ted berrigan: “that pretty girl…to burn, & to burn more fiercely than even she could imagine”



Yea, though I walk

through the Valley of

the Shadow of Death, I

Shall fear no evil—

for I am a lot more

insane than

This Valley.



A Certain Slant Of Sunlight


In Africa the wine is cheap, and it is

on St. Mark’s Place too, beneath a white moon.

I’ll go there tomorrow, dark bulk hooded

against what is hurled down at me in my no hat

which is weather : the tall pretty girl in the print dress

under the fur collar of her cloth coat will be standing

by the wire fence where the wild flowers grow not too tall

her eyes will be deep brown and her hair styled 1941 American

will be too; but

I’ll be shattered by then

But now I’m not and can also picture white clouds

impossibly high in blue sky over small boy heartbroken

to be dressed in black knickers, black coat, white shirt,

buster-brown collar, flowing black bow-tie

her hand lightly fallen on his shoulder, faded sunlight falling

across the picture, mother & son, 33 & 7, First Communion Day, 1941—

I’ll go out for a drink with one of my demons tonight

they are dry in Colorado 1980 spring snow.



Buddha On The Bounty

"A little loving can solve a lot of things"
She locates two spatial equivalents in
The same time continuum. "You are lovely. I
am lame." "Now it’s me." "If a man is in
Solitude, the world is translated, my world
& wings sprout from the shoulders of ‘The Slave’ "
Yeah. I like the fiery butterfly puzzles
Of this pilgrimage toward clarities
Of great mud intelligence & feeling.
"The Elephant is the wisest of all animals
The only one who remembers his former lives
& he remains motionless for long periods of time
Meditating thereon." I’m not here, now,
            & it is good, absence.



Last Poem


Before I began life this time
I took a crash course in Counter-Intelligence
Once here I signed in, see name below, and added
Some words remembered from an earlier time,
"The intention of the organism is to survive."
My earliest, & happiest, memories pre-date WWII,
They involve a glass slipper & a helpless blue rose
In a slender blue single-rose vase: Mine
Was a story without a plot. The days of my years
Folded into one another, an easy fit, in which
I made money & spent it, learned to dance & forgot, gave
Blood, regained my poise, & verbalized myself a place
In Society. 101 St. Mark’s Place, apt. 12A, NYC 10009
New York. Friends appeared & disappeared, or wigged out,
Or stayed; inspiring strangers sadly died; everyone
I ever knew aged tremendously, except me. I remained
Somewhere between 2 and 9 years old. But frequent
Reification of my own experiences delivered to me
Several new vocabularies, I loved that almost most of all.
I once had the honor of meeting Beckett & I dug him.
The pills kept me going, until now. Love, & work,
Were my great happinesses, that other people die the source
Of my great, terrible, & inarticulate one grief. In my time
I grew tall & huge of frame, obviously possessed
Of a disconnected head, I had a perfect heart. The end
Came quickly & completely without pain, one quiet night as I
Was sitting, writing, next to you in bed, words chosen randomly
From a tired brain, it, like them, suitable, & fitting.
Let none regret my end who called me friend.



Little Travelogue


When see(k)ing sky you’re left with sky, then
"we kill ourselves to propagate our kinde"—We sleep
and these guys come in with hypodermics & spray us
          with ice water—

Monkeys press switches and little babies freak out & cry,
"pick me!" "pick me!"—Oh, Daddy, I was a flower, &
When I listened to George Shearing, they told me, I broke

the World’s record for rapid eye movement! Then, I don’t know
What I did then, but it was green, & then red, & then
          blue & yellow!



Red Shift


Here I am at 8:08 p.m. indefinable ample rhythmic frame
The air is biting, February, fierce arabesques
        on the way to tree in winter streetscape
I drink some American poison liquid air which bubbles
        and smoke to have character and to lean
In. The streets look for Allen, Frank, or me, Allen
        is a movie, Frank disappearing in the air, it’s
Heavy with that lightness, heavy on me, I heave
        through it, them, as
The Calvados is being sipped on Long Island now
        twenty years almost ago, and the man smoking
Is looking at the smilingly attentive woman, & telling.
Who would have thought that I’d be here, nothing
        wrapped up, nothing buried, everything
Love, children, hundreds of them, money, marriage—
        ethics, a politics of grace,
Up in the air, swirling, burning even or still, now
        more than ever before?
Not that practically a boy, serious in corduroy car coat
        eyes penetrating the winter twilight at 6th
& Bowery in 1961. Not that pretty girl, nineteen, who was
        going to have to go, careening into middle-age so,
To burn, & to burn more fiercely than even she could imagine
        so to go. Not that painter who from very first meeting
I would never & never will leave alone until we both vanish
        into the thin air we signed up for & so demanded
To breathe & who will never leave me, not for sex, nor politics
        nor even for stupid permanent estrangement which is
Only our human lot & means nothing. No, not him.
There’s a song, "California Dreaming", but no, I won’t do that
I am 43. When will I die? I will never die, I will live
To be 110, & I will never go away, & you will never escape from me
        who am always & only a ghost, despite this frame, Spirit
Who lives only to nag.
I’m only pronouns, & I am all of them, & I didn’t ask for this
        You did
I came into your life to change it & it did so & now nothing
        will ever change
That, and that’s that.
Alone & crowded, unhappy fate, nevertheless
        I slip softly into the air
The world’s furious song flows through my costume.



