A Rewrite of Howl
Original: by Allen Ginsberg. For Carl Solomon.
Thank you to my editors for your patience and insight.
This heavily borrows from the original. Some phrases are copied directly. Most of the others follow the original cadence. This is also heavily trimmed; only about half the lines are represented here.
There are references to the writings of Shakespeare, Herman Hesse, Terry Pratchett, Oscar Wilde, and Alasdair Gray. Ginsberg originally used Moloch, a god that demanded child sacrifice. I’ve used Mammon instead. From the Bible, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
Ginsberg’s poem has been sitting in the back of my head for a while, and this was a enjoyable way to get to know it better.
I saw the best minds of my generation bending under pressure, gasping cringing raw, trawling through the Internet’s back alleys looking for a shortbread stopgap,
cold-bodied techies thawing to the primeval deathly connection to the overhanging firmament in the roiling of the night,
who wealth and gleams and clenched jaw and high leaned back inhaling in the capital brightness of prefurnished flats flying over the marches of allotments predicting unicorn crashes,
who molded their minds to trees in Hampstead and saw mathematical leaves crumbling against chip shops glowing,
who passed through companies with narrowed hot teeth japing San Francisco and London corruptions from the back seat of the gig economy,
who were dropped from clubs for decrying and posting open letters on the demonizing walls,
who slumped in unbrushed rooms in socks, shoving their time into episodes and seeing Death on the balcony,
who got nailed in their loafers returning through Gatwick with a packet of powder for Edgeware Road,
who licked flames in converted estates or swallowed antifreeze on the bear pit steps, terror, or imprisoned their brains morning after morning,
with fears, with drugs, with warm daydreams, whiskey and hips and endless zippers,
monstrous staring staring glassfront of stroking mist and rain in the snapshot jumping between Chinatown and Brixton, glaring at all the net curtains of nuclear family between,
gritstone piles of houses, open tawny grass hillside dawns, wine meandering along the canals, duplicated high street of electric left-sided joyride, LED speckled choir lights, cloud and star and river reflections in the creeping winter twilight of Westminster, dustbin swervings and copper sweettalk smooth tongue in head,
who kept themselves underground for the screaming ride from Chalk Farm to worn-out Clapham on lemons until the press of heat and gentrifiers pulled them out trembling loose-fingered and wrung dry of thought all emptied of sarcasm in the grey light of platforms,
who talked continuously seventy hours from steps to flat to pub to Leicester to theatre to Putney Bridge,
a wandering troupe of improv idealists swapping cigarettes leaning off bar stools off balconies off bridges off Big Ben into the night,
yammering flirting retching twisting news and songs and trips and throat cramps and shocks of exes and family and marriage,
who walked out of the station with their minds full of screams into the whirling Tesco pointing to a shelf in the upper right to star in a scene full of tears and bile,
who dreamed huge jumping fantasies by the leaning crosses of Beachy Head under the last golden shafts of the day & their graves shall grow rue with a difference,
who ate the marrow of their home or swallowed the lamb at the bloody tip of the knives of Mayfair,
who coughed on the second floor of Hackney knighted with smoke under the jaundiced clouds scrolling past manifestos of missed futures,
who wrote all weekend nose scratching and sighing over solemn psalms which in the morning crush were narcissistic ramblings,
who emptied pill and liquor bottle successively unsuccessfully, settled for mediocrity and emptied half while wishing they were younger and died,
with mother finally ****** and the last holy record dumped on the terrace stoop, and the last key turned at 4 AM and the last glass slammed on the table in anger and the last loaded shelf emptied down to the last can of rational beans, a red paint daisy sliding on the white porcelain of the sink, and even that imaginary, nothing but a meager little bit of make-believe —
ah, Carl, while you are not fine I am not fine, and now you’re caught in the final human slog of manifest destiny — ,
and who therefore ran through the open desks blessed with a sudden alignment of the electrons of the handshake of the server rack an expiring cert and the cached math,
who thought and made imaginary rifts in Peace and Hope through scenarios overlapping, and bred the nightmare of the old with one freezing emotion and joined the small steps and set the slings and arrows of fortune together against the mind’s resolution,
to manufacture the situation and content of normal innocent fantasy and kneel before you mumbling and dumb and rippling with regret, rejected yet confessing out the soul to bend the rush of what ifs in his nervous and curbed head,
the rational priest and seraph talk in Love, known, yet writing down here what may not come in time after all,
and stood cleaned in the monochrome clothes of partnership in the gold chrome light of the ATM and cast the withering of our hungry grab for tomorrow into a spare spare change change sign that blew through the alleys down to the last cigarette filter
with the definite shape of the story of life carved out of their own memories good to eat for another generation.
