Friday Flickers…

On the Beat Box: Zero Cult…

Why We Fight…


An excellent Film; it gives the foundation of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex. Interventions, the lies that got us in, the lies that keep us there.

Please see it. Share it with young people, they need to know the roots of what is around them….

on the menu….

The Links

To Love Abundantly: Sharon Salzberg’s Journey on the Path

Poetry: Allen Ginsberg

Hot weather here in Portland, 103 or so today… Praying for rain!

Have a decent weekend, stay cool!



The Links

The Heights of Athens

Scientists Plan to Rebuild Neanderthal Genome

Kaunos ancient theater had rotating stage, say archaeologists


To Love Abundantly: Sharon Salzberg’s Journey on the Path

By Trish Deitch Rohrer

How Sharon Salzberg found loving-kindness in the darkest of times.

In 1971, a few days before eighteen-year-old Sharon Salzberg was meant to

leave for India on an independent study project from State University at

Buffalo where she was a student, she heard Tibetan meditation master Chogyam

Trungpa Rinpoche was giving a talk in town, and she went to see him. After

his talk, Trungpa Rinpoche asked for written questions, and Salzberg, who’d

never meditated before, had one. “I wrote out, ‘I’m leaving for India in a

few days to study meditation,’” Salzberg remembers. “’Could you suggest

where I might go?’” Hers happened to be one of the questions that Trungpa

Rinpoche picked out of the large pile which had accumulated in front of him.

“He read it out loud,” she says, “and he was silent for a moment. And then

he said, ‘I think you had perhaps best follow the pretense of accident.’”

Salzberg laughs now, sitting on her couch on a bright fall morning in

Barre, Massachusetts. She lives just through the woods from the Insight

Meditation Society’s retreat center, which she co-founded in 1976 with Jack

Kornfield—now the founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center—and Joseph

Goldstein, who lives next door to Salzberg on the property adjacent to IMS.

Salzberg continues, “Trungpa Rinpoche gave me no map, no guidebook, no set

of directions, no ‘Hey! My friend the lama is waiting to teach you on some

mountaintop!’ There was nothing. And so I went to India, just like that.”

When asked if she knew what Chogyam Trungpa meant by “follow the pretense

of accident,” she says, “No! It made no sense to me whatsoever! I thought,

What does that mean?! But of course it’s exactly what unfolded. One

thing led to another.”

When Salzberg was four, her father left her mother. When she was nine,

her mother started hemorrhaging on the couch one night when only the two of

them were home, and, though the little girl managed to call an ambulance

before her mother bled to death, she died two weeks later. That night on the

couch was the last time Salzberg saw her. A couple of years after that,

Salzberg’s father—not the glamorous fellow she’d always imagined him—came to

live with Salzberg and her grandmother, and six weeks later tried to kill

himself with an overdose of pills. Eleven-year-old Sharon stood outside on

the sidewalk as he was taken off in a stretcher to a psychiatric hospital.

He never returned.

No one talked—ever—about any of what was happening to Salzberg: about all

that profound loss and its attendant grief, shame, confusion and

self-hatred. Maybe they did in whispers, but they stopped when she came into

the room. So a consequence of the events of her childhood was that Salzberg

felt left out of the flow of life. “Things were good for other people,” she

says, “but not for me.”

About five years ago Salzberg, who had written two well- received books

about Buddhism and was a teacher and inspiration to thousands of people,

felt compelled to write a book about faith. Not many, however, were

interested in supporting the project. Faith?! What does faith—a concept

associated with theism—have to do with Buddhism? Still, Salzberg proceeded

with her plan: she had a story to tell about faith in the context of her

thirty-year experience as a Buddhist, and there was no way she could stop

herself from doing it.

At sixteen Salzberg moved from Manhattan, where she lived with her

grandmother, to Buffalo, and at seventeen, in an Asian studies class there,

she heard the Buddha’s teachings for the first time.

“Here, finally,” she says, “was the Buddha saying what I longed for

somebody to acknowledge: that there is suffering that exists.” Salzberg also

heard the Buddha saying that no one is left out—not even Sharon Salzberg—of

the possibility for the cessation of suffering. Something, in that moment,

“ignited” in her.

“The Buddha’s vision of the possibility of what freedom could look like

was…” Salzberg looks out the window, and says, ”…tremendous.”

And so the sophomore in college, having it in her mind that Buddhist

meditation was the one thing that could free her from her suffering, put

together the independent study project to India, and following the pretense

of accident as best she could, she set off to find a teacher.

