Allen’s Parinirvana today – 25 years since his passing – We salute his memory and this special occasion with mesmering footage from the 1998 Planet News Memorial that took place at the Cathedral of St John The Divine, New York City
Bob Rosenthal and Ed Sanders are m-c’s. Bob begins with an AH! (mantric breath) before presenting eulogies and performances by Stephan Said, David Dellinger, Eugene Brooks (reading by Bob), Andy Clausen, Danny Schechter, Natalie Merchant (and band), Anne Waldman, Eliot Katz, Steven Taylor and Eileen Myles
and on the second tape – David Greenberg, the unforgettable Pedro Pietri, Jayne Cortez, Philip Glass, Patti Smith (and her band), Ed Sanders and The Fugs – The celebration continues, and concludes with a short video “Father Death” (“taken in his apartment after he died, of things in his apartment before anything was touched”)
We begin with an evocation, we’ll end with a visitation
from poet and Buddhist practitioner, Jacqueline Gens:
A few days later I saw him
seated at a crossroad between
two dusty roads going toward a vista
of waterways reminiscent of cranberry bogs
or saltwater marshes I once visited—maybe the river Styx.
The crossroads bore a wooden hand nailed sign
unelaborate as though in antiquity
another land or simply barren–
a geography of immensity without habitation.
There you poured over books and papers
focused intently as you sat on an old wooden stool,
the one air of familiarity dressed in your Calvin Klein
Goodwill navy blazer– my favorite,
pens poking out from the pocket, white shirt and tie.
I stood quietly to your side waiting to assist you
yet not disturb your concentration.
Finished, you turned to me and handed me a sheaf of papers
“These are for you—to translate”
Then, you got up and walked slowly down the left crossroad
I followed behind you, but then you turned to face me
And said “This is as far as you are allowed to go—
I don’t have the water rights
for your passage”—a hitch of sadness in your voice
Bell’s Palsy making your one eye bigger
your face, a bit cock-eyed.
But looking straight on as we had finished our business
one more time in clarity and respect
our natural elegance together hung there for a second
staring at one another wordlessly
Then, I watched you go and knew that you were finally gone
on some other journey to some other place
April, 1997. revised, March 29, 2022
Jacqueline Gens studied Tibetan Buddhism when she moved to Boulder, Colorado, to attend Naropa Institute. She was employed in a variety of administrative positions there before moving on to New York City, from 1988-1994, to work with Allen on administrative work at his home and in his office. She was co-founder and co-directer of the New England College MFA Program in Poetry from 2001 until her retirement in 2012. She is currently creating course platforms for the study of poetry in relationship to diverse Wisdom traditions at Language in the Sky.
Prayers and praise.