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Lawrence Ferlinghetti Not Dying


~ for Charles Lyons, who already knows

Lawrence Ferlinghetti isn’t dying

He should know, he wrote the poem

“Allen Ginsberg Dying”

And ever since writing that poem

Allen remains larger than life

If you are keeping a candle burning

Rubbernecking on social media,

Looking for updates

Scanning for chatter

Here’s an update:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti isn’t dying

He sold his red truck

But he’s not dying

Just wanted to wean himself at last

From the clutch destroying teats

Of San Francisco’s autogeddon

You don’t want me to drive anymore

My family? My bookshop staff?

At 99, the red Ford Ranger

Still in his name &

Doing business as City Lights,

Getting nervous my people?

Afraid I’ll mow down

Half a class

Out on a Chinatown fieldtrip?

Fair enough

I can read a room


His sight is failing

But his vision

Has never been better

Tells son Lorenzo it is time

There’s no room in the Bancroft Library

At Berkeley

For a manual, stick shift

No power steering

No radio


No fucking around

Red pickup truck

Pull it out of the garage

Slap a for sale sign on it

In front of the apartment

A pound of flesh?

Here’s 2,960 lbs.

And a quarter century of history

A truck to move books and canvasses

Back and forth, up and down

3rd Street to Evans Avenue

North Beach to the Shipyard

In Bayview Hunters Point

Double parked on Columbus

Trips to Big Sur and that town

North of Muir Woods

(Instagram hasn’t ruined these places,

Over-population has)

Nancy Peters described him

Driving it

“He drove it like a boat”

When asked if the radio was removed

Too many break-ins?

The answer is more poetic

When you are a poet, painter, publisher

Buying a pick-up truck at 75

You no longer listen to others

You listen to your own muse

No bells & whistles here

A pickup truck with no radio,

Is that even legal?

Don’t go looking to see

If the radio station was last on KPFA

There is no radio there

Just a large black void

Heed it well, Ye Pantheists!

The “Watch for Cyclists” sticker

On the side mirror

Hunters Point Shipyard

On the front windshield

Love is Love on the bumper

Key to the City?

He received a tree to the City

But he isn’t dying

He doesn’t need monuments

In steel or concrete

An olive tree

Is a thing of beauty

Each one a living monument

Quoted in the Guardian

About the tree – go read it

His son also an arborist

Appreciated that too

Snuck him out of his apartment

On a quiet weekday

To visit the tree together

Summer, 2019

Across from Via Ferlinghetti

Sitting on the bench together

In front of Gelato Classico

A father and son

San Francisco’s first family

A visit to the tree

Without the cameras rolling

At 100

The Conspiracy of Beards

Serenaded him at his window

Singing Leonard Cohen and happy birthday

And Oh! Our Captain walked

Without cane to the window

In all white

Waving back with Red scarf –

A gift from Mauro

A nod to Jack Hirschman

With Papal undertones –



Such a clever trickster

But Lawrence Ferlinghetti isn’t dying

Did you notice the flowers on the table

In that video shot from inside

Elaine Katzenberger in the scene too

A bouquet of olive branches

Given to the family two days before

By employees of Public Works

The Conspiracy of Beards

Later singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

In Kerouac alley that joins

City Lights with Vesuvio’s

Poets posting poems on walls

Emailed from all over the world

Kerouac, high, high above this scene

Jots down in his pocket notebook

That across Columbus,

The tip of the cross is Saroyan Place,

With a bar, Specs, at the top

But goofball drunk up there

Asks if we want any red wine

And spills while making the grand gesture

Shows up on our red faces as tears

Several hundred of us got to experience

The greatest moment of Ferlinghetti at 100

Listening to grown-ass adults of all ages

All sexes, certain or fluid

Sing with tears

Sing us all to tears

Men in black hats singing “Hallelujah”

Soon it will be like Woodstock

Everyone was there,

It felt that way

Milling about North Beach

Replacing car chase scenes

With song and poetry

On the streets of San Francisco


The month of March, 2019 was magical

But Lawrence Ferlinghetti isn’t dying

He’s published a book, ‘Little Boy’