In Salzberg’s kitchen at dinnertime, six friends are sitting around a

long country table yakking away about not much, laughing, eating two kinds

of ice cream and apple pie and expensive chocolates after a

large meal of leftovers liberated from the industrial-sized, stainless steel

refrigerators at IMS, where a handful of people are doing silent retreats.

Salzberg, though, is sitting in a chair just away from the table, in the

corner, watching. Or maybe not watching—maybe she’s just being

there—listening, kind of smiling, occasionally saying a few words and then

falling silent again.

If you were angry, you might think she was angry; if you were sad, you

might think she was sad; if you were lonely or bored or tired or scared or

feeling above it all or deeply, deeply depressed or very happy, you might

think she was that. Which means that Salzberg, doing nothing but quietly

being there, is doing her work well: she’s being what Ram Dass says she is:

a kalyanamitra, a “special friend,” a mirror that shows you—if you

care to take a look on a dark Saturday night—your mind.

“This is not a drama queen,” says Michele Bohana, director of the

Institute of Asian Democracy in Washington, D.C. “She has tremendous

compassion, she’s extremely generous, she is a fabulous teacher, she has

total commitment to the dharma, she’s extremely humble and there’s nothing

fancy-schmancy about her—she’s very down to earth.” Bohana laughs. “Us

American women?” she says, “We’re all very hyper. We’re all very, ‘Deadline,

deadline, can’t talk now, call me back!’ Right? Well, she’s, ‘Gotta go

practice.’ Quite the difference.”

Sunanda Markus, a consultant for Mirabai Bush’s Center for Contemplative

Mind and Society, says, “She’s one of those people whose love of the dharma

rings throughout every cell of her body. And she has an understanding that

the dharma is really what has import. And that’s why she’s here. And why she

went to India when she was eighteen. You might think I’m completely nuts,”

Markus says, “but I actually believe that she has done many lifetimes of

practice and is an incredibly evolved person.”

In Faith, Salzberg tells the story of arriving in Bodh-gaya in ‘71

and sitting next to a monk under the Bodhi tree where the Buddha was

enlightened. The monk turned out to be one of the Dalai Lama’s teachers,

Khunu Rinpoche.

“As I sat next to Khunu Rinpoche,” she writes, “I sensed deep within me

the possibility of rising above the circumstances of my childhood, of

defining myself by something other than my family’s painful struggles and

its hardened tone of defeat. I recalled the resignation in my father’s eyes

at the constraints that governed his life. The boundary of his autonomy was

the decision about where to have lunch if someone took him out of the

hospital on a pass. With a surge of conviction, I thought, But I am here,

and I can learn to be truly free. I felt as if nothing and no one could

take away the joy of that prospect.”

Salzberg traveled around India for a while in 1971, but couldn’t find

anyone to teach her how to meditate. Finally, at a yoga conference she’d

stumbled upon, she heard about a ten-day retreat in Bodh-gaya, led by a S.N.

Goenka of Burma, who had started doing Vipassana meditation to cure his

migraines. It was at this first retreat that Salzberg met a group of people

who would become her longtime colleagues and friends: Joseph Goldstein, Ram

Dass, Daniel Goleman, Mirabai Bush and Krishna Das.

“I had a great sense of discovery,” she says, “and homecoming and

rightness at being there. As difficult as it was to do—I couldn’t

concentrate, I couldn’t sit still, and a lot of uncomfortable feelings

started to surface—I loved it. It was like falling in love. And, in a way,

I’ve never veered from that. I do different practices or I approach the

dharma in a different way, but that feeling hasn’t faded.

“I was working against so much unhappiness,” she says of her early

practice, “trying to come out of it, that it was all me-me-me, all the way.”

She laughs. “Perhaps it would have been healing to be able to reach out to

help others, but I didn’t have it in me, even though I tried practicing

generosity a lot.”

Salzberg stayed in India for a year and a half that trip, remaining in

Bodh-gaya to do additional retreats with Goenka, and then moving on to meet

and study with Tibetan teachers Kalu Rinpoche and the 16th

Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje. But there was something in the simplicity of the

Theravadan tradition of mindfulness practice that Salzberg was drawn back

to. She was drawn back to Vipassana meditation, and a practice that Goenka

introduced only at the end of Salzberg’s first retreat: metta—loving-kindness


One thing that makes Salzberg different from many other Western students

who sat at the feet of great Indian, Tibetan and Southeast Asian Buddhist

teachers in the early 1970’s and brought what they taught back home, is that

Salzberg embodies a very particular piece of the dharma puzzle. She stresses

one thing: that in order to be free from suffering—and therefore to be able

to give abundantly to others—one must endeavor to love oneself abundantly.

