Sucked Into the Tomb of the Amiable Child
I am that child.
My head cracked open bleeding out the last of my amiability, tumbling into the Hudson with the porpoises and whales.
Years spent begging for martyrdom could not yield such an honor, stalwart through the ages, ignored by all but the knowing.
I am that child.
I’m the youngest of five siblings, three boys and two girls. I have no choice. I’m amiable.
I know slaves as workers, kindly people. I don’t live long enough to know better. My father boasts about the time he rowed to market down the island, and he spots George Washington emerging from his townhouse on Cherry Street, his slaves clean and dressed in finery, the fabric of imprisonment.
George accompanies my father to his favorite garden and graciously offers turnip seeds that mother turns into the most delicious dish, made magnificent by its origin. You’re feasting on the bounty of the father of this young nation, father boasts. We eat with gusto and are blessed.
I love the rich neighbor, my uncle but not really, a spindly Dutchman with rotting teeth and a nose like a limp carrot. Sixty acres, all mine, the first thing he says to me, and then You go play. I skip off with Claude, his only son, through the forest and the splashy wetland where the beavers stop up.
I am that child, unbridled in my amiability, free flowing, curious, comforted, loved, in a wonderland called Manahatta, following Claude blindly north to the Van Der Donck Meadows, with the geese cackling so loud we could hardly hear each other.
Claude wants to fly like the eagles and the falcons and the sparrow hawks. Claude is an ornithologist, that’s how he describes himself, a six-year-old genius. Claude memorizes the names of the most common birds, and he is determined to get them all, hundreds of them. On the way home he grabs a stray pigeon and wrings its neck, an offering to his mother for dinner.
My father and mother love me. I feel that all the time. I want to please them. I’m obedient, whatever it takes to maintain that love. My brothers and sisters love me. I’m the family pet, my mother’s favorite. I see a whole full, beautiful life before me. Hot summer days never end, sparked by the 4th of July celebration of this young nation.
I could be glib and say you were spared a life of the three ds – disillusionment, disappointment, and despair. And the fourth d – death, a fair price to escape the fate of the living.
You were sacrificed so I could live this moment in the tomb, with you, a flash of bodhicitta. Two hundred and twenty-five years between us can’t dissolve the antiquity of this feeling preserved in marble.
- Mark Rose
My Sad Self
by Allen Ginsberg
to Frank O’Hara
Sometimes when my eyes are red
I go up on top of the RCA Building
and gaze at my world, Manhattan—
my buildings, streets I’ve done feats in,
lofts, beds, coldwater flats
—on Fifth Ave below which I also bear in mind,
its ant cars, little yellow taxis, men
walking the size of specks of wool—
Panorama of the bridges, sunrise over Brooklyn machine,
sun go down over New Jersey where I was born
& Paterson where I played with ants—
my later loves on 15th Street,
my greater loves of Lower East Side,
my once fabulous amours in the Bronx
paths crossing in these hidden streets,
my history summed up, my absences
and ecstasies in Harlem—
—sun shining down on all I own
in one eyeblink to the horizon
in my last eternity—
matter is water.
I take the elevator and go
and walk on the pavements staring into all man’s
questioning after who loves,
and stop, bemused
in front of an automobile shopwindow
standing lost in calm thought,
traffic moving up & down 5th Avenue blocks behind me
waiting for a moment when …
Time to go home & cook supper & listen to
the romantic war news on the radio
… all movement stops
& I walk in the timeless sadness of existence,
tenderness flowing thru the buildings,
my fingertips touching reality’s face,
my own face streaked with tears in the mirror
of some window—at dusk—
where I have no desire—
for bonbons—or to own the dresses or Japanese
lampshades of intellection—
Confused by the spectacle around me,
Man struggling up the street
with packages, newspapers,
ties, beautiful suits
toward his desire
Man, woman, streaming over the pavements
red lights clocking hurried watches &
movements at the curb—
And all these streets leading
so crosswise, honking, lengthily,
stalked by high buildings or crusted into slums
thru such halting traffic
screaming cars and engines
so painfully to this
countryside, this graveyard
on deathbed or mountain
never regained or desired
in the mind to come
where all Manhattan that I’ve seen must disappear.
New York, October 1958