Not a final will and testament

Not his final book, just his latest book

As Mauro respectfully noted

At the poetry tribute in the main library

Emceed by Neeli Cherkovski

The official host of the event,

A great poet, and local too

Hopefully one of our next

Poet laureates of our peaks

Bernal Heights, one of our famed hills

Has a worthy bard

Just because LF is the first writer

To pull-off his latest novel

With a hundred-year arc to it

Doesn’t mean he’s dying

‘Little Boy’ is part retrospective:

He has several generations to speak to

Got battered on the beaches of Normandy

But quietly arrived

To the shores of San Francisco

By ferry from Oakland

After crossing the country by train

Bag over his shoulder, headed up Market

Like so many of us that arrive here

With private hopes

That we’ll make our mark too

Hoping to create the new --

City Lights Bookstore & Publishers

Waiting for its hero to plant his seed

At 261 Columbus Avenue

Now the most important building

in San Francisco,

In America

Landmark no. 228

Lawrence Ferlinghetti isn’t dying

‘Little Boy’ was no swan song

He wrote as bold as he ever has

He didn’t put anyone down

He just called it for what it is

Over-population a problem

Said what we’re all thinking

Something for everybody in there

Painters, poets and publishers

Small business owners


Socialist leanings for all countries

If it could be run without corruption

Wars fought over resources

Time for a global inventory

Though he didn’t use those words

Placing us all under arrest

In Giada’s documentary

‘Lawrence: A Lifetime in Poetry’

For our complacency

Our failure to protect the environment

And if you want to know what

That badge says on his Western hat

Join next year’s annual literary walkabout

And if you pass the test,

Last the full day,

The tongues will loosen

It was not the worst sin

To hop out of an Uber or Lyft

In front of City Lights on March 24, 2019

But for those setting out

On foot at sunrise

Across from 706 Wisconsin at 7:06 A.M.

From the old family home

Walking from Potrero Hill to North Beach

Getting to see where Rexroth once lived

Just two doors down

The cinder block housing at 5 Turner Terrace

Where Peter and Lafcadio Orlosky once lived

(Where Ginsberg and Kerouac once loved,

With others)

Still stands for now


See it on IG @allenginsbergofficial

And even a stop in front of

Brautigan’s apartment on Mississippi

Still an hour away from

The new mighty Moloch of the West

The Salesforce Tower

Ginsberg would love that thing

Phallus? Land ho!

Gleaming and glistening,

And unlike the sinking, tilting, wilting

Millennium tower

(even the sidewalk and street trees

are slanted and jacked up)

Where the Millennium only

Fumbled with its tip in the Bay mud

Salesforce puffed the cigarette

After a pounding performance


“Bedrock baby”

But for those who had already walked

And talked and recited poetry for 5 miles

Or just walked along in silence

It was worth a chuckle or two

To see folks exit their Uber at City Lights

But at least they knew to come

On March 24, 2019

What about the rest of the City?

Where were they?

Where are they?

What City do they occupy

In their mind?

We won’t call it

A literary ‘pilgrimage’ anymore

What a loaded word that is

And words matter

Annual Literary “Walkabout” it now is

(his own word, in Giada’s book)

‘Writing Across the Landscape’

With Matthew Gleeson too,

Referencing pilgrims no longer

Just a catchy phrase

We aren’t religious pilgrims looking

To start wars against non-believers

Politically correct?

Morally, and ethically correct

Lawrence Ferlinghetti Isn’t Dying

He’s rowing,

With just a little assistance

From son Lorenzo

On his machine

Next to his bed

Later that night


He pulls an old row boat

Onto the sand

Behind the South End Rowing Club

He’s going for a little row

You can see him there

Crossing slowly back and forth

Just offshore at Aquatic Park

His tan jacket visible even at night

Which hat?

Greek fisherman’s?

The Charlie Chaplin bowler?

The San Gregorio cap?

Statue of Liberty mask?