Even for people whose lives have been less painful than Salzberg’s, the

Buddha’s teachings on loving-kindness work to connect a person to their own

heart and the hearts of all other beings without exception.

The day Salzberg sat under the Bodhi tree, she made a vow to herself: she

vowed to learn to love as the Buddha loved. “Loving as the Buddha loved of

course meant being able to love oneself as well,” she says in her living

room. “It’s not really a question of, ‘May all sentient beings be free from

suffering,’” she laughs, “’—except for me.’ It has to include oneself.” The

question was how to do that.

Salzberg met two female teachers in India during that first trip who

became examples to her of people who had transformed their misfortune into

abundant generosity and love. The first teacher was Dipa Ma, a tiny Indian

housewife living with her daughter in the slums of Calcutta. Dipa Ma had

gotten so sick she nearly died of grief after losing her husband and two of

her three children. According to Salzberg, when someone told Dipa Ma that

meditation might save her life, she crawled—because that’s the best she

could do—up the steps of the meditation center to receive instruction.

Salzberg related to this story—to the way Dipa Ma used her pain as

motivation to liberate herself, and then to liberate others who suffer. The

intensity of Dipa Ma’s motivation, Salzberg understood, was the key.

“Dipa Ma modeled the ability to transform one’s suffering—even immense

suffering—into loving compassion.” Salzberg looks at you impishly—“I always

knew I wanted to be that kind of person when I grew up.”

Then Salzberg tells the story of meeting a friend of Dipa Ma’s—another

female Indian teacher whose father-in-law had forbidden her to meditate. “I

asked her, ‘How did you accomplish what you needed to accomplish to be a

teacher?’ and she said, ‘I was very mindful when I stirred the rice.’”

Salzberg looks at you with soft green eyes, raises her eyebrows and smiles.

She says, “I think we have the ability to seize that possibility for

ourselves, and we don’t do it.”

Salzberg came back to the States in 1974, finished school, and—because

Dipa Ma told her to, saying that Salzberg “really understood suffering”—she

helped Joseph Goldstein teach a class in meditation at the Naropa Institute,

which had just opened its doors in Boulder, Colorado. Though Salzberg was

practicing, and now beginning to teach—and even starting to lead

retreats—she was still incredibly hard on herself, full of self-judgment,

“straining,” she says, all the time to change herself, be better, get

somewhere with her practice. Ram Dass says of Salzberg in those years, “She

was quite lost.”

Ram Dass agrees, however, with others who say that Salzberg must have

built up stores of merit in other lifetimes, because, though lost,

straining, self-critical and at first all for herself, she worked diligently

to stay on a difficult path that would eventually have a huge impact on a

lot of people. When she was only 23, she and Jack Kornfield and Joseph

Goldstein, joining with a group of friends, bought, with very little money,

an old building from the Catholic Diocese, and started the now

well-respected and very successful Insight Meditation Society.

It wasn’t until 1984 that Salzberg and Goldstein met Sayadaw U Pandita,

the Theravadan teacher from Burma who would turn Salzberg’s life around once

again. U Pandita had a reputation for being very, very difficult.

“Oh, boy—he was a tough guy,” says Ram Dass, who met U Pandita in Burma

during an early retreat with Salzberg and Goldstein. Ram Dass laughs. “I was

happy to leave there. I felt like I escaped.” Ram Dass says it was at this

time, 1985, that Salzberg started doing metta intensively. “I watched

her change,” he says. “She went from being in her mind, to being very soft,

loving, sensual, actually. Because she was coming into herself.”

Between 1985 and 1991, U Pandita worked with Salzberg on two practices:

mindfulness practice and loving-kindness practice. Though she’d been

meditating for fourteen years, and had been at IMS for nine, it was a new


“I was seeing him six days a week when on intensive retreat,” Salzberg

says, “and I’d go in for an interview, and describe something, and he’d say,

‘Well, in the beginning it can be like that,’ and I’d think, ‘I’m not a

beginner!’” She laughs. “And I’d come in the next day and describe something

completely different and he’d say, ‘Oh, in the beginning it can be like

that.’ You know?!” Salzberg says, and, feigning infuriation, looks at

you, “‘I’m not a beginner!’ And it went on that way for a very long time,”

she says, “until I got it: It’s good to be a beginner. It’s good not to have

all these ideas—‘I shouldn’t experience this, I should be doing more of

that.’ It’s good to just see what’s there, to say, ‘Wow! Look at that!’”

