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Sometimes I would forget Time altogether, and nestle into "now" as if it were a soft bed.

Orhan Pamuk

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🦋 Ferlinghetti in my life

I was pretty young when I found out about A Coney Island of the Mind -- I bought a copy at one of the bookstores on Telegraph Ave. and it's the first book of poetry I can remember carrying around in high school. I just loved the title! And the poems themselves began gradually to sink in, too... I read them today and they are familiar like old relatives and slightly embarrassing too, like old relatives can be; but it seems to me like there is real beauty in them mixed in with the clumsyness.

I have not lain with beauty all my life
telling over to myself
its most rife charms

I have not lain with beauty all my life
and lied with it as well
telling over to myself
how beauty never dies
but lies apart
among the aborigines
of art
and far above the battlefields
of love

It is above all that
oh yes
It sits upon the choicest of
Church seats
up there where art directors meet
to choose the things for immortality
And they have lain with beauty
all their lives
And they have fed on honeydew
and drunk the wines of Paradise
so that they know exactly how
a thing of beauty is a joy
forever and forever
and how it never never
quite can fade
into a money-losing nothingness

Oh no I have not lain
on Beauty Rests like this
afraid to rise at night
for fear that I might somehow miss
some movement beauty might have made

Yet I have slept with beauty
in my own weird way
and I have made a hungry scene or two
with beauty in my bed
and so spilled out another poem or two
and so spilled out another poem or two
upon the Bosch-like world

A couple of more poems below the fold.

Here is "Spirit of the Crusades," from These are my Rivers (1994). It is a concise, powerful image, it hits you with the same force as his early poems but it is, I think, much more disciplined:

Stony Wales
with its slate-grey roofs
in slate-grey Cardiff
and its greystone houses on greystone terraces
and its great high statue of
"The Spirit of the Crusades"
in the Wales National Museum
portraying a medieval knight
in grey metal armor and helmet
with visor down
on a great grey steed
with four grey foot soldiers
in close march around him
(two at the head of the horse
two behind)
wearing World War One helmets
and carrying World War One rifles
with fixed bayonets
And the Crusades are over
but they are still marching
over the sea-locked land
in a dead march
straight through the twentieth century

In 1997 he published A Far Rockaway of the Heart, which might be my favorite book of his poetry for the way it reflects back on A Coney Island of the Mind from the perspective of a much older, more mature poet. I saw Mr. Ferlinghetti reading from this book and got his signature!

Driving a cardboard automobile without a license
at the turn of the century
my father ran into my mother
on a fun-ride at Coney Island
having spied each other eating
at a French boardinghouse nearby
And having decided right there and then
that she was for him entirely
he followed her into
the playland of that evening
where the headlong meeting
of their ephemeral flesh on wheels
hurtled them forever together

And I now in the back seat
of their eternity
reaching out to embrace them

posted evening of Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
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