John Giorno (1936-2019)

John Giorno, December 20, 1987, NYC – photo: Allen Ginsberg

More sad news to impart – John Giorno died last night. We just heard the news. More to follow

Here’s another typically luminous poem of John’s

I am standing on the corner of Stanton and Chrystie,
waiting for the traffic light to change.
A man is sitting on the steps of a building
holding his young son on his lap.
He is eating fried chicken
from Chico’s take-out on Houston.
He chews on the wings
and feeds bits of the breast to his son.The man finishes eating
and puts the leftover chicken and bones,
french fries and soda can in a paper bag
and leaves it on the sidewalk.
A brown dog from a neighboring building,
snoops around
gets his nose in the bag,
chews on the bones
and makes a mess.
The man hits the dog with a newspaper,
and it yelps and runs away.
A black cat sitting in a window,
watches wide-eyed,
staring down at the dog,
chicken bones and gristle.I see their past and present lives.
The man eats the chicken
and the chicken
was his mother,
who had died of cancer two years ago;the dog chewing on the bones
was his father,
who had died of a heart attack five years ago;
and the cat in the window
was his grandmother;
and his young son, whom he holds so tenderly,
was the man who killed him in his previous life.
His wife comes home with groceries
and takes the boy into the building.
She had been his lover in many past lives,
and was his mother for the first time in this one.
The world just makes me laugh.Fill what is empty,
empty what is full,
as body,
as breath.Welcoming the flowers:
baptized in butter,
lilacs lasciviously licking the air,
necklaces of wisteria
bowing to magnolia mamas,
the cherry blossoms are razor blades,
the snow dahlias are sharp as cat piss,
the lilies of the valley are
lilies of fur,
lilies of feather,
lilies of fin,
lilies of skin,
the almost Miss America rose,
the orchids are fat licking tongues,
and they all smell so good
and I am sucked into their meaty earthy goodness.You make
my heart
feel warm,
I lay my head on your chest
and feel free,
what is empty,
what is full,
filling what is
empty, emptying
what is full,
filling what is empty, emptying what is full,
filling what is empty, emptying what is full,
the gods
we know
we are,
the gods
we knew
we were.I smell you
with my eyes,
see you
with my ears,
feel you
with my mouth,
taste you
with my nose,
hear you
with my tongue,
I want you to sit
in my heart,
and smile.Words come from sound,
sound comes from wisdom,
wisdom comes from emptiness,
deep relaxation
of great perfection.Welcoming the flowers:
armfuls of honey suckle
and columbine,
red-tipped knives of Indian paint brush,
the fields of daisies are the people
who betrayed me
and the lupine were self-serving and unkind,
the voluminous and voluptuous bougainvillea
are licking fire loving what it cannot burn,
the big bunch of one thousand red roses
are all the people I made love to,
hit my nose with stem of a rose,
the poppies have pockets packed with narcotic treats,
the chrysanthemums are a garland of skulls.I go to death
with the same comfort and bliss
as when I lay my head
on my lover’s chest.Welcoming the flowers:
the third bouquet is a crown of blue bells,
a carillon of foxglove,
a sunflower snuggles its head on my lap
and gazes up at the sky,
may all the tiny black insects
crawling on the peony petals
be my sons and daughters in future lives,
great balls of light
radiating white, red, blue
concentric dazzle,
yellow, green
great exaltation,
the world just makes me laugh.May sound and light
not rise up and appear as enemies,
may I know all sound as my own sound,
may I know all light as my own light,
may I spontaneously know all phenomena as myself,
may I realize original nature,
not fabricated by mind,
naked awareness.

Image from John Giorno show – Do The Undone – currently up at the Sperone Westwater Gallery in New York

Auspicious journeys in the bardo, John

(and our thoughts right now are very much with Ugo Rondinone, John’s husband)

We too ♥ John Giorno!


  1. A sad and happy cloudy, yet, sunny day has arrived. May John Giorno be enlightened in the Bardo and may all the Lamas lead him through the maze.

  2. John was a huge influence on my poetry when I was a younger man, a hero for being an activist and his words live forever in my heart. Be at peace

  3. Our greatest times together were in silence.
    To know John was to leave discursive thought and habitual mind…glimpses of emptiness awareness.

  4. John was authentic, cReative , had humor, compassionate and inspired us to think out of the box. And to me he was also my dharma-brother. He contributed to two of my films: ‘War Against War’ (1980) and ‘Three New York poets’. Sending you light on your Bardo passage John. Deep gratitude for what you gave us. I will miss your inquiry into the unknown. Babeth

  5. Never. Dreamers dream while others fret to see what they do not want to see.
    Never knowing; stumbling blind through nonexistent corridors of failing light.
    Never forgotten; allowing us to be a part of his party, with love forever in the words we know are his and ours together. Rest easy John; and thank you X:-)

  6. Halfway through JG’s memoir and slightly shocked at how disrespectful he is to Allen, disparaging his spiritual work (labelling him a Hindu, completely disregarding his Buddhist work) and never missing a chance to put him down for trivial reasons, (calling him “fat” and “embarrasing”, putting down his reading voice, cheap physical insults, etc.). I get that this went both ways to some degree and that one should expect this cattiness amongst poets at times but, wow…. the ego.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.