One of the resident teachers at IMS, Amy Schmidt, is laughing about

Salzberg. She’s remembering the time U Pandita came to IMS and made Salzberg

slow down her mindfulness meditation to such a snail’s pace that sometimes

she had to leave the shrine room two hours before lunch, in order to make it

the fifty or so steps to the kitchen in time for the meal.

Salzberg rolls her eyes when she talks about this. “And there was

Joseph,” she says, “walking around at his normal pace. I thought, ‘Why isn’t

anybody doing this correctly but me?’”

U Pandita, though, obviously had something in mind for Salzberg. Again,

he had her come in six days a week for interviews. The idea was that she

would write down something she noticed about one meditation period per day,

and one walking meditation.

“I’d go in there,” Salzberg says, “and before I could read my notes to

describe my sitting and my walking, he’d say, ‘What did you experience when

you washed your face?’ Which was nothing, because I hadn’t paid the least

bit of attention to that.” Salzberg shakes her head. “And that was my

interview. So I’d leave and I’d sit and walk and wash my face as mindfully

as I could—I’d feel my hands in the water, and the water on my face—and I’d

go in the next day and he’d say, ‘Tell me everything you noticed when you

drank your cup of tea.’ Which was nothing.” Salzberg smiles, remembering.

Sometimes Salzberg would come into the room and bow to U Pandita and her

hair would fall in her face and she’d brush it away with her hand and he’d

say, “Did you note that?” “And I’d say, ‘No,’ and I wouldn’t get to read my

sitting and walking notes that day either.” Salzberg called this experience

the “torment of continuity,” but after a while she understood something

more: where before she’d thought that meditation was what took place inside

the shrine room, now she began to see that there was no difference between

meditation and non-meditation. “We all have a tendency,” she says, “to think

the real stuff happens in the meditation hall, and that if you’re drinking a

cup of tea in the dining room and you get lost in a fantasy, the thing to do

is throw the cup in the dishwasher and run back into the meditation hall to

regroup. Well, that tendency for me was gone.

“The phrase that kept coming up in my mind during that retreat,” she

says, “was from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, in which Suzuki Roshi says

something like, ‘We practice not to attain buddhanature, but to express it.’

Finally I could just say, ‘O.K., I’m just expressing this right now, and

right now, and right now.”

You walk with Salzberg through the woods from her house to IMS, and she

just walks, hands in coat pockets, eyes on the ground. You take a stroll

with her on a country road nearby, past horses, trees and a pond, and she

just strolls. She’s not unfriendly—she tells stories and answers questions

and smiles and laughs a lot—but she’s not busy building herself up, or

entertaining you. The only thing you can do around her is let go of all

expectation that something has to happen, that you have to be someone, that

she has to respond as someone else.

In loving-kindness practice, a practitioner begins with him or herself,

wishing four things: may I be free from danger, may I be happy, may I be

healthy, may I live with ease. The practitioner then moves on to wish a

“benefactor”—someone who has cared for them—the same four things. Then they

make those aspirations for a good friend, then a neutral person—a person

they normally ignore, like the counter person at the dry cleaner—then a

difficult person, and then all beings without exception. If one were doing a

metta retreat, one would do this practice using the same people over

and over again.

“We tend to associate love or loving-kindness with a feeling or emotion,”

Salzberg says, “but I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s something

deeper—it’s really about being able to connect rather than exclude.”

Salzberg tells the story of the time when Joseph Goldstein went to see

the 16th Karmapa in Sikkim. “He said that the Karmapa greeted his

arrival as though it was just about the most important thing that had ever

happened in his life. Which one guesses it was really not. And he did that

not through great pomp and circumstance, but through an absolute fullness

and completeness of attention. The presence Joseph felt was the feeling of

being completely loved.”

Salzberg goes on: “And when Joseph told me this story, I felt quite

regretful about all the encounters that I have where I’m kind of half there

and half thinking about the next person I need to talk to, or the phone call

I need to make. So the first thing is that gathering of energy—when I feel

like my energy is somewhere else, I go…“ here Salzberg looks at you gently,

but with full attention. “Here we are,” she says.

