“Television Was A Baby Crawling Toward That Death Chamber”, Allen’s scorching jeremiad of a poem that featured as the opening poem of his 1967 Cape Goliard/Grossman collection TV Baby Poems is our focus today, and a live reading of it that took place, March 15, 1968, at California State University, Sacramento.
“…Here I am – Old Betty Boop whoopsing behind the skull microphone wondering what Idiot soap opera horror show we broadcast by Mistake/hypnotizing millions of regional-eyed detectives to commit mass murder on the Invisible/which is only a bunch of women weeping hidden behind newspapers in the Andes, conspired against by Standard Oil..”
“..Halloooo I am coming end of my Presidency – Everybody’s fired – I am a hopeless whitehaired congressman – I lost my last election – landslide for Readers Digest – not even humans – /Nobody home in town – just offices with many jangling telephones and automatic switchboards keep the message – typewriters return your calls oft. Yakkata yak & tinsel ring – THE POLICE ARE AT THE DOOR – ….”
This poem (all too prescient, all too pertinent) was written, first draft, New York, February, 1961
The reading, following a short introduction is bookended with the performance of two mantras -(“Om Raksha Raksha Hum Hum Hum Phat Svaha” – “a Tibetan mantra to consecrate or sanctify a site for a ceremony” – and the “Hare Krishna” mantra”)
(“Krishna is the preserver, or, an aspect of the… in Hindu trinity, Vishnu is the preserver, and he comes back every time the world is threatened by destruction through the build-up of human evil that finally causes flood, cosmic fire, mace, atom -bomb – the reason I keep thinking about mace, somebody here told me in town that the cops in Berkeley are using mace sort of on anybody they arrest these days, out on the streets, you know, they’re not waiting to use it anymore, they’re just using it as part of their normal equipment nowadays. So therefore to the preserver through the great clouds of smog, mace, and slippery foam on the streets that we’ll all be walking on sooner or later.. Krishna is from the text of the Bhagavad Gita. Rama from the text of the epic Ramayana, all different incarnations of Vishnu, also known as Hari, stealer of the senses and bringer of delight”)
“Either we blow ourselves up now and die, like the old tribe of man, arguing among neutrons, spit on India, fuck Tibet, stick up America, clobber Moscow, die Baltic, have your tuberculosis in Arabia, wink not in Enkidu’s reverie – /it’s a long Train of Associations stopped for gas in the desert and looking for a drink of old-time h2o…”
“..Telephones connect the voids island blissy darkness scattered in many mankind- “