Poetry: Allen Ginsberg’s Sunflower Sutra

In the 1920’s T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” captured the anxiety of the 1920’s. “Howl and Other Poems” was published in 1956 by Allen Ginsberg. It captured the zeitgeist of his generation, sparked the San Francisco Renaissance, and defined Beatnik poetry. Howl is incredible. Once upon a time ago I had the good fortune to hear Allen Ginsberg read his poetry. He was dynamic. I would highly recommend finding and reading more of Allen Ginsberg’s work. Here is just one of his poems.

Allen Ginsberg’s “Sunflower Sutra”

I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and sat down under the huge shade of a Southern Pacific locomotive to look for the sunset over the box house hills and cry.

Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, surrounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of machinery.

The only water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that stream, no hermit in those mounts, just ourselves rheumy-eyed and hung-over like old bums on the riverbank, tired and wily.

Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust–

–I rushed up enchanted–it was my first sunflower, memories of Blake–my visions–Harlem

and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the poem of the riverbank, condoms & pots, steel knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the past–

and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset, crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye–

corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face, soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sunrays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried wire spiderweb,

leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear,

Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O my soul, I loved you then!

The grime was no man’s grime but death and human locomotives,

all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black mis’ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuberance of artificial worse-than-dirt–industrial–modern–all that civilization spotting your crazy golden crown–

and those blear thoughts of death and dusty loveless eyes and ends and withered roots below, in the home-pile of sand and sawdust, rubber dollar bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely tincans with their rusty tongues alack, what more could I name, the smoked ashes of some cock cigar, the cunts of wheelbarrows and the milky breasts of cars, wornout asses out of chairs & sphincters of dynamos–all these

entangled in your mummied roots–and you standing before me in the sunset, all your glory in your form!

A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden monthly breeze!

How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your grime, while you cursed the heavens of your railroad and your flower soul?

Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? when did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive?

You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower!

And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not!

So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck it at my side like a scepter,

and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack’s soul too, and anyone who’ll listen,

–We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not our dread bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we’re all golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed & hairy naked accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown vision.

Poet Gary Snyder’s “No Matter, Never Mind”

Gary Snyder has been amongst my favorite poets for a very long time. I have had the honour of hearing him read his poetry twice. Both times were in Ann Arbor. He is considered one of the Beat poets and his poetry has Buddhist influences. Here is “No Matter, Never Mind.”

No Matter, Never Mind

The Father is the Void
The Wife Waves

Their child is Matter.

Matter makes it with his mother
And their child is Life,
a daughter.

The Daughter is the Great Mother
Who, with her father/brother Matter
as her lover,

Gives birth to the Mind.

by Gary Snyder
from his Pulitzer Prize winning collection titled “Turtle Island”

Poetry: Riprap by Gary Snyder

The coyotes woke me up tonight and right now I cannot get back to sleep. It is cold in the house and I made tea. Sometimes I get frightened for no rational reason and cannot get back to sleep so I am distracting myself reading poetry. One of my favorite poets of all time is Gary Snyder. He is considered a Beat poet and he writes poems that include Buddhist elements and environmental thought. I have been enraptured by his poetry since first encountering it as a child. I have a dog eared copy of Turtle Island that has traveled with me everywhere. I have heard him read his poetry a few times and he has the same soothing presence that lulls me to sleep as the high Buddhist lamas. Here is a poem that I discovered this evening. BTW, riprap is rock or other material used to armor shorelines, streambeds, bridge abutments, pilings and other shoreline structures against scour, water or ice erosion. It is made from a variety of rock types, commonly granite, limestone or occasionally concrete rubble from building and paving demolition. It is used to protect coastlines and structures from erosion by the sea, rivers, or streams. It is used on any waterways or water containment where there is potential for water erosion.

‘Riprap’ by Gary Snyder

Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf or wall
riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
straying planets,
These poems, people,
lost ponies with
Dragging saddles —
and rocky sure-foot trails.
The worlds like an endless
four-dimensional
Game of Go.
ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word
a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.