Remembered Poem


  It is important to keep old hat
in secret closet.



Sunday Morning



It’s A Fact


          If you stroke a cat about 1,000,000 times, you will
          generate enough electricity to light up the largest
          American Flag in the world for about one minute.




                    In former times people who committed adultery
                              got stoned;
                    Nowadays it’s just a crashing bringdown.



A Mongolian Sausage

          By definition: a long stocking: you fill it full of shit,
          and then you punch holes in it. Then you swing it over
          your head in circles until everybody goes home.



10 Things I Do Every Day


wake up
smoke pot
see the cat
love my wife
think of Frank

eat lunch
make noises
sing songs
go out
dig the streets

go home for dinner
read the Post
make pee-pee
two kids

read books
see my friends
get pissed-off
have a Pepsi



Wrong Train


Here comes the man! He’s talking a lot
I’m sitting, by myself. I’ve got
A ticket to ride. Outside is, "Out to lunch."
It’s no great pleasure, being on the make.
Well, who is? Or, well everyone is, tho.
"I’m laying there, & some guy comes up
& hits me with a billyclub!" A fat guy
Says. Shut up. & like that we cross a river
Into the Afterlife. Everything goes on as before
But never does any single experience make total use
Of you. You are always slightly ahead,
Slightly behind. It merely baffles, it doesn’t hurt.
It’s total pain & it breaks your heart
In a less than interesting way. Every day
Is payday. Never enough pay. A deja-vu
That lasts. It’s no big thing, anyway.
A lukewarm greasy hamburger, ice-cold pepsi
that hurts your teeth.


Don’t Forget Anger


Never hits us the day it’s lovely gathers us up in its name who pierced the shower 40 below the heel hidden shoes the ruined exercises the shine is all night again pleasure falling off parting the bed during the biting lust. Today we speak above the noise a spyglass littered with soot scenes from the ruins boys and partners before the big bite imitating that’s the penalty denial of gain through pranks the essence of belief. I knew the world of incantations under the sheets of the neck line of the teeth behavior cloth the earth that we know we will go on rubbing. There’s this Lady she has been my friend for some years now and later glee pills a light bulb a tongue saying the damage is done by hands over a period running overtime puzzles rising for some years journeys arms legs learning what is yours love change love remember across passion truly going into the earth No that was another earth how many goats were there on it her and her father movies glazed motives: Put the books back the brown hair simple ways premonitions chance bugles calling the powder flat white in yellow air throbbing then going on off a light lady dark lady cool nights meaning years of writing this news shunted aside before a girl whom you all know and recognize flashing on then off hear lifelong release in these intimate gaits.





Lady, she has been my friend for some years sketches, I haven’t explained Actually of horror subject to neither of our laws intimate incantations under the sheets tried nothing a quivery sort of fellow hurts my forehead this shower No thought for your life and casual abductors in books I cant stand if it die. The life range examination as I am a cowboy it is unless it isnt and you imaginary scenes soot years of writing this most of it movies I cant stand a particular buttressing of the body. Olive green color. Let’s take a sentimental journey. Dont forget to bleed. I have. Many days writing the same work into itself the appearance of a role but How dark for some forty years Irish brogue rolls toward sister mother shunted aside that’s the penalty of time or of space Certainly not a place. So we come together in this bed. Later glee (lie) now pills (no lie) The End. Bugles call no snow to the powderhouse the library abductors, woe unto you also ye lawyers! No. Not reminded, I go (revealed) (No Smoking In This Room)


—from Ted Berrigan, The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan (edited by Alice Notley, with Anselm Berrigan and  Edmund Berrigan). University of California Press, 2005.