Cleaving Pessoa



"Pessoa Schmessoa"—Allen Ginsberg,
Salutations to Fernando Pessoa

Fernando Pessoa crosses — the Atlantic

it's dark — dark like the river Styx

In the distance — he sees the last lights

the rockets, the bright flares — of the Titanic

It's before radio — somehow, though

he knows that —Leonardo Dicaprio

is freezing — in the cold still water

and that Kate Winslett —is floating

like an angel above him — on a piece of bulkhead

It’s like Melville — who imagined the ocean

to be like a prairie — who imagined the One Eye

of the Oversoul — projecting itself out of the depths

Like a comet from darker skies — major poetry journals

acclaiming its arrival — for some critics

it’s like the hysterical —whiskey-soaked Poe

done in by Greeley — and the New York Tribune

And for another — he reads like a militant

Christopher Smart — without Geoffrey the cat

Still, there is no sense of — time on his passage

but there are fellows — in New England

Like Whitman — practicing a kind of spiritual adhesive

Love like — Hart Crane down by the docks

Down in New Orleans —where still thick with

poisonous intrigue — the slap of chains and rope

The crisis begins — with postmodernism

the crisis begins with — the colonial instinct he carries

So in desperation — he meets every gang-plank

by begging — Have you seen Ginsberg

Has he met my other—met Pessoa yet?

Pessoa crosses — the Atlantic

and it's green — slimy with gasoline

By this time he’s been waiting — hours

to cross into the — great Heartland

riding a modern coal barge — all the way to St. Louis.

He knows — the old Good Grey Poet

is there, singing — long flat songs in an accent

he doesn’t know — yet understands

You see — the lobstermen of Nantucket

and — the catfish farmers in Louisiana

know they have options — traps, tools, and a good

road to make a living — the slap of brotherhood

Stuck with his poetry — he toughs it out

the great vein of North American — Ginsberg knew

Jack Kerouac — Neil Cassady — Lucien Carr

This is the story — Pessoa wanted to know about

San Francisco — where The Golden Gate lives

Where Japantown waits — down from Pacific Heights

the size of skyscrapers — the great Pacific waits for him

Pessoa didn’t make it — all the way

All the way to America — San Francisco

this North America — where Whitman would

have been mistaken — for a Beatnik

In this pseudo-romantic twilight — by the bay

it's just a story — made up by Ginsberg

And who’s Ginsberg — just another heteronym?

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