He might be restless

But he’s not dying

No, he’ll never die now

Saint Lawrence has

Written, Painted, Published, Translated

Edited, Corresponded, Conspired,

Flux’ed, Dada’d, Cacophonied, Acted,

Agitated, Instigated & Advocated

Bicycled, Walked, Talked, Spoken

Fluxare’d, Independent business’d

Streamed his consciousness

Inspired and defended

Freedom of expression


But he’s no Saint

Just ask Nadja

He’s lying low but he’s not dying

He’s riding his bike through Golden Gate Park

To the ocean

He’s watching the great Chinese dragon

Creep out of an Adler Alley cellar

He’s letting our two selves speak

All night under the cypress tree

Without making love

He’s too busy studying underwear

Women’s underwear holds things up

Men’s underwear holds things down

Underwear on clothesline a great flag of freedom

Someone has escaped his/her/they underwear

May be naked somewhere

He’s studying the hidden door palimpsest of himself

In Peru and Chile

He’s starting out

He’s too busy approaching the state of pure euphoria

He’s washing his face in Big Sur creek water

Splitting wood

While Kerouac watches with envy

Hungover still in his sleeping bag in the bushes

Swarthy man will outlive us all

Snyder & Ferlinghetti proved Kerouac right

Another visionary victory for Ti Jean

Kerouac’s brilliance still on display

Neal Cassady was a Roman candle

Gary & Lawrence the old sages

Jack saw atop a mountain,

Down in a canyon

And ‘Memory Babe’ by Gerald Nicosia

Is hands down

The best Kerouac biography

Though the Sampas family

And big publishing

Continue to blacklist it

Long live Gerald Nicosia

A poet

He reviewed Cherkovski’s

Biography of Lawrence

Way back when it came out

Can everyone

Just please try to get along?

Lawrence is reminding us

That before there was Gary Snyder

There was Kenneth Rexroth

Writing about Nature

No jab:

Compliments to both poets

He’s busy needling us about Pound

Promoting the wide-open language poets

Over the word-problem poets:

Mathematicians in sheep’s clothing

(my words, not his)

He’s at the opening reception

At the Harvey Milk Photo Center

Summer 2019, at 100 years

Stating clearly for all to hear

His thoughts about Nagasaki:

I came I saw I wept

KPFA’s Dennis Bernstein

His head was exploding

Getting his mic as near as possible

To broadcast this

Son Lorenzo stepping back

Smiling to see his father at 100

Deliver the verbal punch

When just an hour earlier

He had asked his Dad

With no pressure

What do you think Dad?

The sun is shining

You feel up to it?


An hour later

A new updated summary

In just six words

On how he became an instant Pacifist

But you arrived fashionably late

And missed the whole thing

Father & son already headed back

To the 2nd floor apartment

Dumbass doesn’t even begin to describe

The regret & self-loathing

This old Italian isn’t dying

He’s not waiting for Godot

Or for his glorious sentence on earth

To be finished

He’s too busy reading Apollinaire by the Rogue River

He’s too busy reading again

His Populist Manifestos

He won’t wait for us to open our doors

He’s seen too many minds of all generations

Destroyed by boredom at poetry readings

He’s in Dublin at Bloomsday

Following Leopold Bloom through the streets

The wandering ad man

Looking out for Stephen Deadulus

Or a glimpse of Joyce himself

Thinking about Leopold’s daughter

And his own

But fixating on her mother in bed

I’ll join her between the sheets

Enter her scream of consciousness


He’s back up in the Wisconsin Street attic

Being filmed for that USA Poetry series

In his literary crow’s nest

Looking down at the City’s low skyline

Through the glass ends of beer bottles

Like the admiral of SS City Lights

And quietly speaking to himself:

I would still give up this room again

To Lorenzo and Julie

And the house to Kirby

If I had to do it all over again

Says the poet

In his Potrero Hill garret

Renting ever since,

Like so many others:

A true San Franciscan

He’s headed back to Moscow in the wilderness

Segovia in the snow

Lamenting that John Lennon didn’t live long enough

To give us the mad eternal answer

He’s listening to Neil Young on the juke

Or returning to Paris with Pissarro

He’s rereading his poem “Endless Life”

To see if it still holds up

He’s still here in North Beach

Watching two scavengers in a truck 

Two beautiful people in a Mercedes

He’s checking the box scores

Hopeful the Giants might take

The last wildcard spot

Wondering when we’ll start reading his

‘Baseball Canto’ during the 7th inning stretch

At the ballpark

A new tradition

Or another stop

On the Literary Walkabout

Or on Opening Day

Read it aloud among the

Moms and Dads

And the gloved-hands of

Their American youth

Or at the least

Outside on the sidewalk

At the Willie Mays statue

On opening day each year


He’s hanging out with Nancy Peters

Oh to be a fly on that wall!

