Howl, Parts I & II

Allen Ginsberg

 

For Carl Solomon

     
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,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the
  supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of
  cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels
  staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkan-
  sas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes
  on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in
  wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt
  of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or
  purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and
  endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind
  leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the mo-
  tionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunk-
  enness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon
  blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring
  winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of
  mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy
  Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought
  them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain
  all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's floated out and sat
  through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the
  crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue
  to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire
  escapes off windowsills of Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and
  anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with
  brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous
  picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of
  China under junk-withdrawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wonder-
  ing where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward
  lonesome farms in grandfather night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah
  because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels
  who were visionary indian angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural
  ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse
  of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or
  soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America
  and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing but
  the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in
  fireplace Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts
  with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incompre-
  hensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze
  of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and
  undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and
  wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before
  the machinery of other skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for
  committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and
  intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof
  waving genitals and manuscripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and
  screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of
  Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of
  public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whom-
  ever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind
  a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to
  pierce them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew
  of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the
  womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass
  and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman's loom.
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a
  package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued
  along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with
  a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of con-
  sciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and
  were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of
  the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C.,
  secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver--joy to
  the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner
  backyards, moviehouses' rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or
  with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings
  & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys
  too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a
  sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hung-
  over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams
  & stumbled to unemployment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks
  waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room full of steam-
  heat and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment cliff-banks of the Hud-
  son under the wartime blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall
  be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy
  bottom of the rivers of Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions
  and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to
  build harpsichords in their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the
  tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in
  the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming
  of the pure vegetable kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside
  of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next
  decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and
  were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were
  growing old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue
  amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regi-
  ments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertis-
  ing & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down
  by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked
  away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown
  soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window,
  jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the
  street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph
  records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whis-
  key and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears
  and the blast of colossal steamwhistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to the each other's
  hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you
  had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver
  & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in
  Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver
  is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other's salva-
  tion and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a
  second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals
  with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang
  sweet blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha
  or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or
  Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with
  their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently
  presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with
  shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instanta-
  neous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity
  hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & am-
  nesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table,
  resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and
  fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns
  of the East,
Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering with the
  echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench
  dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to
  stone as heavy as the moon,
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the
  tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 a.m. and the last
  telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room
  emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper
  rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary,
  nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination--
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you're really in the
  total animal soup of time--
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash
  of the alchemy of the use of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the
  vibrating plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images
  juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual
  images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of
  consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens
  Aeterna Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before
  you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet
  confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his
  naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here
  what might be left to say in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow
  of the band and blew the suffering of America's naked mind for love
  into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered
  the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies
  good to eat a thousand years.
     
     

 

     
     

II

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up
  their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Chil-
  dren screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies!  Old
  men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Mo-
  loch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jail-
  house and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judg-
  ment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned govern-
  ments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running
  money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast
  is a cannibal dynamo!  Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrap-
  ers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose
  factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and
  antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity
  and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch
  whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the
  Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in
  Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness
  without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ec-
  stasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light stream-
  ing out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries!
  blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible mad houses
  granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios,
  tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American
  river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive
  bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood!
  Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides!
  Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells!
  They bade farewell! They jumped off the roofl to solitude! waving! carrying
  flowers! Down to the river! into the street!
 
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
Kaddish, Part I by Allen Ginsberg
Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on
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 Drugs
Be Drunk
by Charles Baudelaire
Folly Stamp
by Prageeta Sharma
Hey Allen Ginsberg Where Have You Gone and What Would You Think of My Drugs?
by Rachel Zucker
Lunar Baedeker
by Mina Loy
Peyote Poem [excerpt]
by Michael McClure
Phases
by Michael Redhill
Screening Desire
by R. Zamora Linmark
The Threat
by Denise Duhamel
Poems Teens Like
A Muse
by Reginald Shepherd
Alice at Seventeen: Like a Blind Child
by Darcy Cummings
Ave Maria
by Frank O'Hara
Ballad
by Sonia Sanchez
Because it looked hotter that way
by Camille T. Dungy
Charlotte Brontë in Leeds Point
by Stephen Dunn
Cicada
by John Blair
Coach Losing His Daughter
by Jack Ridl
Dangerous for Girls
by Connie Voisine
Deer Hit
by Jon Loomis
Falling
by James Dickey
Flowers of Rad
by Sampson Starkweather
Ground Swell
by Mark Jarman
homage to my hips
by Lucille Clifton
In Knowledge of Young Boys
by Toi Derricotte
Lady Tactics
by Anne Waldman
Mairsy and Dosey
by Sharon Olds
Making a Fist
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Mermaid Song
by Kim Addonizio
Notes from the Other Side
by Jane Kenyon
Patience
by Kay Ryan
Possum Crossing
by Nikki Giovanni
Sticks
by Thomas Sayers Ellis
Thanks
by W. S. Merwin
That Sure is My Little Dog
by Eleanor Lerman
The Changing Light
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The Fist
by Derek Walcott
The New Higher
by John Ashbery
The Pomegranate
by Eavan Boland
The Wild Iris
by Louise Glück
The Young Man's Song
by W. B. Yeats
White Apples
by Donald Hall
Workshop
by Billy Collins
Poems about Jazz
At the Blue Note
by Pablo Medina
Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio
by Carl Sandburg
Jazz Fan Looks Back
by Jayne Cortez
Ken Burns poem
by Sean Singer
Listening to jazz now
by Jimmy Santiago Baca
Lost Fugue for Chet
by Lynda Hull
Poem at Thirty
by Michael Ryan
Soledad
by Robert Hayden
The Gardenia
by Cornelius Eady
We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks
Politics and Patriotism
America
by James Monroe Whitfield
America
by Claude McKay
America
by Robert Creeley
American History
by Michael S. Harper
American Names
by Stephen Vincent Benét
Bomb Crater Sky
by Lam Thi My Da
Dear George Bush
by Kristin Prevallet
December 2, 2002
by Juliana Spahr
Delicate Cluster
by Walt Whitman
Dolphinating
by Juan Felipe Herrera
Election Day, November, 1884
by Walt Whitman
Election Year
by Donald Revell
Exquisite Candidate
by Denise Duhamel
Exquisite Politics
by Denise Duhamel
Fellini in Purgatory
by Jean Valentine
Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind
by Carl Sandburg
How We Did It
by Muriel Rukeyser
I, Too, Sing America
by Langston Hughes
In a Country
by Larry Levis
it: a user’s guide
by Evie Shockley
Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes
Modern Declaration
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds
by Eleanor Lerman
Patriotics
by David Baker
Praise Song for the Day
by Elizabeth Alexander
Thanksgiving Letter from Harry
by Carl Dennis
The Condoleezza Suite [Excerpt]
by Nikky Finney
The Throats of Guantánamo
by Katie Ford
Thoughts
by Walt Whitman
To Roosevelt
by Rubén Darío
Related Authors
Kenneth Rexroth
Lawrence Ferlinghetti