Two for Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)

Author’s note: The following poems first appeared in two issues of The River (Spring/Summer 1998 and Summer/Fall 1999). This Lambertville, N.J.-based journal of poetry/prose, art and photography has been dedicated to promoting the written word and abundant creativity in Delaware Valley since 1969.

The author tips his fedora to publisher and editor Elaine S. Restifo for her energized prodding of a muse-seeking bookseller to write and submit poems for publication in her labor of love, The River. Elaine is a member of the River Poets Writers Workshop, which is directed by Judith Lawrence, editor and publisher of River Poets Journal, a literary magazine that is published quarterly, both online and in print. The Bucks County (Pa.)/Hunterdon County (N.J.) region is simply bursting at the seams with creative spirits, and I retain fond memories of participating in poetry slams in the early ’90s at Karla’s Restaurant in New Hope, which is directly across the Delaware River from Lambertville.

Elaine described her still active periodical, The River, as an experiment based on the message contained within the following Confucianist poem:

There was presented to me a papaya,
And I returned for it a beautiful chu-gem;
Not as a return for it,
But that our friendship might be lasting.


Reflections on the Life and Death of a Poet

Excuse the martini, Allen,
It’s yet another end to an era –
I need a tonic to swim the backstroke
As I listen to a verbose folk singer
On a gloomy Sunday
Awaiting a gyro platter
Like a good preppie.

Did you ever connect
With an X generation leftover?
We’re already leftovers,
Not even aging activists
Who can look back at their stunts
With pride and longing
For an age that was naive
And ballsy enough
To think it could make a difference,
If but a pittance.

At least there was life
In your veins,
Loyalty to your causes –
A rebel with a reason,
No doubt ridiculed and ignored
By average folks
Of boxed-in intellect –
But an influence, nonetheless,
An inspiration
To frustrated militant literary types
Snubbed by a literati of high brows
Of civilized culture
But adored by free thinkers,
Fools of hope focused
On radical change
Countered by the William Buckleys of media –

A dry, bitter olive
Sitting on the bottom
Of an authentic martini glass,
Sitting and waiting
To be consumed
By a fickle convert of capitalism
Who envied the audacity of your actions
And admired the whimsical noise
Of your wisdom.

Song for a Poet, Part II

A reluctant vessel
of human spirit
Gathers the remains
Of a damaged liver
and fluid mind
To part
From a manipulative universe
Of wealth and poverty –

A division
Of social graces
And gallant disturbance –

A ghetto of Paterson-based poets
Leading the next vision – Blurred by booze and pills,
Cleansed by Buddha and Patriotism.








To speak your Kaddish pathos
In eloquent patterns
Of sound heard by souls,
Squadrons of the sky –

No body to burn or burden –

A vessel to launch,
Uninhibited at last –

Filled with nothing
And defiled no more –

A slate borrowed
From the beginnings of mankind
To a future home
Of righteous dignity.






3 thoughts on “Two for Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)”

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  2. Dear Atticus Editor,

    I wanted to make a correction on this post. "The River" is still edited and published by Elaine Restifo. Her 2010 issue is about to be published. It is still a wonderful publication and available for purchase by contacting Elaine directly.

    Elaine is a member of the River Poets Writers Workshop. I have been directing the workshop since 2007. The workshop is where River Poets Journal derived its name from.

    "River Poets Journal" has not replaced "The River." It is a separate literary magazine published quarterly, both online, and in print.

    Warm regards,

    Judith Lawrence, Editor/Publisher

    River Poets Journal/Lilly Press

    1. Dear Ms. Lawrence,

      Thank you for the clarification. I've applied the corrections to the article, with mention of your publication – and I send my regards to Elaine and the other creative spirits of New Hope & Lambertville.

      Dan Cafaro

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