(Poem #1133) Death News
"Visit to W.C.W. circa 1957, poets Kerouac Corso Orlovsky on sofa in living room inquired wise words, stricken Williams pointed thru window curtained on Main Street: "There's a lot of bastards out there!" Walking at night on asphalt campus road by the German Instructor with Glasses W. C. Williams is dead he said in accent under the trees in Benares; I stopped and asked Williams is Dead? Enthusiastic and wide-eyed under the Big Dipper. Stood on the Porch of the International House Annex bungalow insects buzzing round the electric light reading the Medical obituary in "Time". "out among the sparrows behind the shutters" Williams is in the Big Dipper. He isn't dead as the many pages of words arranged thrill with his intonations the mouths of meek kids becoming subtle even in Bengal. Thus there's a life moving out of his pages; Blake also "alive" thru his experienced machines. Were his last words anything Black out there in the carpeted bedroom of the gabled wood house in Rutherford? Wonder what he said, or was there anything left in realms of speech after the stroke & brain-thrill doom entered his thoughts? If I pray to his soul in Bardo Thodol he may hear the unexpected vibration of foreign mercy. Quietly unknown for three weeks; now I saw Passaic and Ganges one, consenting his devotion, because he walked on the steely bank & prayed to a Goddess in the river, that he only invented, another Ganga-Ma. Riding on the old rusty Holland submarine on the ground floor Paterson Museum instead of a celestial crocodile. Mourn O Ye Angels of the Left Wing! that the poet of the streets is a skeleton under the pavement now and there's no other old soul so kind and meek and feminine jawed and him-eyed can see you What you wanted to be among the bastards out there. Benares, March 20, 1963"
Call me morbid, but some of my favourite poems are poems written by one poet about the death of another (Auden's "In Memory of W.B. Yeats" [Poem #50] or Shelley's Adonais or Wilbur's Cottage Street, 1953 [www.sylviaplathforum.com/forum-poems/46.html] - to name but a few) - and this one ranks right up there. Part of it, of course, is just Williams and the way for me his persona looms over this poem, so that Ginsberg's amazed repetition of the line "Williams is dead" becomes an echo of my own sudden sense of loss. But I also love the way Ginsberg moves from the conversational to the elegaic (from "walking at night on asphalt campus road" to "Mourn O Ye Angels of the Left Wing!") taking us step by step through the experience of William's death. And then, of course, there is Ginsberg himself - the merciless grit-jaw voice of the greatest of the Beat poets; the Whitmanesque flavour of the words as they roll of your tongue, the sense of desolation so lucid, so clear-eyed; the terrible jazz of his poetry its own willing narcotic. And of course, the ability to throw in that one line, that single phrase that is so right you can never forget it ("kind and meek and feminine jawed and him-eyed" - having read him can you really picture WC Williams any other way?). It almost makes up for all those bastards. Aseem