Allen Ginsberg, “Paterson”

Paterson

What do I want in these rooms papered with visions of money?
How much can I make by cutting my hair? If I put new heels on my shoes,
bathe my body reeking of masturbation and sweat, layer upon layer of excrement
dried in employment bureaus, magazine hallways, statistical cubicles, factory stairways,
cloakrooms of the smiling gods of psychiatry;
if in antechambers I face the presumption of department store supervisory employees,
old clerks in their asylums of fat, the slobs and dumbbells of the ego with money and power
to hire and fire and make and break and fart and justify their reality of wrath
and rumor of wrath to wrath-weary man,
what war I enter and for what a prize! the dead prick of commonplace obsession,
harridan vision of electricity at night and daylight misery of thumb-sucking rage.

I would rather go mad, gone down the dark road to Mexico, heroin dripping in my veins,
eyes and ears full of marijuana,
eating the god Peyote on the floor of a mudhut on the border
or laying in a hotel room over the body of some suffering man or woman;
rather jar my body down the road, crying by a diner in the Western sun;
rather crawl on my naked belly over the tincans of Cincinnati;
rather drag a rotten railroad tie to a Golgotha in the Rockies;
rather, crowned with thorns in Galveston, nailed hand and foot in Los Angeles, raised up to die in Denver,
pierced in the side in Chicago, perished and tombed in New Orleans and resurrected in 1958 somewhere on Garret Mountain,
come down roaring in a blaze of hot cars and garbage,
streetcorner Evangel in front of City hall, surrounded by statues of agonized lions,
with a mouthful of shit, and the hair rising on my scalp,
screaming and dancing in praise of Eternity annihilating the sidewalk, annihilating reality,
screaming and dancing against the orchestra in the destructible ballroom of the world,
blood streaming from my belly and shoulders
flooding the city with its hideous ecstasy, rolling over the pavements and highways
by the bayoux and forests and derricks leaving my flesh and my bones hanging on the trees.

New York, November 1949

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1 reply »

  1. I didn’t remember or know that Ginsberg had written a Paterson poem. Seeing that you’ve cited this poem from 1949, I wonder if William Carlos Williams’ long Paterson cycle (which I think was published in the 1950s) contains any reactions to this poem. Admittedly, I’m not very familiar with Ginsberg’s work, but reading it here, I see it shies away from the beauties of the world and focuses more on the sensory experience(s) of the city Paterson and then of cities, which can be negative or even revolting at times. Thanks for sharing so I can be aware of this work!

    Liked by 1 person

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