He’s looking forward to another

Glass of red with Jack Hirschman

Another meal cooked by Aggie

It was her idea to have

The Conspiracy of Beards

Serenade him on his birthday

Sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”

His son was there with him decades ago

When he wrote “Baseball Canto”

Together at Candlestick

“Dad scribbling away in his notebook”

Sock it to him Tito!

Dad, hey Dad,

Pass the Cracker Jacks, Dad

He’s still studying

The Changing Light at San Francisco

Painting sunlight in his studio

At the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard

He’s at Rena Branston gallery

At 1275 Minnesota

Checking out the installation

Loving the shift of the art world

From downtown Geary Street

To the Dogpatch

He’s stopping for lunch or dinner

With friends at The Ramp

His portrait already hangs there

Tucked-off by the door to the kitchen

Am I the only one

Who notices these things?

If he arrived today on that ferry

He would live in Bayview Hunters Point

Open a bookshop on 3rd St.

In the face of the slings of


Sell worn copies of ‘Soul on Ice’

Publish spoken word

Support Word Café on 3rd

Women writers of color & culture

Attend the great events

At the Bayview Opera House

Like the re-broadcast

Of Obama’s 1st inauguration

Every neighborhood

Deserves its own bookstore

One email to the populace:

Friends, donate some books to the new

Bayview Bookshop

Shelves filled in a weekend

Paperbacks 50 cents

Hardcovers a dollar

Rising tides should raise all ships

He hasn’t watched

‘The Last Blackman in San Francisco’

But he’s heard about it

Meets the other rower at night

Under the Golden Gate

Shouts out across the shadows

Pitching about among the wave sparkles

“That empty storefront at 3rd & Palou

Would make a nice paperback bookshop

Has a balcony above, too.”

Each doffing caps at the other

He’s busy realizing that ‘Pity the Nation’

Must have been written with Trump in mind

It’s trending on social right now

He’s still scanning the sky for the birds of peace

Still nowhere to be found before or after Hiroshima

He’s thinking of maybe staying inside

So that when the new night fog floats in

He does not drift out

Anchorless upon the ocean

He was still, there, very still

Just now, for a moment

Thinking about your hyacinth hair

Your naiad air, your fine nude legs in sun

In olde Europa

He’s thinking about Proust and his madeleine

About afternoons on the Grande Jatte

He made it clear in ‘Little Boy’

The state of his union

Remains strong,

Not interested in your

Little blue pill

Thank you very much

Oh, Henry Miller,

Is that a blush?

Beyond San Francisco’s white wood houses

He’s visiting a poet’s sun-bleached cottage

On the far lagoon

With its wind-torn Little Mesa

And remembers to remove the highway sign

On his way out

Always willing to do his part

In his sleep, murmuring “tourists go home”

Yet again

But not referring to literary tourists

Welcoming European families

Any and all families

Middle aged parents

Standing out front

Trying to explain to their teenagers why they

Travelled so far from Eastern Europe

To San Francisco

It’s here, right here, this man, this bookshop:

Step inside

The San Francisco Poetry & Jazz renaissance

Yes, yes

He smiles in and out of sleep

That was the joy

That was the great joy

That will remain forever

He’s thinking that

Dada would have liked a day like this

He’s looking at the pictures

Of the crowded climbers

On the spine of Mount Everest

He’s busy with his next poem

Ready to paint one more canvas

Not of the Blue Marble of December 7, 1972

But the sad conclusion

The line at the top of Mount Everest

Taken 47 years later in 2019

By climber Nirmal Purja

Fruit flies in a petri dish

Forced to the edges of the Earth

Stepping over discarded oxygen tanks

And frozen corpses

Exquisitely preserved

He’s painting nudes with a few friends

At his studio in Bldg. 101

He’s not dying, he’s having fun

He’s wondering what you think about ‘Little Boy’

He won’t wait forever

He’s not holding his breath

He’s awaiting perpetually and forever

For a new rebirth of wonder,

And for a few more sales

He’s busy painting more signs

For the bookshop

He’s still wishing the basement

At City Lights

Didn’t extend below the sidewalk

He’d love to plant

A row of street trees out front

Take a closer look

The next time you’re down there

You can hear the click of feet above

He’s thinking back to when he had

To hand Jack Kerouac the phone

Patron Saint of cats (dogs too)

