“Allen Ginsberg’s Dead” by M.L. Liebler

M.L. Liebler


“Why, to write down the stuff
and people of everyday,
must poems be dressed in gold,
in old fearful stone? …
I want poems stained
by hands and everydayness.”
—Pablo Neruda

I know Allen Ginsberg’s dead,
And I want to write
A poem for him just like every-
Body else wants to do, but I can’t
Help but think of my neighbor
Who too died alone, recently, in his home of
30 years, and how he was a person
Who will never have a poem
Written in his honor or to his memory.

He was a person who will never have
His life enshrined in sound
And symbol of verse or song.

I didn’t know my neighbor either,
But I want to remember him
With verse and poesy just the same.

I want to celebrate
His life as the important treasure
He must have been as someone’s

Husband, father, brother, friend.
I want to do this
Simply because he lived.

My neighbor wasn’t famous,
And I probably only saw him once
Or twice in all the years that I lived
Behind his back fence.

But his words always made me
Amazed at the kindness of this world
When he spoke softly to me,
While he tended his garden.

I don’t remember his words
As memorable quotes spoken
By a famous person. It was just small talk

Spoken in the lexicon of the backyard.
No “Howl” or “Kaddish” or
“Sunflower Sutra” to be sure,

But graceful words that rose
And danced over the fence,
Behind his red bricked house.

So, while I would really love
To write a poem for Allen Ginsberg,
Like everyone else, right now
It seems more important for me to capture
My neighbor’s life, just another person
Whom I never knew.

I’ll write it all down
In a poem that he’ll never read
And that his family will never see
In print or hear at a public reading.

But isn’t that what poetry is all about?
Images speaking to the unspeakable
In our dreams as we lie awake in our sleep?

And, now, because I’ve shared this poem
With all of you, we are forever connected
All of our bones together
Side by side in the rich graveyard
Soil of poetry and life.

from Rattle #9, Summer 1998


M.L. Liebler: “When I’m in the second grade, I start scribbling stuff. It’s—you guys know, being poets and writers—it’s in there; you can’t do anything about it. But I had no idea, and I would get in trouble for it. They would call my grandmother and say, ‘He scribbles, and we don’t know what it is, but he’s scribbling again, so you pay for the book.’ When I got to the fifth grade I was doing this all the time, scribbling on paper and notebooks and so on. I remember having a big English textbook that had a pelican on a post in the ocean, and when I opened that book I noticed that it had things in it that had a lot of white space around them. When I saw that, I thought, ‘That’s kind of what I’m scribbling. What I’m scribbling has a lot of white space around it.’ So at that point, that’s when I was first able to say, ‘Oh, it’s a poem.’” (web)

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