Because that’s what everyone else is doing. And I’m a creature of the machine.

‘America’ by Allen Ginsberg

America, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America, $2.27, January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America, when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America, why are your libraries full of tears?
America, when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America, after all, it is you and I who are perfect – not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers; I don’t think he’ll come back, it’s sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America, stop pushing; I know what I’m doing.
America, the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for murder.
America, I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America, I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
Whenever I go to Chinatown, I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up – there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.

I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility.
Businessmen are serious. Movie producers are serious.
Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that *I* am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven’t got a Chinaman’s chance.
I’d better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana, millions of genitals,
an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 mph, and
twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underprivileged
who live in my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.

America, how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford; my strophes are as individual as his automobiles.
Moreso, they’re all different sexes.
America, I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece, $500 down on your old strophe.
America, free Tom Mooney.
America, save the Spanish Loyalists.
America, Sacco & Vanzetti must not die.
I am the Scottsboro boys.
America, when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they
sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the
workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party
was in 1935 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother
Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain.
Everybody must have been a spy.
America, you don’t really want to go to war.
America, it’s them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad.
She wants to take our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’ses Digesteses.
Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our filling stations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America, this is quite serious.
America, this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America, is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories;
I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America, I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

This, set to Tom Waits’ first album, 1973’s ‘Closing Time’, is absolutely stupendous. Now playing on Radio Perfidy.

14 Responses to “YouwantapoemI’llgiveyouapoem.”

  1. dr_beep Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 6:24 am

    I don't think I have ever properly thanked you for introducing me to Tom Waits' music.
    At first he was just the amusing drunken pirate you would put on when I was so sick of the Cranes I wanted to throttle you (probably right about the same time you were wanting to feed me my apoptygma berzerk CDs through a newly cut mouth in the small of my back), but then I started hearing more and more of his stuff and getting it more and more. More recently I started learning more about his experimental music, his 'wierder' stuff, and everything I learn about him makes me love him more.
    So thanks.
    Also, good poem, I'm not terribly familiar with Ginsberg and the others from that time period/state of mind, but that's slowly changing.
    At burning man we had an 8' tall robot chanting Howl through real-time voice synthysis software, kind of on the totally bizzarre moment in the desert side of things. Then it would try to read Dante's Inferno and would crash… every time… Inferno utterly fails to be a small chunk of text.

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 3:56 pm

    I'm glad that you appreciate him so much, and also that you credit me with the first introduction. I have no doubt it would have happened, regardless.
    I still love Cranes, you bastard, and strangely enough (thank you very much, you bastard) I also like Apop quite a bit.
    See what we did for each other?

  3. podle Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 7:05 am

    Speaking of Ginsberg
    Its funny you quoted him today what with all the hoo ha in the papers about this being the 35th anniversary of his pal Kerouac's death. I thought of you and your re-uniting (re-unition?) with the city when I read the quote they put in from On the Road about seeing San Francisco for the first time, "stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time."
    And haven't I met you somewhere, Mr. Insomnio? I'm thinking of Ben and Wanda's….

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 4:00 pm

    Re: Speaking of Ginsberg
    I can't wait to bust into my storage unit and pick out all my SF-related books. I think there's something really great about drinking in one's environs through literary saturation during time well-spent within. I mean, that's the certain way to respect a locale and live as a part of its tradition.
    Thank you very much for relaying Kerouac's quote; it is very fitting. Eleven hills, eh? Rome and Edinburgh only have seven.

  5. angledge Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 8:06 am

    This poem is filled with time-specific references & yet it still feels incredibly applicable to today. Amazing. Thank you for posting it.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 4:01 pm

    It really does relate, and does still feel current. I'm so glad that you connected with it.

  7. catness Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 8:34 am

    We have nothing in common but a a couple of LJ friends (I found you through tallboi's journal) and Tom Waits, but I like what you post here.

  8. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 4:02 pm

    Re: Hello…
    Thank you for taking the time to read my blather, and for saying hello. I look forward to hearing more from you if you're so inclined.
    And who says we have nothing in common?

  9. catness Says:
    October 22nd, 2004 at 4:39 am

    Re: Hello…
    And who says we have nothing in common?
    Heh… well, we might or we might not. So I'll keep reading and see. 😉

  10. no_mans_land Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 10:14 am

    <small>this is absolutely stunning.. one of the most astute, poignant pieces on american life i have ever read. the beat poets echo my sentiments the clearest out of any subculture.
    paired with tom waits.. that's a deadly combo. in the best sense, of course.</small>

  11. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 4:05 pm

    Deadly is often good. 🙂
    You hand-picked the perfect words to relay the brilliance of this piece, and I'm so pleased that it resonates with you, even now, down through the years. I don't know how much of the beat poets' sentiments I engage with, but many of them certainly had important things to say when they weren't stumbling around in a haze of thick pot vapor, bumping into each other and searching for the Cheetos.
    Thanks for your comments, dear.

  12. no_mans_land Says:
    October 22nd, 2004 at 10:21 am

    <small>ahahaa. yes, they were slaves to their vices. but what great artist isn't?</small>

  13. thistlelurid Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 10:16 am

    "Everybody’s serious but me.
    It occurs to me that *I* am America.
    I am talking to myself again."
    yes yes yes.
    "America, this is quite serious. yes.
    I heard it in my head…as I read …..

  14. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 21st, 2004 at 4:06 pm

    Yes yes yes.
    You're on it, Kat.

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