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Allen Ginsberg Forgives Ezra Pound on Behalf of the Jews

Rodger Kamenetz

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Forgives Ezra Pound
on Behalf of the Jews

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This is something I was too shy to ask you in that interview:
Was it arrogance, your public relations brilliance,
some deep desire to heal the split in American poesy...
a rascally fuck you to all the rabbis you never loved,
the synagogue hens, the shalt nots you burst one by one —
or was it that his Cantos gave you permission

to empty your battered mind into the walls of verse
that you felt a kinship and personal debt?

You called his work a graph of the American mind
so that whatever was in that mind — Dolmetch's lute,
a fine eye gathering fire, Duccio, Rothschild and Jewsevelt,
all poured into a cracked vase bleeding syrup and lye.
Obscurities like dust blowing across the page,
raw jokes, fits of sweetness, Chinese characters, the Doge of Venice,
dull history: Adams and Jefferson, ledgers and correspondence,
Yeats in his tower, "a peacock in the proide of his oye"—
Irish black Yiddish vaudeville routines,
exact details with small significance:
Vasco da Gama wore striped pants—
and then, rising out of the mutter and ripple of mind:

an upturned nipple, bronze in the light
— the light Pound saw and made us see —
so that you Allen Ginsberg, the biggest Jew in po bizness
would hunt him down in Venice to plant a kiss on his cheek.

He was by then a broken man besieged.
"We get hippies," his Olga said.
One pitched a tent in the garden, she ran him off with a hose.
Journalists rang the bell, "announcing they will tell both sides.
What do they think we are? Ezra Pound is no pancake."

You came in the summer of '67,
chanting Hare Krishna outside his window
back from India, Morocco, Japan,
another stop on your wisdom journey:
Martin Buber, Jerusalem's sage,
and your first Tibetan teacher, Dudjom Rinpoche.
Eyeing your hippie entourage, Olga asked,
"Would you like to wash your hands?"
But you said, "Do you people need any money?"
Olga thought you "a big lovable dog
who gives you a great slovenly kiss
and gets lots of hair all over you."

Dog Jew, hairy Jew — Allen, who sent you?
Did you stop first in Rome for Primo Levi's blessing
whose hands trembled in Birkenau?
Did you sing Hare Krishna outside Paul Celan's window
before he jumped in the Seine
or say Kaddish for his mother, murdered by men
who also had theories about economics and race?
Was there a depth of kindness in your public relations?
Were you able to hold not only forgiveness
but the knowledge of all that needed forgiving?

You met again that fall, at the Cici restaurant in Venice.
You in dark glasses, rich Adamic beard,
Pound's thin, aged face, wisps of white hair.
Across the table you asked to say
"more than a few words."

You did most of the talking, Pound in his silence and regret.
Then pausing in the yakety yak of your eternal sentences,
you asked, "Am I making sense?"
To which Pound said, Yes, and then mumbled
"but my poems don't make sense."

"Any good I've done has been spoiled by bad intentions."

And then very slowly, with emphasis.
"But the worst mistake I made was
that stupid suburban prejudice
of anti-Semitism."

So Pound half-confessed to a bearded Jew,
for a Jew he saw in you, not a Buddhist
with the Jewish fire and sweetness and the eagerness to explain.

From the time you heard Blake's voice in Harlem
you butt your head against the Hebrew God
until Buddha lifted your prophet's mantle—
when Rinpoche told you,
"If you see something horrible, don't cling to it.
If you see something beautiful, don't cling to it."

You told Pound, "I come to you as a Buddhist Jew."
Fair enough. He shouldn't think himself
forgiven by the other kind.

Or was it Martin Buber who sent you
when he told you to forget
the voices of angels and demons.
"Our business is with the human."

Pound learned that in the iron cage,
you in the asylum.
Celan knew it, but couldn't live with it.
Primo Levi knew it, but let go of the rope.

Whoever sent you, Jew or Tibetan,
when Ezra confessed you forgave.
"Do you accept my blessing?" you said.
Pound, "I do."

But a year later, outside a McDonald's,
(strange American life)
Pound shuffled off into the woods.
Laughlin found him muttering,
"Why don't you just discard me here?"

Now in the suburbs of Elysium,
Ezra Pound, wander as you will
past Big Mac wrappers and a few extra fries.
Go into the dark woods where Dante roamed
and hear once again the clear, sweet voices
that drove you to make a beautiful thing.

Or crack your pot against the stone of time.

And you Allen Ginsberg, in the land of 10,000 Buddhas,
or in the simple heaven of your mothers and fathers,
or raw bone under the earth,
tell me, which is it now —

"If you see something beautiful, don't cling to it"?
Or is our business with the human after all?

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