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The Lion For Real -- Allen Ginsberg

Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #1674) The Lion For Real
 'Soyez muette pour moi, Idole contemplative...'

 I came home and found a lion in my living room
 Rushed out on the fire escape screaming Lion! Lion!
 Two stenographers pulled their brunnette hair and banged the window shut
 I hurried home to Paterson and stayed two days

 Called up old Reichian analyst
 who'd kicked me out of therapy for smoking marijuana
 'It's happened' I panted 'There's a Lion in my living room'
 'I'm afraid any discussion would have no value' he hung up

 I went to my old boyfriend we got drunk with his girlfriend
 I kissed him and announced I had a lion with a mad gleam in my eye
 We wound up fighting on the floor I bit his eyebrow & he kicked me out
 I ended up masturbating in his jeep parked in the street moaning 'Lion.'

 Found Joey my novelist friend and roared at him 'Lion!'
 He looked at me interested and read me his spontaneous ignu high poetries
 I listened for lions all I heard was Elephant Tiglon Hippogriff Unicorn
 But figured he really understood me when we made it in Ignaz Wisdom's

 But next day he sent me a leaf from his Smoky Mountain retreat
 'I love you little Bo-Bo with your delicate golden lions
 But there being no Self and No Bars therefore the Zoo of your dear Father
hath no lion
 You said your mother was mad don't expect me to produce the Monster for
your Bridegroom.'

 Confused dazed and exalted bethought me of real lion starved in his stink
in Harlem
 Opened the door the room was filled with the bomb blast of his anger
 He roaring hungrily at the plaster walls but nobody could hear outside thru
the window
 My eye caught the edge of the red neighbor apartment building standing in
deafening stillness
 We gazed at each other his implacable yellow eye in the red halo of fur
 Waxed rhuemy on my own but he stopped roaring and bared a fang greeting.
 I turned my back and cooked broccoli for supper on an iron gas stove
 Boilt water and took a hot bath in the old tub under the sink board.

 He didn't eat me, tho I regretted him starving in my presence.
 Next week he wasted away a sick rug full of bones wheaten hair falling out
 enraged and reddening eye as he lay aching huge hairy head on his paws
 by the egg-crate bookcase filled up with thin volumes of Plato, & Buddha.

 Sat by his side every night averting my eyes from his hungry motheaten face
 stopped eating myself he got weaker and roared at night while I had
 Eaten by lion in bookstore on Cosmic Campus, a lion myself starved by
Professor Kandisky, dying in a lion's flophouse circus,
 I woke up mornings the lion still added dying on the floor -- 'Terrible
Presence!' I cried 'Eat me or die!'

 It got up that afternoon -- walked to the door with its paw on the wall to
steady its trembling body
 Let out a soul-rending creak from the bottomless roof of his mouth
thundering from my floor to heaven heavier than a volcano at night in Mexico
 Pushed the door open and said in a gravelly voice "Not this time Baby --
but I will be back again."

 Lion that eats my mind now for a decade knowing only your hunger
 Not the bliss of your satisfaction O roar of the universe how am I chosen
 In this life I have heard your promise I am ready to die I have served
 Your starved and ancient Presence O Lord I wait in my room at your
-- Allen Ginsberg
        Paris, March 1958.

As long as we are doing poems about Poets and Lions....

This is easily one of my favourite Ginsberg poems - largely because I think
it captures so well the entire spirit of Ginsberg's poetic enterprise. It
has everything - a visionary idea worthy of Blake; sly touches of humour;
references to sex and drugs; references to Plato and the Buddha; a finely
crafted image of the raw power of a lion trapped in a small apartment; a
marvellously accurate description that brings out so clearly the sights and
smells of the beast's presence (sick rug full of bones wheaten hair falling
out); a metaphysical, almost mystic engagement with the world and to end it
all, a stanza of breathtaking, almost biblical proportion. A large part of
the brilliance of this poem is in the development - what starts off as a
clever gag turns into an intensely physical experience before finally
becoming a spiritual epiphany.

As an evocation of the Muse this is an almost unparalleled poem - combining
a sense of wonderous disbelief  and whimsy with a feeling of trapped
frustration and pathos mingled with majesty (just writing this sense makes
me review the many different emotions the poem not only conjures up but
manages to balance so perfectly). In Preludes, Eliot speaks of "the notion
of some infinitely gentle / infinitely suffering thing" - Ginsberg's muse is
more savage than that, but for all that no less exquisite.


P.S. I'm not really sure where the epigraph for this poem comes from.

38 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

John K. Taber said...

Hmm, something got left out.

The poem is Rapsodie du Sourd, by Tristan Courbière.


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Upstreamprovider said...

I never knew until I read this poem about half an hour ago that it was the source of the title of a double album by a band called the Deep Freeze Mice in the 1980s: I love you little bobo with your delicate golden lions. It's great to know that learning can still occur after all these years!

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