Salzberg does not seem like the mushy type. She is not, as she puts it,

“sweet and feeble-minded,” qualities people often think of when they hear

the word “love.” When she is there with you, she is simply there, with no

pretension, no elaboration, no show. When you e-mail her, she e-mails you

right back. When you call her—and she gets dozens of calls a day—she returns

the call.

Talking about loving-kindness practice, she says, “I really like the

‘neutral person’ part of the practice a lot. Because here’s this person that

you don’t really know, you don’t have a story about them, you don’t know

about their sorrows or their joys. But you pay attention to them every day,

in effect, because you’re using them as an object of meditation, and wishing

them well. And by virtue of the fact that you’re paying attention to

somebody rather than overlooking them or ignoring them—suddenly there’s this

real caring.

“A lot of the really charming stories of loving-kindness practice at IMS

come out of that phase. People will be sitting and sitting and sitting and

they’ll have a neutral person who’s also a meditator on retreat and they’ll

say, ‘I don’t feel anything. I’m not doing this right. I’m not good at

this.’ And one day I’ll get a note saying, ‘My neutral person didn’t show up

at breakfast—could you please go up and check on them?’” Salzberg laughs.

“You know? Like, ‘Yeah, right—your neutral person wants me banging on

their door.’” Salzberg laughs again.

Salzberg did loving-kindness practice for four years with U Pandita, and

then he wanted her to stop. Metta is not the main practice, he said,

mindfulness is: metta will do many things, but it won’t necessarily

enhance your understanding of emptiness. “It’s not,” Salzberg says, “a

liberating practice.”

On retreat with U Pandita in Australia in the late eighties, then,

Salzberg, who at this point thought she knew her mind, went back to

mindfulness practice—and fell into a hole: feelings about her mother’s death

she thought she’d worked through resurfaced. Miserable, she once again had

to reweave the threads of connection from a lonely, desolate place. As a

result, her compassion grew, first for herself, and then for everyone else.

Many of her friends can describe the change. Joseph Goldstein says, “When

Sharon was just starting out, she was quite an unusual yogi—it was clear

that there was wisdom there. But her teaching abilities weren’t clear at

that time. Now, though, she has the confidence, and is wonderfully

articulate, so the wisdom really shines through.”

Salzberg was riding in an elevator in a New York City hotel a few years

ago, when she realized that she was carrying her very heavy suitcase in her

arms. “I had the brilliant thought,” she says, “—‘Why not put it down, and

let the elevator carry it?’” That’s what it’s like for Salzberg, finally:

every moment now there’s another chance to let go—not to strain to be

something better, not to strive to get over anything, not to practice life

in any kind of harsh, judgmental, demanding or controlling way—but to just

let go, moment after moment after moment. And in that moment of letting go

is kindness.

“Even if I’m teaching people just to be with the breath,” she says, “my

emphasis is that the critical moment in the practice is the moment we

realize we’ve been distracted. We have a phenomenal ability to begin

again—when we’ve gone off somewhere, we can begin again. And in that moment

of beginning again, we can be practicing loving-kindness and forgiveness and

patience and letting go. That was always taught to me,” she says, “but I

couldn’t hear it. So maybe my evolution has been my ability to hear those


In 1985, Salzberg and Goldstein were in Nepal together, when someone

asked them if they’d like to go meet the great Tibetan teacher Dilgo

Khentsye Rinpoche. “We were in Bodhnath, just hanging around,” Salzberg

says, “and so we said, ‘Yeah, yeah,’ you know, and we kind of went in and

there he was in his state of half undress. He was eating lunch, or something

like that. It was just the two of us and a translator and him, and he said,

‘Do you have anything you want to ask me?’ And we said, ‘No.’” Salzberg

rocks backwards on the couch and laughs hard. “And he burst out laughing,”

she says, “like, ‘You don’t know what you’re missing, you dunces!’

Six years later we were studying with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and would have

done anything to be in a room with Khentsye Rinpoche to ask him


Salzberg often tells these kind of self-deprecating stories, and you end

up feeling great affection for her—she seems to have made as many mistakes

as you, only she’s learned to laugh about them, tossing them off as

teachings on how to give oneself a break.

Around 1991, twenty years after her first trip to India—and two years

after she’d grappled, again, with the agony she felt at her mother’s death—Salzberg,

still following the pretense of accident, “conceived an interest in Dzogchen”—the

Tibetan Vajrayana practice of the Nyingma school. “It’s hard to even

describe this,” she says, “but it was like a kind of craving, a yearning

that came up. Some friends came by—students of Dilgo Khentsye Rinpoche’s—and

I said, ‘Can you teach me?’ and of course they couldn’t.” She laughs. “’Can

you tell me something about it?’” she remembers saying then, “’No.’” She

laughs again. “And then Surya came.”