In the tiny space below the basement stairs

With the news that Kerouac’s dear cat

Had died

He’s looking across the basement

Thinking back to when




Were breathing the same air

Diane di Prima

Upstairs on the main floor

Sitting at the table

Writing down the addresses

Of all the poetry magazines

He’s reading in the City Lights office

Above the store

Sending Allen another telegram

He’s on his way to Big Sur

But stopping to visit friends

In San Gregorio

At the General Store

Pausing to look to the East

Route 84

Where Ken Kesey’s old mountain house

Still sits in La Honda, across the small creek

Celebrated by Hunter S. Thompson,

Tom Wolf in the Electric Cool-Acid Test,

Mountain Girl, the Grateful Dead

The Hells Angels (founded in ‘Frisco)

Neal Cassady juggling hammers in the redwoods

Furthur parked there, waiting to see

If you are on the bus

Or off

He’s not dying

And he’s most def on the bus

But he’s not a Beat

He’s running a business

Though he says it is a Celtic symbol

He’s raising his arms to the morning sun

Found him there again

Through the trees in the canyon

At the cabin

The City Lights logo

On your baseball cap

Your canvas bag

Your bookmarks & postcards

Or bumper sticker philosophies

Kind of like a peace symbol

But actually a binary or

Non-binary identifying person greeting the sun

Thinking about what to do

With this day before us

Don’t mind the wandering burro

Yes, Dada would have liked a day like this

Fluxus too

And the San Francisco mime troupe

Or the cacophony society

Or the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

No, Lawrence Ferlinghetti isn’t dying

He’s thinking about getting another hat

He’s off traveling but he’ll be back

Moved here to be close to wine country

He’s outback

Using Leopold Bloom’s outhouse

While reading the ‘Semaphore’

Plenty of material to wipe with

Everyone moved to North Beach years ago

To capture the magic

And now believe it’s too loud

In old North Beach

Though they too once came for the cheap beer

And Carol Dota’s tatas

The Hungry “I” for intellect

Historic name of coffeehouse

Now the hungry phonetic eye

For nude female forms, or male

Out of respect for our aging-in-place seniors

Please keep the racket to a low din, thanks

Ear trumpets now displacing

The Birth of the Cool


He’s back in Brescia now

Trying to get even with the police in Italy

For arresting him

When he was just trying to find

A piece of family history

Or he’s back in the arms of his caretaker

In Paris,

Being held on the balcony

There is a parade down below

Or he’s upstairs in a meeting with Nancy Peters

At the old Grant Avenue publishing office

Look for the hand sculpture on the sidewalk

Beat into the ground – Poets corner

He’s having another surrealist dream

And he’s not rushing to come back

He’s checking the mail and getting another letter

From one of a hundred of those souls

Worth saving

Discovering this beacon they call City Lights

Many tell a similar story:

Receiving a written reply

From Lawrence himself

He’s up early today, heading out

To circumambulate Mt. Tamalpais

To honor Snyder, Ginsberg & Whalen

The other Bay Area annual literary walkabout

He’s not going too far

At least not until the next US President

Is a woman of color

Can’t even believe Men are running -

Enough already

He’s waking from that same dream again

Something about the San Francisco poetry police

A courtroom

The number six, a gallery, on Fillmore

“Howl” and “Berry Feast”


Gary Snyder is arrested instead

For even alluding to Nature

And earlier cultures

Loses the trial

And has been in jail ever since

Far from Kitkitdizze

Must go visit him again soon

San Quentin, so close,

Maybe he’ll row there,

Gary would appreciate that

Lawrence Ferlinghetti isn’t dying

No, no

He’s on an autobus on Avenida Reforma

Destination signs:



Just what’s needed:

Insurgent Arts

Poesia Insurgente

He’s on another bus to Veracruz

An adobe house by the highway,

No roof and one wall,

Covered with words:

La Luz Del Mundo

He’s in Baja in March, 1969

Got up in the 8 a.m. fog

Now addressing the sea

Shaking fists

It’s there to read in his journals

"You, intoner of Nothing!

You, answer of Nothing

With Nothing!"

