Yesterday afternoon, I spent a glorious couple of hours rummaging through the overstuffed shelves of San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore. Founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953, it was a favourite hangout for the Beat Generation of writers and poets. It’s still a pretty cool place.
I restricted myself to two slim volumes: a nice modern edition of Aristotle’s Poetics and The Palace of Books by French critic Roger Grenier. The former appealed to me because it goes back to the source of literature and the latter because the title seemed particularly apt in that setting. In hindsight, I realise that I should have bought a copy of Ginsberg’s Howl and regret that I didn’t.
Immediately across the street from City Lights is the equally famous Vesuvio Café. On the outside is a mural with the inscription: When the shadow of the grasshopper falls across the trail of the field mouse on green and slimey grass as a red sun rises above the western horizon silhouetting a gaunt and tautly muscled indian warrior perched with bow and arrow cocked and aimed straight at you, it’s time for another martini.
Who could resist?
I went inside for a couple of beers while I sat at a table with my laptop open and imagined myself in the company of poets. This was the result of my labours (it’s not exactly Ginsberg but at least I won’t be prosecuted for obscenity, though I do mention the gods so I suppose a trial for blasphemy is always on the cards).
A blunt knife cuts as deep
No revelations, no grand words,
nothing but the daily task
of living in the void.
The keen edge of loss has dulled
to life-denying numbness:
the ache of absence.
Brute grief prefers a ragged blade,
a rusty dagger not a sword,
to do its dirty work.
A blunt knife cuts just as deep;
serrated, bloody wounds
that never seem to heal.
The gods, jealous of earthly love,
send a purblind butcher
to hack off their due.
They laugh, but they don’t know
how small a price this is
for loving you.