Allen Ginsberg

(3 June 1926 – 5 April 1997 / Newark, New Jersey)

Father Death Blues


Hey Father Death, I'm flying home
Hey poor man, you're all alone
Hey old daddy, I know where I'm going

Father Death, Don't cry any more
Mama's there, underneath the floor
Brother Death, please mind the store

Old Aunty Death Don't hide your bones
Old Uncle Death I hear your groans
O Sister Death how sweet your moans

O Children Deaths go breathe your breaths
Sobbing breasts'll ease your Deaths
Pain is gone, tears take the rest

Genius Death your art is done
Lover Death your body's gone
Father Death I'm coming home

Guru Death your words are true
Teacher Death I do thank you
For inspiring me to sing this Blues

Buddha Death, I wake with you
Dharma Death, your mind is new
Sangha Death, we'll work it through

Suffering is what was born
Ignorance made me forlorn
Tearful truths I cannot scorn

Father Breath once more farewell
Birth you gave was no thing ill
My heart is still, as time will tell.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Eljay Ryan (10/1/2012 3:24:00 PM)

    Having heard him perform this several times with the harmonium, I can attest to the performance completely changing the experience of the poem. Some commenters don't seem to want to allow for the Buddhist context that permeates his work in this period, which I don't understand. We contextualize/historicize not to belittle but to better understand. For his mother, Ginsberg wrote a Kaddish on the occasion of her death - just 3 years before this poem for his father. It is but one part of a six or seven part series, and he is clearly exploring religious traditions in the face of death, loss. (Report) Reply

  • Danza Barr (2/20/2012 10:12:00 AM)

    Very emotional poem if recited, as he did, with accordion/harmonium. I can understand why there are people who think it's inane. But I suggest those people go get high. (Report) Reply

  • Terence George Craddock (2/17/2010 11:24:00 AM)

    Ginsberg and the aims of the beat generation. How we contemplated you? Yes Father Death Blues. Sing the blues and fly home in death, its a family affair. Child, Genius, Lover, Guru Death we considered you too, and its true, death is a teacher of the blues, alone with pain poverty too. Interesting you enclose Dharma Hinduism Death within Buddha Sangha Buddism Death. Both born in India yet Buddha largely rejected there, for the allure of chaste system and reincarnation. Yes Death an old family member at our fireside, Death our friend in travel, wherever we reside. (Report) Reply

  • Gerald Duffy (1/10/2008 8:35:00 AM)

    Oh, dear Jack Runningbear, you missed it all! Ginsberg loved his father Louis and was very kind to him. Louis was a poet himself and opened the door for Allen when he was a kid. Father Death Blues is Ginsberg's poem honoring his dead father. You can hear him sing it on YouTube: search for 'Allen Ginsberg - Father Death Blues.' Maybe you'll reconsider? (Report) Reply

  • Jack Runningbear (12/15/2007 3:42:00 PM)

    If the entire body of Ginsberg's work was printed on toilet paper, it might finally, in some way, contribute something of value to our culture (if not our sewer systems) . (Report) Reply

  • Kingsley Dorian (10/6/2007 5:29:00 PM)

    I love this poem, for reasons I'm not even quite sure ot. It's so simple, but... maybe it's because I watched the video of Allen Ginsberg performing this poem, and just watching him mesmerised me. Looking at the words now, I see an entire life painted on a canvas as if by a child with some deeper, adult knowledge. Words fail me - this poem is quintessential Ginsberg, in his later years. He even said himself that he wanted to be remembered by this poem. (Report) Reply

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