Sunday, April 5, 2009

Two Poems for April 5th

Metaphysics - Allen Ginsberg

This is the one and only
firmament; therefore
it is the absolute world.
There is no other world.
The circle is complete.
I am living in Eternity.
The ways of this world
are the ways of Heaven.

New York, mid - 1949


Baseball Couplet - Donald Hall

When the tall puffy
Figure wearing number
nine starts
late for the fly ball,
laboring forward
like a lame truckhorse
startled by a gartersnake,
--this old fellow
whose body we remember
as sleek and nervous as a filly's--
and barely catches it
in his glove's
tip, we rise and applaud weeping:
On a green field we observe the ruin
of even the bravest
body, as Odysseus
wept to glimpse
among the shades the shadow
of Achilles.


April 5, 2009 is the twelfth anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's death. It is also opening day of the baseball season. Today we celebrate both. I'd like to think Ginsberg (not noted as a great baseball fan) would appreciate Hall's depiction of the beginning of physical decline and the evocation of the ancient Greeks.


  1. Ginsberg's poem is more radical than it appears. Christianity posits another world after death in which some people are punished, others rewarded. Ginsberg's poem effectively rebuts this duality by stating that the world in which we live is the only world. There is no second, higher world. Eternity is not something that we enter after death, but something we take part in in this life, if only for the duration of our lives. Finally, since there is only one world and it continues eternally, what we call heaven is not something to be experienced, if at all, after death. Rather, it is properly part of the life we are now living. Heavenly ecstasy is something we can experience now, while we're still alive. If you wait until after death, you will have waited in vain. In this one short poem, Ginsberg elegantly turns the Christian cosmology on its head.

    Steve Goldman

  2. Thanks Steve, I really hadn't thought about the context for that poem. I assumed because it was fairly early it was more of a practice run for what was to come. But you've caused me to re-think this poem.