What valleys of concrete and steel ripped open their ribs and ate up their hearts and sympathy?
Mammon! Isolation! Greed! Depravity! Spraycans and alienable rights! Cynics proved too hopeful! Wars fanned with retweets! Old activists exhausted by déjà vu!
Mammon! Mammon! Nightmare of Mammon! Mammon the grasping! Clammy Mammon! Mammon the millstone of the condemned!
Mammon the inescapable story! Mammon the grinning burning mob and guard of tribalism! Mammon whose border is walled! Mammon the hard van of terrorism! Mammon the unreliable offices!
Mammon who rules by the rates of return! Mammon whose bones are subprime loans! Mammon whose arms are development projects! Mammon whose embrace is a carnivorous pram! Mammon whose lips expel shining compost!
Mammon whose hair is a million fiber links! Mammon whose Zagat raters march down streets like selfish knights! Mammon whose cranes reel and gleam in the dusk! Mammon whose pour overs and succulents mutate the boroughs!
Mammon whose love is endless gasoline and plastic! Mammon whose dreams are hydrogen and automation! Mammon whose creativity is raising the bourgeoisie! Mammon whose tithe is a desert of crumbled styrofoam! Mammon whose title is progress!
Mammon in whom I want quiet! Mammon in whom I wish green! Dumb in Mammon! Raging in Mammon! Lost hope and inhuman in Mammon!
They lost their homes lifting Mammon to heaven! Playgrounds, fields, television, tons! carrying their lives to heaven which grows and is everywhere about us!
Promises! committees! drafts! revitalization! regeneration! catalogued in the parish archives!
Mayors! governments! builders! bankers! the whole crateful of grasping capitalists!
Breakdowns! down the freeway! falls and victimizations! gone with the rush hour! Freedom! Refinancing! Debt! Thirty years off brand and Poundland! Hopes! Children! Raw generation! crash the financier’s wheel!
Belly deep laughter in the grocer’s! They heard it all! the crinkled cheeks! the confident fingers! They waggled their ankles! They kissed under the florescent lights! to kinship! leaping! swinging hampers! Down to the green! to the table!
Carl Solomon! I’m with you in Blackpool where you’re madder than I am
I’m with you in Blackpool where you must feel yourself distracted
I’m with you in Blackpool where you speak to the ghost of my father
I’m with you in Blackpool where you murdered the long-winded meddler
I’m with you in Blackpool where you laugh at the satirical rogue
I’m with you in Blackpool where we ignore the signs MAGIC THEATRE ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY where we meet our own wolf
I’m with you in Blackpool where your symptoms have grown marked and are shown to the apprentices
I’m with you in Blackpool where the old tricks do not divert the senses
I’m with you in Blackpool where insane diaphragm flexes will no longer bring your body to the state of infant calm
I’m with you in Blackpool where you analyze moments and demand the highest rational proposals as the buttress against the biotic unbidden thought
I’m with you in Blackpool where you will rip the spaces between punctuation and build your breathing amniotic fear from the convoluted dream
I’m with you in Blackpool where there are fifty million bitter philosophers all together moaning the old refrain of the disillusioned
I’m with you in Blackpool where we stroke and flirt with the Bright Future under our duvets the Bright Future that paws all night and won’t leave us be
I’m with you in Blackpool where we jump up pumping adrenal glands by our brains’ roaring rushing through the holloways we’re running over the sweet edge the chalky cliff crumbles itself flint flakes shear down O stumbling revolutionaries run for the hills O starry-eyed figure of hope the singularity is here O defeat leave your keyboard we’re done
I’m with you in Blackpool where in the next generation’s dreams you type stiff from a planned roadtrip across thighs to the seat of dissolution in the green dawn