Showing 211 - 220 of 298 annotations contributed by Aull, Felice
Narrated in the first person, the transforming events of Peter's life as a 15 year old are told years later. The opening paragraphs set the scene: "the older brother who went off to school" leaving "the brilliant . . . mother . . . bereft"; the father, "son of a bankrupt Hudson Valley apple grower"; "the darkening drift and dismay of my parents." Into this family unease steps the local veterinarian, Dr. Mason, whom Peter assists during after-school hours, and who is a sometime dinner guest in his parents' home.
Dr. Mason not only tries to persuade Peter to go into a medical profession, ignoring Peter's interests (writing poetry, reading about mountain climbing) but self-importantly insists on "offering [him] lessons in nothing less than all of life" (63). Dr. Mason, we learn, is singularly unqualified to dispense such lessons. He is, at least in Peter's eyes, overbearing and insensitive in his interactions with the owners of the pets he treats, and perhaps even unethical in his professional decisions. Then, Peter discovers, his mother is having an affair with Dr. Mason (who is also married). It is the burden of this knowledge that drives the narrative.
Summary:The speaker enumerates the pleasurable activities of daily life: getting out of bed "on two strong legs," walking the dog, lying down "with my mate," planning another day "just like this day." Counterpoised to these enumerations, however, is the recognition that "it might have been otherwise." Finally, the speaker acknowledges, "it will be otherwise."
Water is a metaphor for the life cycle as the poet chronicles the role played by water in his life, in all our lives--"the sac of water we live in." The poet evokes the sound of water as he moves through life stages: swaying trees register the sound of the water from which we emerge at birth, "the sound of sighing" denotes the sound made as he washes his dying father’s feet, whispering rain "outlives us."
The poem is replete with images of water that conjure up family relationships over time. In the ocean of his childhood, his athletic brother cannot swim while his crippled sister swims like a "glimmering fish." Water is a visible symptom of the congestive heart failure suffered by his father--"swollen, heavy . . . bloated"-- whose "respirator mask makes him look like a diver."
As the poet tends to his father, testing the wash water "with my wrist" like a parent, there is a powerful recollection of the father’s earlier ordeal as a political prisoner. Finally, there is water that liberated the family, bringing them from Indonesia to America, juxtaposed against the water that is now drowning the father.
Summary:The speaker recalls his need to call forth a "slender memory" of his father. This memory from childhood is both "painful" and "sweet." In contrast to his father, who, as a political prisoner had devised complex mnemonics, the speaker has a haphazard memory. But is it his memory, or what he recalls that is "illogical"? "My father loved me. So he spanked me. / It hurt him to do so. He did it daily." The speaker remembers, also, how his father protectively wrapped him in his own sweater to shield him from cold. Years later, the speaker wears the sweater.
Summary:A succinct poem [29 lines] that captures the essence of the position in which one finds oneself after a parent, or both parents, have died. Full of evocative phrases, this poem is less about grief than it is about awareness of adult responsibility and one's own future demise: "there is nobody / left standing between you / and the world . . . ."
Dedicated to the poet's mother, Naomi Ginsberg, the poem is a narration and a lament arising from Ginsberg's memories, three years after Naomi's death, of her life and of his life with her. This long poem is subdivided into 5 sections that address the dead woman directly.
The highly poetic Part I is a reflection on death, life ["all the accumulations of life, that wear us out" (p. 11)], mortality, the link between the dead and the living, the great unknown that lies beyond death--not in the abstract, but in the signs and symbols of Naomi's life/death and in the issues that remain for her son: "Now I've got to cut through--to talk to you / --as I didn't when you had a mouth." (p. 11)
Part II is a long narration of Naomi's life story, especially the history of her mental illness and of the role it imposed on Ginsberg himself. Ginsberg "was only 12" when he brought his mother to what was intended as a rest cure; instead, she became psychotic and was hospitalized, leaving Ginsberg with an everlasting sense of guilt. Separated from her husband, Naomi spent years of paranoia in chaos and institutionalization; son Allen vacillated between pity, disgust, escape in travel, and (homo)sexual exploration.
At the last meeting with his mother, in a mental hospital, she didn't recognize him. While living in San Francisco, two days after Naomi died, he received a letter from her: "Strange Prophesies anew! She wrote--'The key is in / the window, the key is in the sunlight at the window--I have / the key--Get married Allen don't take drugs . . . .' " (p. 31)
These passages give a vivid sense of mental disease and its impact on the family. Ginsberg is not self-pitying or self-indulgent in his description of the illness that laid siege to his mother's life and which so strongly influenced his own life for years. Modestly, he inserts: "I was in bughouse that year 8 months--my own visions unmentioned in this here Lament--" (p. 25)
The brief "Hymnn," is a blessing: "Blessed be you Naomi in Hospitals! Blessed be you Naomi in solitude! Blest be your triumph! . . . Blest be your last year's loneliness!" Part III (one page long) is a short recapitulation of Naomi's life, and uses her own cryptic words to try to make sense out of her life as well as of all life and death: "But that the key should be left behind--at the window . . . to the living . . . that can . . . look back see / Creation glistening backwards to the same grave . . . ." (p. 33)
Part IV, a chant, reaches beyond the personal to social history: "O mother / what have I left out"; (p. 34) "with your eyes of shock / with your eyes of lobotomy; " "farewell / with Communist party and a broken stocking"; "with your eyes of Czechoslovakia attacked by robots . . . ." (p. 35) Ending with the short part V, Ginsberg cries out to the shrieking crows circling in the sky above His mother's grave, "Lord Lord O Grinder of giant Beyonds my voice in a boundless / field in Sheol" (p.36) [Sheol is a Hebrew word meaning "the abode of death."]
The speaker describes his grandmother, just prior to her death. She is "impossible to get on with," unless you are the nineteen year old grandson, who has not just a soft spot for her, but who sees the benefits of a free place to stay and eat. On Thanksgiving Day just after dinner, "death touched the old lady," requiring that she move from the beach house where they had been staying to the family "home."
Several verses describe her decline: the ravings, the daze, the smell, the cries. She refused to go to the hospital, "I won't go." In alarm he calls an ambulance for the actively resistant woman. "Is this what you call / making me comfortable?" she cries to the lifting attendants. Then, as if to defy the "smart . . . young people," she lets them know she's still in charge by promptly dying. Her final words dismiss the elm trees seen from the ambulance window, and life as well: "Well, I'm / tired of them."
This poem describes the lifestyle of young rebels. They are "cool," having "left school," and enjoy themselves being bad. Although this gang is busy living life, they also realize that they "die soon."
Summary:Death is compared to an "insect / Menacing the tree" in its insidious, covert actions. Although the reader is urged to fight death with whatever means are available, the poet recognizes that some circumstances are beyond hope.
Summary:This poem considers, from the perspective of one who is experiencing it, the overwhelming, apparent timelessness of pain. The author aptly states that pain "cannot recollect / When it began", and that "it has no future but itself."