|I saw him first eyeing me from
pretending to look over electronic equipment
but really wondering what hot stuff he might haunt
Since dying, he’d become a chicken hawk
At the DVD store I "accidentally" brushed against
He was surprisingly solid
"Excuse me, Mr. Ginsberg," I said,
"I thought you were dead."
"Young man," he answered, "I am dead"
and then he laughed a big laugh
"You expect me to haunt supermarkets? Or book stores?
I try to keep in style.
What’s a nice poetic young man like you
with a copy of On the Road in his pocket
doing in a place like this?
Wanna see me change?"
What I had seen was the old Ginsberg of the 90s
hunched over, professorial, and with that funny squint
in his eye. Suddenly he was Hippy Ginsberg
of the 60s-loud, funny, dominant, bearded
He began to sing-badly
(death had not changed that)
until I was afraid that people would notice us
but actually no one turned around,
it was as if we couldn’t be heard by anyone
"Hare Krishna!" said Ginsberg, ha ha ha
"How about it, kid,
Wanna get laid? You look a little like Neal Cassady
or at least some of you looks like some of
How about it, you wanna have sex?"
"I don’t think so, Mr. Ginsberg. I’ve never
had sex with a ghost."
"Nothing to it," he answered,
and suddenly my clothes were off
and I had an erection
and I was coming as I’d never come before.
Ginsberg hadn’t touched me,
and he was still standing there fully clothed, laughing.
"How did you do that?" I said.
"It’s just a trick we ghosts have. Pleasure is
heaven. Heaven is pleasure.
You get me? The Beat Generation, Kerouac said,
that was just a bunch of guys trying to get laid.
In heaven we do it all the time."
"You’re in heaven?"
"Well, I’m somewhere, and I call it heaven. Even
the CIA is there,
and all the people they killed. We all get on pretty
Suddenly he was Professor Ginsberg again. "Same multiple
he said as he vanished
"into air, into thin air"
In my hand was a book whose title was The Posthumous
Writings of Allen Ginsberg
but as I tried to open the book
its pages withered and vanished.
"You’ll have to wait for that volume," said
and he laughed again. "Wouldn’t you like to have that book?
You’ll have to write it yoursel-"
Courage teacher, old poet, have you become an owl of
wisdom, a hawk of power, a swan of beauty, a sunflower,
a leaf, a bit of sunlight, a worm burrowing in the
Have you become
Jack Foley has published books
of poetry and criticism. His radio show, Cover
to Cover, is heard every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m.
on Berkeley station KPFA and is available at
the KPFA web site; his column, "Foley's Books," appears
in the online magazine, The Alsop Review.