By Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The dove-white gulls
on the wet lawn in Washington Square
in the early morning fog
each a little ghost in the gloaming
Souls transmigrated maybe
from Hudson’s shrouded shores
across all the silent years—
Which one’s my maybe mafioso father
in his so white suit and black shoes
in his real estate office Forty-second Street
or at the front table wherever he went—
Which my dear lost mother with faded smile
locked away from me in time—
Which my big brother Charley
selling switching-signals all his life
on the New York Central—
And which good guy brother Clem
sweating in Sing Sing’s darkest offices
deputy-warden thirty years
watching executions in the wooden armchair
(with leather straps and black hood)
He too gone mad with it in the end—
And which my nearest brother Harry
still kindest and dearest in a far suburb—
I see them now all turn to me at last
gull-eyed in the white dawn
about to call to me
across the silent grass
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, "I Genitori Perduti" from These Are My Rivers: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1993 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.
Source: These Are My Rivers: New and Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is best known for his rejection of traditional artistic and social ideas, a challenge that inspired a generation of writers in the 1950s known as the “Beats.” As a forerunner of the group, he opened the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco in 1953. It became a major destination for freethinking writers and artists from all over the U.S., and also served as an independent publisher of “Beat” poetry, including his own, A Coney Island of the Mind (1958). Considered a historical benchmark for the time-period, that book maintains its place as one of the best-selling volumes of poetry of all time. The City Lights Bookstore remains a beacon for unorthodox writers and artists to this day.
More By This Poet
Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)
Constantly risking absurdity
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of...
Retired Ballerinas, Central Park West
Retired ballerinas on winter afternoons
walking their dogs
in Central Park West
(or their cats on leashes—
the cats themselves old highwire artists)
leap and pirouette
through Columbus Circle
while winos on park benches
(laid back like drunken Goudonovs)
hear the taxis trumpet...
More Poems about Arts & Sciences
Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark
I play the egg
and I play the triangle
I play the reed
and I play each angle
I play the lyre
and I play the lute
I play the snare
and I play the flute
I play the licorice stick
and I play the juke
I play the kettle
The man I pulled tonight
carried a load of books.
When I felt him watching
me uphill, I grimaced.
He gave me lunar
cakes the size
of two camel humps.
When I answered him,
I smiled to his face.
He wore the moonlight
in his specs. Pant
seams clean as the...
More Poems about Living
Vagrants and Loiterers
You got that clean waistcoat,
the bright white of a well-tailored
shirt, you got those loose-as-sacks
slacks and some spit-polished shoes,
and you know, whether you are looking
like money, or about to take a stroll,
to tilt that hat like you own
the world; yeah, smoke...
What Women Are Made Of
We are all ventricle, spine, lung, larynx, and gut.
Clavicle and nape, what lies forked in an open palm;
we are follicle and temple. We are ankle, arch,
sole. Pore and rib, pelvis and root
and tongue. We are wishbone and gland and molar
More Poems about Relationships
Back Up Quick They’re Hippies
That was the year we drove
into the commune in Cornwall.
“Jesus Jim,” mam said,
“back up quick they’re hippies.”
Through the car window,
tents, row after row, flaps open,
long-haired men and women
curled around each other like babies
and the babies themselves
wandered naked across the grass.
In the warmth of night I put feet to my plan: waited
for my brothers to sleep. They’d spent the day
sharpening their hooks, repairing the great net,
filling gourds with fresh water. They’d bundled
taro wrapped in leaves sitting below the cross seats.