother
by Herman de Coninck
Mother Ann Tells Lucy What Gave Her Joy
by Arra Lynn Ross
Mother o' Mine
by Rudyard Kipling
Mother's Day
by David Young
My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer
by Mark Strand
My Mother Was No White Dove
by Reginald Shepherd
My Mother Would Be a Falconress
by Robert Duncan
My Mother's Funeral
by Ira Sadoff
Parents
by William Meredith
Picking Up
by Evelyn Duncan
Poems about Motherhood
Postcards
by E. Ethelbert Miller
Postpartum
by Hiromi Itō
Rock Me to Sleep
by Elizabeth Akers Allen
She Leaves Me Again, Six Months Later
by Collier Nogues
The Player Queen
by W. B. Yeats
The Routine Things Around the House
by Stephen Dunn
The Visit
by Jason Shinder
They Call This
by C. K. Williams
To My Mother
by Robert Louis Stevenson
To My Mother
by Edgar Allan Poe
To My Mother
by Christina Rossetti
To My Mother Waiting on 10/01/54
by Teresa Carson
Untitled [A house just like his mother's]
by Gregory Orr
Wedding Cake
by Naomi Shihab Nye
With Child
by Genevieve Taggard
[Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome]
by Christina Rossetti