Last night Allen Ginsberg phoned me from the dead.
How are you, I said.
I’m dead, he said.
What is it like being dead?
It’s nice being free of the timeless sadness of existence. But I miss bon bons, the flowerness of any given moment, and Japanese lampshades. What’s it like up there, in the world of the living?
Same old same old, I said. Endless war. Three wars, in fact. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Four, if you include Pakistan. Our roads are going to hell. The Pentagon sucks up trillions of American dollars and pours them down in the form of bombs. Shitty electrocuting showers. Feculent bottled water. Privately contracted thugs. People are hungry. There’s an ad on the radio asking people to donate food. You never know, the family next door might be going hungry. Poverty is pandemic. 42 percent of financial wealth is controlled by the top 1 percent. 37 million Americans are on food stamps. I miss your voice, Allen. You were always a force for the good.
That’s nice of you to say. I wish I could be there, too. But frankly, I like being dead. It’s like being high on laughing gas. The universe is a void, in which there is a sweet dreamhole. It’s the instant of going into or coming out of existence. But here, here among the permanently dead, the permanently non-existent, one is free of the sadness of birth, the sadness of changing from dream to dream. Can you dig this?
Yes, my time is coming. One thing though. If you no longer exist, who am I talking to?
You are talking to your imagination of me.
Oh yeah. That makes sense. I can dig that. Anything you miss about being alive? You know, like food, flowers, walking around in a body?
Well, sex obviously. The wiggle and play of my cock. Autumn gold. Wet glaze on an asphalt street. Holy sunlight. The great crystal door to the House of Night. Eyeball kicks on storefronts. The gaiety of tables in flirty restaurant rowdiness. The vast lamb of the middleclass. The crazy shepherds of rebellion. The rich rank smell of old apricots under October leaves. The breath in my nose. Auto lights in the rain. Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown visions. My books piled up before me for my use. My texts, my manuscripts, my loves.
Have you seen Jack or Neal? Are they there? John Lennon? John Keats? Shelley? Janis Joplin? Shakespeare? Christ?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re all here. Everybody’s here. But not in the way you think. The human personality is, after all, a very ephemeral thing at best. People die all the time and reinvent themselves. One way or another, dead or alive, it all comes down to yearning. There is yearning all over the universe. The universe is a universe of yearning. Not even the human imagination satisfies the endless emptiness of the soul.
So what is the difference between life and death?
Death is larger and larger loops. The dull sleep of idealistic brains. Life is work and frenzy. Insults and smalltalk. Threats and dollars. Thick men in dark hats. Wall Street cashmere hiding iron muscles of money.
That doesn’t sound so good.
Well, money was always a problem. Even in death I still think about it. And remember. This is a me imagined by you. You are in the realm of money. Hairy buttocks and brainwaves. Abandoned buildings gutted and blackwindowed from old fires. And you’re lifting lines of poetry from my big red book of Collected Poetry. Aren’t you?
Yes, it’s true. You got me. But tell me. What are ghosts?
Ghosts are animal trumpets below the abdomen. Visceral sensations of acute loss. Leaving us flying like birds into time. In and out of time. When you’re dead, time ceases to exist. I miss the tick of clocks. The elegant joke of Swiss cuckoos poking out to tell you it’s noon. Or three o’clock. Or the garbage truck at four backing up the driveway to take away crumpled plastic bottles and newspapers and pizza boxes with the cheese still stuck to the bottom. Ghosts are everywhere. They are the soot that falls on city vegetables. They are your own forlorn soul making itself at home in the void. They are your eyes weeping tears. Kennedy throat brain bloodied in Texas. That’s when the coup that took over America began you know.
Yes, I pretty much figured that was the case. Hey, guess what. Remember your pal Dylan? He’s coming up on 70. Can you believe that? Dylan as an old man? It’s a bit jarring to see that old jowly wrinkled face under a broadbrimmed cowboy hat. And those Texas swing jackets he’s taken to wearing are weird too. He performed in China last Tuesday. Just before Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei was arrested.
That must have been awkward. Did Dylan say anything?
Not that I know of.
Mmmm. Well, Dylan was always hard to figure.
I remember a movie in which you showed Dylan the grave of Jack Kerouac and said that’s where we all end up. Got any advice for me?
Sit down crosslegged and relax. Storm heaven with your mental guns. Don’t abuse the planet. Enjoy life. Prepare for death. Pogo to garage bands. Make haiku of birds.
1 day ago