Salzberg asked Western Buddhist teacher Surya Das to give her some

Dzogchen teachings, but he said it’d be better if he introduced Salzberg to

his teachers. And that’s when she went to Nepal to meet Tulku Urgyen,and

eventually to Paris where she met the late Nyoshul Khen, called “Khenpo” by

his students.

Salzberg “fell in love” with Khenpo. She felt devoted to him, but it was

a different kind of devotion than the one she felt for her earlier teachers.

With Goenka, Dipa Ma and U Pandita, Salzberg felt a kind of dependency—after

all, they were teaching very fundamental things, baby steps to being fully

human. But Nyoshul Khen, up until his death in 2000, kept turning Salzberg’s

attention to something she was overlooking—not his buddhanature, but hers.

“I had a different experience with him,” Salzberg says, “because I was a

much more mature being at that point. I’d always been very devoted to my

teachers. But with them the ground of my own self-respect was not that

strong yet.”

In the last few months of Nyoshul Khen’s life, Salzberg kept looking to

him as the person with the answers, with the strength, with the great love

and wisdom. And he kept pointing her to herself for those things. “It turns

out,” she says, “we look at the Buddha to see ourselves. And we look at

ourselves, not to see ourselves as separate and more wonderful than anybody

else.” She laughs. “But we look at ourselves and basically see everybody.”

Finally, after over thirty years of intense practice, of traveling all

over the world and studying with what she calls an “ever-changing pantheon

of teachers,” Salzberg allowed her teacher to show her what she’d vowed to

learn under the Bodhi tree: faith in herself, and in her ability to love.

“From the point of view of the Buddhist teaching,” she says, “we all have

that capacity to love. No experience of suffering, of loneliness or of

unlovability we may have gone through or may yet go through can ever destroy

that capacity. And that faith is the bedrock of loving-kindness. It’s faith

in one’s buddhanature, in one’s awareness and the potential to love. It’s

faith in an interconnected universe.”

Salzberg, at fifty, doesn’t think, at all, that this is the end of her


“I have definitely remade my life,” she says. “I’ve re-parented myself

with my teachers, and I’ve found a home in the dharma, and have an amazing

community of friends. I have practiced. But like any person, I’m not

completely free. I do have faith, though, that any of us can be.”

To Love Abundantly:Sharon Salzberg’s Journey on the Path, Trish Deitch Rohrer, Shambhala Sun, January 2003.


Allen Ginsberg

A Supermarket in California

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for

I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache

self-conscious looking at the full moon.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went

into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!

What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families

shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the

avocados, babies in the tomatoes!–and you, Garcia Lorca, what

were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber,

poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery


I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the

pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?

I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans

following you, and followed in my imagination by the store


We strode down the open corridors together in our

solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen

delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in

an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?

(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the

supermarket and feel absurd.)

Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The

trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be


Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love

past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?

Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,

what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and

you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat

disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

Berkeley, 1955


CIA Dope Calypso

In nineteen hundred forty-nine

China was won by Mao Tse-tung

Chiang Kai Shek’s army ran away

They were waiting there in Thailand yesterday

Supported by the CIA

Pushing junk down Thailand way

First they stole from the Meo Tribes

Up in the hills they started taking bribes

Then they sent their soldiers up to Shan

Collecting opium to send to The Man

Pushing junk in Bangkok yesterday

Supported by the CIA

Brought their jam on mule trains down

To Chiang Mai that’s a railroad town

Sold it next to the police chief’s brain

He took it to town on the choochoo train

Trafficking dope to Bangkok all day

Supported by the CIA

The policeman’s name was Mr. Phao

He peddled dope grand scale and how

Chief of border customs paid

By Central Intelligence’s U.S. aid

The whole operation, Newspapers say

Supported by the CIA

He got so sloppy and peddled so loose

He busted himself and cooked his own goose

Took the reward for the opium load

Seizing his own haul which same he resold

Big time pusher for a decade turned grey

Working for the CIA

Touby Lyfong he worked for the French

A big fat man liked to dine & wench

Prince of the Meos he grew black mud

Till opium flowed through the land like a flood

Communists came and chased the French away

So Touby took a job with the CIA

The whole operation fell in to chaos

Till U.S. intelligence came in to Laos

Mary Azarian/Matt Wuerker

I’ll tell you no lie I’m a true American

Our big pusher there was Phoumi Nosavan

All them Princes in a power play

But Phoumi was the man for the CIA

And his best friend General Vang Pao

Ran the Meo army like a sacred cow

Helicopter smugglers filled Long Cheng’s bars

In Xieng Quang province on the Plain of Jars

It started in secret they were fighting yesterday

Clandestine secret army of the CIA

All through the Sixties the dope flew free

Thru Tan Son Nhut Saigon to Marshall Ky

Air America followed through

Transporting comfiture for President Thieu

All these Dealers were decades and yesterday

The Indochinese mob of the U.S. CIA

Operation Haylift Offisir Wm Colby

Saw Marshall Ky fly opium Mr. Mustard told me

Indochina desk he was Chief of Dirty Tricks

“Hitch-hiking” with dope pushers was how he got his fix

Subsidizing the traffickers to drive the Reds away

Till Colby was the head of the CIA

-January 1972


Kaddish, Part I

For Naomi Ginsberg, 1894-1956

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on

the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.

downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I’ve been up all night, talking,

talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues

shout blind on the phonograph

the rhythm the rhythm–and your memory in my head three years after–

And read Adonais’ last triumphant stanzas aloud–wept, realizing

how we suffer–

And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember,

prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of An-

swers–and my own imagination of a withered leaf–at dawn–

Dreaming back thru life, Your time–and mine accelerating toward Apoca-


the final moment–the flower burning in the Day–and what comes after,

looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city

a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and a phantom

Russia, or a crumpled bed that never existed–

like a poem in the dark–escaped back to Oblivion–

No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the Dream,

trapped in its disappearance,

sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom, worship-

ping each other,

worshipping the God included in it all–longing or inevitability?–while it

lasts, a Vision–anything more?

It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder,

Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shoul-

dering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant–and

the sky above–an old blue place.

or down the Avenue to the south, to–as I walk toward the Lower East Side

–where you walked 50 years ago, little girl–from Russia, eating the

first poisonous tomatoes of America frightened on the dock

then struggling in the crowds of Orchard Street toward what?–toward


toward candy store, first home-made sodas of the century, hand-churned ice

cream in backroom on musty brownfloor boards–

Toward education marriage nervous breakdown, operation, teaching school,

and learning to be mad, in a dream–what is this life?

Toward the Key in the window–and the great Key lays its head of light

on top of Manhattan, and over the floor, and lays down on the

sidewalk–in a single vast beam, moving, as I walk down First toward

the Yiddish Theater–and the place of poverty

you knew, and I know, but without caring now–Strange to have moved

thru Paterson, and the West, and Europe and here again,

with the cries of Spaniards now in the doorstops doors and dark boys on

the street, firs escapes old as you

–Tho you’re not old now, that’s left here with me–

Myself, anyhow, maybe as old as the universe–and I guess that dies with

us–enough to cancel all that comes–What came is gone forever

every time–

That’s good! That leaves it open for no regret–no fear radiators, lacklove,

torture even toothache in the end–

Though while it comes it is a lion that eats the soul–and the lamb, the soul,

in us, alas, offering itself in sacrifice to change’s fierce hunger–hair

and teeth–and the roar of bonepain, skull bare, break rib, rot-skin,

braintricked Implacability.

Ai! ai! we do worse! We are in a fix! And you’re out, Death let you out,

Death had the Mercy, you’re done with your century, done with

God, done with the path thru it–Done with yourself at last–Pure

–Back to the Babe dark before your Father, before us all–before the


There, rest. No more suffering for you. I know where you’ve gone, it’s good.

No more flowers in the summer fields of New York, no joy now, no more

fear of Louis,

and no more of his sweetness and glasses, his high school decades, debts,

loves, frightened telephone calls, conception beds, relatives, hands–

No more of sister Elanor,–she gone before you–we kept it secret you

killed her–or she killed herself to bear with you–an arthritic heart

–But Death’s killed you both–No matter–

Nor your memory of your mother, 1915 tears in silent movies weeks and

weeks–forgetting, agrieve watching Marie Dressler address human-

ity, Chaplin dance in youth,

or Boris Godunov, Chaliapin’s at the Met, halling his voice of a weeping Czar

–by standing room with Elanor & Max–watching also the Capital

ists take seats in Orchestra, white furs, diamonds,

with the YPSL’s hitch-hiking thru Pennsylvania, in black baggy gym skirts

pants, photograph of 4 girls holding each other round the waste, and

laughing eye, too coy, virginal solitude of 1920

all girls grown old, or dead now, and that long hair in the grave–lucky to

have husbands later–

You made it–I came too–Eugene my brother before (still grieving now and

will gream on to his last stiff hand, as he goes thru his cancer–or kill

–later perhaps–soon he will think–)

And it’s the last moment I remember, which I see them all, thru myself, now

–tho not you

I didn’t foresee what you felt–what more hideous gape of bad mouth came

first–to you–and were you prepared?