He’s getting in heated discussions

With other panelists at the Naropa Institute

Michael McLure and William Burroughs too,

Ginsberg, is trying to bring it back around

If you can just be still a moment

Stand in front of any apartment building

In the Town & the City where you live

Written from July, 2019 - August, 2020

Poem begun on a cross-country flight

SF – New England

Poem concluded in his red pickup truck

In a basement garage near 3rd & Palou

In Bayview-Hunters Point, 

Where most writing occurred,

Along with a cabin

In the Santa Cruz Mountains

Large sections of LF’s own poems appear here

A lot with quotes, some without

The little red truck has marked itself safe 

From the CZU lightning complex fires 

August 31, 2020

And if you are still enough

If you want some reassurance

That he is still here among us

Just listen closely

If the timing is right

After that car and this car

Have moved on

During the momentary lull

You’ll hear some sounds

The sounds of him

On his rowing machine

Or the sound of a turning page

Or the sound of writing

The guy is no dummy

He lived this long

Riding his bike in the City

And rowing in the Bay

And swimming at the Y

But at this age one misstep

And you’re talking hip replacement

Or a simple cold

Turns into pneumonia

Not to mention a global pandemic

He’s still

Stocking the bookstore

He’s moving boxes of books

Canvasses in his truck

He’s writing a telegram

To Greta Thunberg

Greeting her at the beginning

Of a great career

Asking when he’ll get the manifesto,

But she is so cool, this kid

So beat,

She has a huge mural in her honor now

Above 414 Mason in the Tenderloin

Though she doesn’t approve of idolatry

Me? Sorry, guilty as hell

I don’t believe in Gods & Goddesses

I believe in other myths

In men and women

What’s left if you can’t idolize?

I’d rather follow a real person -

Who had to walk this earth

He’s not really living above the bookshop

Like Houghton Mifflin stated

Inside the back jacket of ‘Little Boy’

It was a nod to George Whitman

Living above Shakespeare and Company

And to keep his whereabouts

A North Beach mystery

I loved that shit,

Even McSweeney’s

Christopher Monks

And 826’s Dave Eggers

Had to smile at that one

He’s not dying

He’s covering his tracks

Like a coyote trickster

Don’t track me down

If you need to find me

Just read my poems on the street

Wherever you live

That is where I am

Lawrence Ferlinghetti isn’t dying

He’s about to cut the interview short

If you ask another silly question -

Just ask The New York Times

He’s more than happy to answer this question

From the Urban Forester,

Standing at the foot of his bed

In supplication, forester’s hat in hands:

When you moved to 706 Wisconsin Street

Did you know that Rexroth used to live

Two doors down at 690 Wisconsin?

The answer to be revealed each year

On Ferlinghetti Day, March 24

If you pass the test

From dawn to dusk

He blasted out

The answer

With gusto

The Urban Forester

Got the green light for another question

Turned into more of a confession:

Explaining that buying his truck

Was at first

An intellectual exercise

But that after a year

Really enjoying the truck, physically --

Well, how to put this,

Leaning even closer,

With respect, furtive

“I kind of feel like we’re sharing a lover”

The reply from Mr. Ferlinghetti

(blank stare or hearty guffaw?)

To be revealed at next year’s

Annual Literary Walkabout,

At the end of the day

At Specs or Vesuvios,

If you have passed the test

Lawrence Ferlinghetti isn’t dying

He’s still making dreams come true

For others

Still publishing

He’s got a side hustle or two

He’s not dying

He’s not thinking about

The Green Street Mortuary

Marching Band

It’s too late to go back now

To buy that Apple stock

5k in 2000, 1 million in 2020

But he’s left us the makings

Of another great Gold Rush:

His paintings

A painter since before his first poems

They are selling fast

For the great era of Ferlinghetti love

Buy them now for 10-50K

At Rena Bransten Gallery

Or find yourself on the outside

Looking in

In just a few short, quick years

Mark the tape on this one

This is not a threat

It’s a fucking admonition

A Union-backed counselling

With or without your Weingarten Rights

No groveling in your beer

20 years from now

When I say

Dumbass, I told you so

He’s not dying

He sees the White Bicycles of protest

Even if the cyclists were stoned

And blew through the Stop Signs

And the bikes now all picked apart

By the scrap metal poets

He’s not dying

He’s listening – what are those old

Familiar sounds down the hallway?

