Jacob Rabinowitz: Elegy for Allen Ginsberg

Jacob Rabinowitz  wrote this elegy not long after Allen passed away & he hadn’t had a chance to include it in a book for quite some time after. He’s included it in his collection of poems Peep out of Me available through Invisible Books.

A note of preface from Jacob:

“I knew Allen Ginsberg for about 25 years, and learned from him at every phase of my life. As a foolish teenager, as a mature man who fully appreciated his artistic achievements, and finally, as a middle-aged man, I saw his nobililty in his age and decline. I was never an disciple or a meaningful part of his projects. I maintained an independence which spared me even reflected limelight, and made it possible to be in some ways more fully a friend. I enjoyed his company for the excellence of his company, and exchanged ideas with him freely to the end, as though I were his equal — though this was due more to his generous humanity than to my merits. The kindness he showed to me he showed to all.

I have no interest in relating here what small claims I may have to anyone’s attention, except this one: Allen considered me his friend. There can be no higher or more appropriate validation for offering my little verse tribute than this.

Jacob Rabinowitz

Elegy for Allen Ginsberg
(April, 1997)

Now the Twentieth Century’s his – none begrudge him the final three years.
All that Williams or Pound ever planned – he achieved and proved right and made clear,

bringing poetry back from the dead, made anew from the bare primal stuff,
thought’s materia prima, where Being is one with perception, the rough


elegance of spontaneous Mind, rythym’d idioms out of plain talk,
as unfussily, artlessly art as the shape of a Zen-garden rock.
This is known. I am only a witness – no judge. I recall and repeat
certain incident details of time: things he said, clothes he proudly bought cheap
from the Salvation Army; the items he clipped from the paper and saved
so’s to show how the government lied; Montblanc pen, and the full-scribbled page;


conversation sliced painfully thin by the telephone’s fame-powered ring;
and his incense and tankas and bells. All the mortal montage of his things,


a kaleidoscope twenty years wide telescopes to a moment, a lens,
to the tears that are hot in my eyes — now I see, whom I’ll not see again.
I was seventeen then, when we met, and that’s twenty years gone, and too late,
and I made him too little return on the much that he gave and forgave.


It’s no fine thing to say how I envied his fame, and a source of small pride
the cruel youth of some judgements I made – more my shame if at times I was right.


It’s a hard sight, the look of myself in the light of the life of the man,
one so good that beside him I look, as without him I feel, like the damned.


At the funeral, press was in wait, cam’ras raised as the mourners arrived;
I was angry to see them at all, and enraged because not many times


that poor number. All’s loss, nothing’s right, there’s no way you can win against death.
For the service the most had a prayer, and a few of us, scotch, on our breath.
There we stood in our socks and our grief, with the hallway floor covered with shoes,
while the Buddhist priest groaned out his chant in the ears of a great many Jews.

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