Friday, April 15, 2011

NPM: Don't Grow Old

Well, I just spilled coffee on my keyboard. And since I use a laptop, all of my computer's important organs sit directly beneath the keyboard. Either the hard drive can be salvaged or I take up binge drinking.

Since this is being posted from somebody else's computer, I'm going to keep it brief. A couple days ago we looked at a brief Whitman poem in which Walt waxes transcendental about old age. Allen Ginsberg (1926 - 1997) -- who I, if I believed in such things, would say is the same soul that was Whitman, born into a new body -- shares a few observations on aging and death throughout a series of poems written throughout 1976, the year his father took ill and died. "Don't Grow Old" consists of eight pieces written between January and October of that year. Their tone and quality varies -- at this point in his career, after becoming a world-renowned genius iconoclast with Howl, Ginsberg clearly wasn't approaching his work with the same focus and hunger he demonstrated during the 1950s. But when they're good, they're good.

Excerpts from
By Allen Ginsberg


Wasted arms, feeble knees
    80 years old, hair thin and white
         cheek bonier than I remembered —
head bowed on his neck, eyes opened
    now and then, he listened —
  I read my father Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality
"...trailing clouds of glory do we come
      from God, who is our home..."

         "That's beautiful," he said, "but it's not true."

"When I was a boy, we had a house
    on Boyd Street, Newark — the backyard
        was a big empty lot full of bushes and tall grass,
    I always wondered what was behind those trees,
When I grew older, I walked around the block,
    and found out what it was back there —
         it was a glue factory."

May 18, 1976



July 8, 1976 (over Lake Michigan)


  1. the last line is horribly depressing. on the other hand, there are worse fates than becoming glue.

    becoming sawdust for instance.

  2. Becoming a joke has to be the worst.