Ah, yes, his son down the hall,

Has gotten back together with his sax

Just got some softer reeds

It’s Ferlinghetti Eve,

March 23, 2020

And Lorenzo is belting it out

From the kitchen

A glass of red on the table

Dad is 101

No, he’s not dying

He’s ducking into the Audiffred Building

At the corner of Mission & The Embarcadero

Heading up to his painting studio

Now a dentist’s office

He’s rowing, rowing

Out the Golden Gate

Or just back to his bed again

He’s taking his son Lorenzo

Age 18, with him to Europe

To meet George Whitman

And visit Shakespeare and Company

He’s forever grateful

To his son Lorenzo

For being patient with him

Finally admitting he needed help at home

And now for helping him stay

At home in his apartment,

Bedroom overlooking the street

Don’t wake the poet laureate

He’s got Nadja in his arms

She’s got him in her legs

In his studio in Hunters Point

Both covered in paint

A panting, action painting

He’s thanking Nancy Peters

Again, again and again

Editor, business partner, owner

A surrealist poet

A literary pillar

The infrastructure

Helped run it all those years

All the other staff

From Shig

To original founder,

Peter D. Martin


He’s not dying

He’s about to paint another sign

For the upstairs windows at City Lights:

"Paper may burn

But words will escape"

Someone is working on a documentary

A history of City Lights

You will see Nancy Peters in there

He’s dealing with a touch of insomnia

Like all of us

Not afraid to admit

That he’s uneasy

That the next nap

Could turn into something


He knew at times

The Beats, the Pranksters, the Hippies

The Tourists, the general consumer

May have lifted more books

Than they bought

But to quote Alec Hanley Bemis

Creativity is inherently indifferent to money

And sure Gregory Corso

Famously or infamously 

Raided the cash register

After hours at City Lights

But if anyone had a valid license

The poetic license to dip a bit

Into the till

Was there no finer poet

To do so?

He’d like to fly to Dublin in 2020

On Bloomsday

Walk the entire route

From dawn to midnight

And morning of the next day

Professor Brooks Landon at Iowa

Always maintained that it was

The sign of a true Joyce scholar

To make it to Bloomsday

At least once in your lifetime

He knows the future is female

And he is greatly relieved

But asks you

Why men are even running in 2020?

He’s poking around Dave Egger’s

Pirate apothecary store

“The only one on the West Coast”

The only one anywhere

He’s looking in the back

At all the writing tables

Wishing he’d thought of it:

The 826 Valencia model

But glad that others are

Showing the way forward:

Níneve Clements Calegari --

Thinking of the little ones

And the teachers

A rising tide raises all ships

And with global warming

Boats & ships are a perfect form

For the deeper meaning

He’s been meaning to visit the other locations

In the Tenderloin and Mission Bay

There should be plenty of other fish in this sea

He’s heard that

Tom Waits sang his poem “Fortune”

At Lit Quake a few years ago

He’s watched the video

More than once

He heard a story recently

A customer came upstairs to the Poetry room

Saw Mr. Waits sitting in the Poet's chair

Eyes locked in recognition

Yes, the San Francisco Chronicle

Got it right

It is the quietest room in the City

He can’t talk right now

He’s meeting Thomas Wolfe

In the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel

He knows ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’

But you can ‘Look Homeward Angel’

He’s sharpening his ax

Doing the routine maintenance

And making notes

In the owner’s manual

He's having his poem

"The Jack of Hearts"

Turned into a sweet broadside

For Bob Dylan

A poet first

Used music to spread the word

But that didn't fool anyone

Not even the Pulitzer Prize Board

Some people aren't too cool

To care about this man:

Matt Gonzalez is writing

“The Letter and Syllable”

Tamsin Smith is writing

“A Principle of Double Reflection”

Melissa Balin is writing haiku

Comes up with the highway 101 sign

For this year’s Ferlinghetti Day theme

And points out that the position 

Of California Poet Laureate 

Remains vacant

Wishing we had Peter Dante narrating

In SNL fashion

Like 'The Californians'

"What you’re going to want to do

Is take the 10 over to the 101"

Man, Dante should be cutting up

The 101 like Neal Cassady!

