“Kaddish” Allen Ginsberg Personal Response


“Kaddish” by Allen Ginsberg

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 Answers—and my own imagination of a withered leaf—at dawn—

Dreaming back thru life, Your time—and mine accelerating toward Apocalypse,

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, worshipping 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 shouldering 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 Newark—

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 doorstoops doors and dark boys on the street, fire 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.

Consider how the significance of memory of the past has been reflected and developed in a literary text. Discuss the idea(s) developed by the author about the significance of our memory of the past.


  Strange now to think that I had once loved you, standing across the street, leafing through the Times, chewing cheap bubblegum in a cross hatched sunlight veil. I skim you as you skim the page, completely unaware of how articulate you look in dark green pants; a punctuation mark planted on sidewalk,and I: a riddle pulling you into traffic.      

 You complete me.

I can never look at that newsstand the same way- simply can’t bear it when it is full of men who look like you, or even worse: when it is empty.  The last mistake I made was when I glanced behind me as I began to tread down 7th street, away from you and away from us, and when we locked eyes I realized: my first mistake was walking away and yours was letting me.

I loved you.

So I keep walking, trying to not let memories filter over my eyes as exquisite, velvet clouds shade the sun, draping the sky in intermission- God’s smoke break. And in the darkened streets, unfamiliar to magnificent Manhattan, I avoid outlines of you perusing in thick opium billows pressed up against cafe glass windows pressed up against my mind.

You haunt me.

We flirted above the Ray Charles blues shouting from the phonograph as clubs opened up for their hour of sin and fun and other three letter words; we drank from trumpet sized glasses and danced closer than cello strings- our laughter louder than symphonies. As the evening continued, people began to mistake us as the other for our fingerprints had been all over each other- defining the moment defining us.

We are bound.

Now there is silence. It is only 10:00 p.m. but Greenwich is asleep and I fear my hollow footsteps will waken someone or summon you. As I turn on 3rd Street, an old radio song blows with the wind through  me, through the alley where you kissed me against brick. In this part of the city, buildings stand slanted like teeth rotted by citric acid and cigarettes- perceived as personality rather than poverty. You ruined this city for me when you made it come alive because now that you’re gone I can’t stand the sound of its heartbeat- Frankenstein’s fortress.

You robbed me.

My venture slows as my mind becomes muddled in memory, feet dragging against cement as I approach the centre of the street. The smells of midnight movies broken barriers confused chaos unborn babies , and fierce fights are putrid on this particular street under where we used to live. Where we used to laugh and love and where you left me- I don’t look up or down or across or behind anymore because none of that matters anymore…it is only what lies ahead. And it is the moon and it is the streetlights and it is the stars and it is my reflection in the side-view mirror of a Cadillac and it is familiar-

And it is not you.


Feature image: GIF from  movie: Allen, Woody, director. Manhattan. United Artists, 1979.

GIF creator: Dianekeatonfan. “Dianekeatonfan.” DIANE KEATON, 20 Sept. 2016, dianekeatonfan.tumblr.com/post/150648296022/manhattan-1979.

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