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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)

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Poet Bio

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
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.

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