|Can't you just hear Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue starting ....the famous upward climb of the clarinet....?|
I'm a New-York-City-O-Phile. I love the city for all kinds of reasons, but also I also love it irrationally. I love what's energetic and creative about it, but I also love what's messy and sorrowful about it. Saying I love New York City feels a little like saying I love people, which I do. Well, on bad days, I get cranky and complain about politicians and greedy CEO's and and and.... But in general, I do like people quite a bit. And New York City has plenty of them.
New York City. It's not Wordsworth's Lake District, that's for sure. You don't really wander lonely as a cloud in the streets of Manhattan, though sometimes you're lonely as a person in the middle of millions of other people. The city is all about people, and that came through clear as a blue September sky last Sunday, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. All the people, all their stories of that day - I have to admit, it hurt, especially backgrounded by Paul Simon singing Sounds of Silence at the memorial. But instead of hurting, instead of despairing, I'm going to offer up Allen Ginsberg's amazing poem, "My Sad Self," for Poetry Friday. Bad title, I know, but a good poem. Ginsberg wrote it in 1958 and dedicated it to Frank O'Hara, another poet who loved New York City.
My Sad Self
by Allen Ginsberg
To Frank O’Hara
Sometimes when my eyes are red
I go up on top of the RCA Building
and gaze at my world, Manhattan—
my buildings, streets I’ve done feats in,
lofts, beds, coldwater flats
—on Fifth Ave below which I also bear in mind,
its ant cars, little yellow taxis, men
walking the size of specks of wool—
Panorama of the bridges, sunrise over Brooklyn machine,
sun go down over New Jersey where I was born
& Paterson where I played with ants—
my later loves on 15th Street,
my greater loves of Lower East Side,
my once fabulous amours in the Bronx
paths crossing in these hidden streets,
my history summed up, my absences
and ecstasies in Harlem—
—sun shining down on all I own
in one eyeblink to the horizon
in my last eternity—
matter is water.
I take the elevator and go
and walk on the pavements staring into all man’s
questioning after who loves,
and stop, bemused
in front of an automobile shopwindow
standing lost in calm thought,
traffic moving up & down 5th Avenue blocks behind me
waiting for a moment when ...
Time to go home & cook supper & listen to
the romantic war news on the radio
... all movement stops
& I walk in the timeless sadness of existence,
tenderness flowing thru the buildings,
my fingertips touching reality’s face,
my own face streaked with tears in the mirror
of some window—at dusk—
where I have no desire—
for bonbons—or to own the dresses or Japanese
lampshades of intellection—
Confused by the spectacle around me,
Man struggling up the street
with packages, newspapers,
ties, beautiful suits
toward his desire
Man, woman, streaming over the pavements
red lights clocking hurried watches &
movements at the curb—
And all these streets leading
so crosswise, honking, lengthily,
stalked by high buildings or crusted into slums
thru such halting traffic
screaming cars and engines
so painfully to this
countryside, this graveyard
on deathbed or mountain
never regained or desired
in the mind to come
where all Manhattan that I’ve seen must disappear.
The poetry Friday round-up this week is being hosted by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater over at The Poem Farm. Head over there to see what other people have posted.
Yes, I hear Gershwin looking at that photograph! I've only been to New York City once, and it definitely casts a spell. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and this poem - love the line, "one eyeblink to the horizon." I also thought Paul Simon's song during the ceremonies Sunday was especially poignant.ReplyDelete
Oh wow, Julie, this made me sigh out loud. I have visited the US twice now and have traveled a little bit (California, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Missouri, and a few more states I cant recall now - and will be going to New Orleans this November) - sadly, I have not visited New York yet. I've heard so many friends share with me the city's energy and vibrance and dynamism. Hopefully we can visit summer next year. Your sharing of the poem here has solidified my desire to visit Newyorknewyork! :)ReplyDelete
you know what i wish? i wish we had more politicians who would be willing to read poetry in pubic, to use their skills at oratory and their audience in a non-political setting to deliver something else for people to consider.ReplyDelete
i would have loved for someone who wasn't a poet or an entertainer to have read this poem to new yorkers this past weekend.
thanks for the shot of ginsberg.
Thanks so much for this, Julie. I share your love for and fascination with NYC. Hadn't seen this Ginsberg poem before. It's wonderful. Cool photos of the young and old G, too!ReplyDelete
I'm not a Ginsberg fan, but what a powerful mood here. Love esp those several lines ending with matter is water.ReplyDelete
NYC--only been there three times, but hope to return many more times. It's a world!
Julie, thanks for sharing this poem.I find the ending especially haunting given what Manhattan has endured.ReplyDelete
I lived in NYC for one year, Julie, and this poem and post makes me homesick for that year, for all of its life and the men selling roses in the street and the smells and well, all of it. Time for a visit, methinks.ReplyDelete
When I moved to NYC to get my teaching degree at Bank Street, it felt like I had stepped through the wardrobe into a mythical place: "There's where Claudia and Jamie scooped coins out of the fountain!" "This is the street where Harriet hid in a dumbwaiter!" "This is the neighborhood where Mitch and Amy played stickball!" Five years was long enough for me to have my own indelible Manhattan experience, and though all was changed by then from what it was in Ginsberg's 1958, it was exactly the same.ReplyDelete
I don't think I could live there again--I found it exhausting, I realized afterwards--but to visit is always a cellular-level thrill. I appreciate this other red-eyed view. Thanks. My word verif is, curiously, "criesist."
I love the way the poem wanders (both down the page and through the city. And I just find myself staring at the two pictures and imagining all the LIFE that took place between them.ReplyDelete