To go where? In that Dark–that–in that God? a radiance? A Lord in the

Void? Like an eye in the black cloud in a dream? Adonoi at last, with


Beyond my remembrance! Incapable to guess! Not merely the yellow skull

in the grave, or a box of worm dust, and a stained ribbon–Deaths-

head with Halo? can you believe it?

Is it only the sun that shines once for the mind, only the flash of existence,

than none ever was?

Nothing beyond what we have–what you had–that so pitiful–yet Tri-


to have been here, and changed, like a tree, broken, or flower–fed to the

ground–but made, with its petals, colored, thinking Great Universe,

shaken, cut in the head, leaf stript, hid in an egg crate hospital, cloth

wrapped, sore–freaked in the moon brain, Naughtless.

No flower like that flower, which knew itself in the garden, and fought the


Cut down by an idiot Snowman’s icy–even in the Spring–strange ghost

thought some–Death–Sharp icicle in his hand–crowned with old

roses–a dog for his eyes–cock of a sweatshop–heart of electric


All the accumulations of life, that wear us out–clocks, bodies, consciousness,

shoes, breasts–begotten sons–your Communism–’Paranoia’ into


You once kicked Elanor in the leg, she died of heart failure later. You of

stroke. Asleep? within a year, the two of you, sisters in death. Is

Elanor happy?

Max grieves alive in an office on Lower Broadway, lone large mustache over

midnight Accountings, not sure. His life passes–as he sees–and

what does he doubt now? Still dream of making money, or that might

have made money, hired nurse, had children, found even your Im-

mortality, Naomi?

I’ll see him soon. Now I’ve got to cut through to talk to you as I didn’t

when you had a mouth.

Forever. And we’re bound for that, Forever like Emily Dickinson’s horses

–headed to the End.

They know the way–These Steeds–run faster than we think–it’s our own

life they cross–and take with them.

Magnificent, mourned no more, marred of heart, mind behind, mar-

ried dreamed, mortal changed–Ass and face done with murder.

In the world, given, flower maddened, made no Utopia, shut under

pine, almed in Earth, blamed in Lone, Jehovah, accept.

Nameless, One Faced, Forever beyond me, beginningless, endless,

Father in death. Tho I am not there for this Prophecy, I am unmarried, I’m

hymnless, I’m Heavenless, headless in blisshood I would still adore

Thee, Heaven, after Death, only One blessed in Nothingness, not

light or darkness, Dayless Eternity–

Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some

of my Time, now given to Nothing–to praise Thee–But Death

This is the end, the redemption from Wilderness, way for the Won-

derer, House sought for All, black handkerchief washed clean by weeping

–page beyond Psalm–Last change of mine and Naomi–to God’s perfect

Darkness–Death, stay thy phantoms!


Over and over–refrain–of the Hospitals–still haven’t written your

history–leave it abstract–a few images

run thru the mind–like the saxophone chorus of houses and years–

remembrance of electrical shocks.

By long nites as a child in Paterson apartment, watching over your

nervousness–you were fat–your next move–

By that afternoon I stayed home from school to take care of you–

once and for all–when I vowed forever that once man disagreed with my

opinion of the cosmos, I was lost–

By my later burden–vow to illuminate mankind–this is release of

particulars–(mad as you)–(sanity a trick of agreement)–

But you stared out the window on the Broadway Church corner, and

spied a mystical assassin from Newark,

So phoned the Doctor–’OK go way for a rest’–so I put on my coat

and walked you downstreet–On the way a grammarschool boy screamed,

unaccountably–’Where you goin Lady to Death’? I shuddered–

and you covered your nose with motheaten fur collar, gas mask

against poison sneaked into downtown atmosphere, sprayed by Grandma–

And was the driver of the cheesebox Public Service bus a member of

the gang? You shuddered at his face, I could hardly get you on–to New

York, very Times Square, to grab another Greyhound–

Discover more from

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading