Lawrence Ferlinghetti


An Elegy on the Death of Kenneth Patchen


A poet is born
A poet dies
And all that lies between
is us
and the world

And the world lies about it
making as if it had got his message
even though it is poetry
but most of the world wishing
it could just forget about him
and his awful strange prophecies


Along with all the other strange things
he said about the world
which were all too true
and which made them fear him
more than they loved him
though he spoke much of love

Along with all the alarms he sounded
which turned out to be false
if only for the moment
all of which made them fear his tongue
more than they loved him
Though he spoke much of love
and never lived by ‘silence exile & cunning’
and was a loud conscientious objector to
the deaths we daily give each other
though we speak much of love


And when such a one dies
even the agents of Death should take note
and shake the shit from their wings
in Air Force One
But they do not
And the shit still flies
And the poet now is disconnected
and won’t call back
though he spoke much of love

And still we hear him say
‘Do I not deal with angels
when her lips I touch’
And still we hear him say
‘0 my darling troubles heaven
with her loveliness’
And still we hear him say
‘As we are so wonderfully done with each other
We can walk into our separate ‘sleep
On floors of music where the milkwhite cloak
of childhood lies’

And still we hear him saying
‘Therefore the constant powers do not lessen
Nor is the property of the spirit scattered
on the cold hills of these events’
And still we hear him asking
‘Do the dead know what time it is?’

He is gone under
He is scattered
undersea
and knows what time
but won’t be back to tell it
He would be too proud to call back anyway
And too full of strange laughter
to speak to us anymore anyway

And the weight of human experience
lies upon the world
like the chains of the ‘sea
in which he sings
And he swings in the tides of the sea
And his ashes are washed
in the ides of the sea
And ‘an astonished eye looks out of the air’
to see the poet singing there

And dusk falls down a coast somewhere

where a white horse without a rider
turns its head
to the sea

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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