This little excerpt, this classic excerpt, from Bob Dylan’s lost epic, “Renaldo and Clara”
(courtesy of the essential “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg“, Jerry Aronson‘s deluxe two-disc DVD set).
Bob and Allen, in 1975, in Lowell cemetery (Edson cemetery), on the occasion of a stop-over on the legendary Rolling Thunder tour, famously standing together, beside Jack Kerouac’s grave, musing, (Allen’s certainly taking the lead), in memento mori.
Allen (gesticulating towards the grave):”So that’s what’s gonna happen to you?”
Dylan: “No, I want to be in an unmarked grave.”
The clip begins with Allen reading from Kerouac (from the conclusion of Mexico City Blues‘ “54th Chorus”)
“Once I went to a movie/ At midnight, 1940, Mice/ and Men, the name of it, the Red Block Boxcars/ Rolling by (on the Screen). Yessir/ life/ finally/ gets/ tired/of/ living -. On both occasions I had wild/ Face looking into lights/Of Streets where phantoms/ Hastened out of sight/ Into Memorial Cello Time”
AG: You know what’s written on (John) Keats’ grave?
AG: “Here lies one whose fame was writ in water”..writ in water, yeah, all his fame was writ in water [Editorial note – Allen, actually, mis-quotes here – his “name” was writ in water, not his “fame“]
[Photograph – Rebecca Price Butler]
BD: Where’s he buried?
AG: He’s buried in a beautiful cemetery in Rome, the American cemetery [Cimitero Accattolico (the A-Catholic Cemetery – the Non-Catholic Cemetery)] – in a Pyramid, next to (Percy Bysshe) Shelley [Editorial note – well, not in the Pyramid of Cestius, and not, strictly, next to Shelley, but, yes, in the cemetery, close by]
BD: We have to read this?
[The two read, in collaboration, from Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues – “. Allen begins, reading, at random, from towards the end of the “230th Chorus”]
AG: “..frozen /and sliced microscopically/ In Morgues of the North” – [Editorial note – The complete line is “Pieces of the Buddha-material frozen/and sliced microscopically/ In Morgues of the North”]
BD: “Quivering meat of elephants..”
AG: “of kindness” – [Editorial note – The complete line is “The quivering meat of the elephants of kindness/being torn apart like vultures”]
What I liked actually was (the next line) “Conceptions of knee-caps” – [Editorial note -“Conceptions of delicate kneecaps”] (and the concluding line) “Like kissing my kitten in the belly/The softness of our reward”. It’s like a Shakespeare sonnet that ends funny.
He quit football because he wanted to study Shakespeare.
So Sebastian [Sampas] went off to war and got killed in Anzio beachhead in World War II, and just before he died, he sent Jack a litle phonograph record with Shelley’s Adonais, saying “I weep for Adonais – he is dead!”
[Sebastian “Sammy” Sampas (1922-1944)]
BD: Ever been to (Anton) Chekov’s grave?
AG: No, but I’ve been to (Vladimir) Mayakovsky‘s in Moscow
What graves have you seen?
BD: Victor Hugo’s grave
[Photograph – David Conway]
AG: I used to haunt graveyards in Paris. I went to see (Guilllaume) Apollinaire’s grave.
[photo: Scott Michaels]