@el_presidante on Instagram 

We'll Rise Above With Love

Chip Lyons is kicking off

Ferlinghetti Day each year

Flies in with his family

From Salt Lake City

Starts with the reading of

“The Changing Light at San Francisco”

And then we're off

Just like that

Others posted video tributes

From across the globe

No wrong way to celebrate Ferlinghetti Day:

An annual, giant, open source party

Open Heart, Open Mind

Jesse Kline got tapped to photoshop

Via Ferlinghetti (000) street sign to read

Viva Ferlinghetti - 101

He’s not dying

He’s listening to the fog horns

And when the wind is just right

The barking of the Sea Lions at night

He is saying to himself

Every time he sees it

Remember the Golden Gate was called

The Golden Gate

Long before the Bridge was built

“He’s dreaming about the Poetry Police again

They are about to capture

All libraries, newspapers

Printing presses, and automats

And force their proprietors

At pen’s point to print

Nothing but headlines of pure poetry and

Menus of pure love

Publishing all the love

That is fit to print

His death had come

From falling underfoot

From a huge place

And as he fell between

A zero and the infinite

He tried to stop himself

Just long enough to accomplish

One significant action in his life

As a dying person says

Just wait one moment more

I’m not quite ready

I have one more important thing

I want to do

If you’ll just wait

But after birth

There is only one significant

Action left

And that is the action

Of dying itself”

He’s having an orgasm in paint

But at the very climax

Of the action painting

A strange thing began to happen

Customs men are coming through the train

Rain dropped down from his cap

And the number on his cap

Was the same as his age

And with a burst of disquieting laughter

He started shaking him

Frisking him


“Haven’t you anything to declare?”

“Where’ve you hidden your earth’s baggage?”

“Nothing of your own to declare?!”

“Don’t you even have a hat or tie?”

Well yes, he said, come to think of it

I have got something to declare

And mounting the back of a seat

“I do have something of my own to declare”

“I declare that

I know of no other living to be done

Even if eating bananas

Increases sexual potency

There is still a still of love

A reservoir of it

That never changes its level

In the dead sea of things

A constant quantity of love

That remains

Forever on the earth

Even though in dry seasons it evaporates

Drawn up into the air

It still floats there

Ready to descend again

In the first sperm rain

Have you been back to any forest lately?

Have you been back to your own forest

Have you revisited the dark trees?

There is no explanation of the world

There is no rapport of any kind

Between himself and natural objects

Except a rapport of strangeness

Rapport between people and nature

A sympathetic illusion

Eternally perpetuated by man and woman

Made into painters and poets

This mythological hero

Who is always himself

The hero not searching

In spite of all propaganda

To the contrary

The hero not searching

For something like his father

Mother sister brother

The hero is not looking for them

He is looking for himself

As he goes walking on

Only himself riding along

In an empty third class carriage

See now his blown

Newspaper obituary

Tossed upon that wind

Written ahead of time

So all he has to do is give them

His lead for it

Even if a letter is punctuated backward

In one line

All he has to do

Is give them his head

And he’s off to see the wizard

The wonderful wizard of odds”

He’s getting an update

From Elaine Katzenberger

She’s just overseen the fundraiser

The first ever online City Lights Live event

The bookshop has never

Been closed before like this

Go Fund Me goals met

& then some

You think with everything

He’s done

(Painted poesied published)

With everyone he has helped

That he sits back in gentle reflection

And contentment at the prospect

Of entering that good night?

That if you too live to 100

That then you will finally

Feel ready or willing?

His answer to that

Is in the closing lines

To ‘Little Boy’

No, no

Lawrence Ferlinghetti isn’t dying

He wrote that

Allen Ginsberg was dying but look

How wrong he was

About that

Out of the millions

Who have walked or crawled this Earth

Some people, some names

Will never leave it

“May our little

Cultural exchange program


Into the 21st century

In a world without walls

In which poetry

Is still the best news”

When the time comes

Flowers along the sidewalks

Outside the bookshop

Along Columbus Ave

And the red truck

Maybe in Kerouac Alley

Come pay your respects

No dry eyes

But open hearts, open minds

The historic scene

To be viewed upstairs

From Vesuvio’s

Or from Specs’

Across the street

As I finish writing this

Quietly crying

I set aside

‘Writing Across the Landscape’

His collection of journals

From 1960 to 2010

The last of all his works

That I have yet to read

The close of this poem

Finally comes to me

When I realize it’s not too late

To stop reading now --

Leave him there in Havana

60 years ago --

I already know too much

Leave something for a rainy day

Still to be read in the future

Leaving you there now Mr. Ferlinghetti

In your journals

And so:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti,

Not dying

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