Saturday, March 24, 2012

Happy Birthday to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, born on March 24, 1919

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The first two poets I read and loved were Edna St. Vincent Millay and Emily Dickinson; I'd bought, in paperback, a volume's worth of each at the little newsstand/book rack that stood in the hallway outside the Mess Hall at Camp Muenchweiler in Germany.  I don't remember exactly in which other book I came across "Sometime During Eternity ..." by Lawrence Ferlinghetti; probably in a paperback anthology of "beat" writing which I also bought in the hallway.

I was blown away by the iconoclasm as well as the shape of the poem; the synapses in my mind did some push-ups and some jumping jacks; its horizon expanded; the images of crucifixion I'd looked upon at Sacred Heart Church on so many forlorn Sunday mornings throughout my growing-up years now had a different, if no less pitiful, cast to them.

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 somewheres   
                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 fortyseven
                         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

                         -- Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Besides being a great poet, Ferlinghetti is also notable for having co-founded one of the world's most famous bookstores, City Lights in San Francisco.  If I've been to San Francisco seven or eight times then I've been to City Lights seven or eight times, sometimes with a cigarette dangling from my lips.

Ferlinghetti can step out of the bookstore, walk a few paces to Jack Kerouac Alley, and contemplate a memorial that has been set in his honor.

1 comment:

  1. Well now, happy birthday Lawrence! Oh, golly gosh Geo, there would have been a time I'd have been shocked to my socks reading that beginnings were Catholic Catholic Catholic...forlorn Sunday mornings you write...mine were each and every morn..oh maybe not forlorn..maybe roboticish..

    Am loving the memorial!

    thanks for this Mr Ferlinghetti:

    In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see
    the people of the world
    exactly at the moment when
    they first attained the title of
    ‘suffering humanity’
    They writhe upon the page
    in a veritable rage
    of adversity