'America' Tribute Series: Part I - Ishan Marvel

We plan to reprint poems inspired or adapted from Allen Ginsberg's America, by various Indian Poets. We start with an adaptation by Ishan Marvel. We are also happy to publish an original poem by Marvel which talks about the role Ginsberg played in his poetic journey.


(Adapted from Ginsberg’s America. First published in Vayavya, Summer Issue 2013)

India, I give you nothing, for I am nothing
Two balls and seventeen cigarettes. July 9, 2012
I’m beginning to enjoy my mind
But India, when will you fight another war?
When will you use that million-dollar bomb?
I can’t write my epic till you do something
India, when will you stop being a pussy and take off your clothes?
India, when will you be acidic?
When will you meet the eyes of your million Naxalites?
India, why are your bookshops full of shit?
And when will you stop making omelettes for America?
I’m sick of hypocrisies
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my lean dick?
India, when will you move on to the next world?
Your machinery is too much for me
You make me feel ashamed of being a saint
There is no way to end this argument
I can never get to the point

I refuse to give up my madness

India, start pushing, we’ve had enough of labour
India, the onions are rising
I haven’t read the newspaper for months, everyday somebody does something bad
India, I feel sentimental about the Maoists
I used to be a communist when I was a bachelor; I’m not sorry
I avoid marijuana everywhere
I sit at my desk for days on end and stare at the curtains
When I go out, I get drunk and never get laid
My mind is made up, we need some trouble
You should have seen me reading Freud
My analysis says I’m perfectly right
I won’t stand for the national anthem
I have cosmic visions and mystical vibrations
India, you should be ashamed of the drool when Uncle Obama came over

I’m undressing you
Are you going to let our imagination run by Delhi Times?
I’m obsessed by Delhi Times
I read it every chance I get
Its pictures tempt with me all the women I can never have
I read it with my morning cigarette and shit
It’s always telling me about fun
Businessmen are having fun
Movie stars are having fun
Everybody’s having fun but me
It occurs to me that I am India
I am talking to myself again

Yoga is rising against me
I haven’t got a chance
I’d better consider my national resources
My national resources consist of twelve cigarettes
Millions of shy genitals
An unpublished private literature that goes ten fucks a page
And eight hundred buffoons at the centre
I say nothing about my schools, or the millions of underprivileged who live in my pubic jungles under the light of zero-watt bulbs
I have killed half of Kashmir, the East is next to go
My ambition is to be President due to the fact that I’m useless

India, how can I write my grand epic in your silly mood?
I will continue like Salman Khan
My couplets are as funny as his driving
More so they’re all sexually confused
India, I will sell you cantos a lakh apiece, ten thousand down on your old canto
India, I am the BCCI
When I was thirteen, Ma took me to urban Buddhist groups
They sold us prayer books for hundred bucks, and the speeches were free and full of faith
Everybody was sincere and sentimental about prayer
It was all so sincere you have no idea how much I was brainwashed
Later, I almost cried when I realized I only wanted to be cool
Everybody must have been an asshole

India, you do want to go to war
India, it’s them Pakistanis
And them Bangladeshis, them Sri Lankans, and them Chinamen
And them Pakistanis
The Pakistan wants to fuck us dead
The Pakistan’s a sex addict
He wants to take our virgins on our kitchen-tops
Him wants to grab Kashmir
Him needs a Filmfare
Him wants our grass in Malana
Her, big bureaucracy running our brothels
That no good
Her sucks up to America
Her need big, black Tam-Brahms
Him makes us all abuse our wives

India, this is quite serious
This is the impression I get from looking in the television set
India, is this correct, or am I stoned again?
You’d better get right down to the job
It’s true I diss everything and write dirty rhymes, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway
India, I’m taking my bruised shoulder off the wheel


Remembering Ginsberg
it was the big fat book of collected poems on a friend’s bookshelf 
and dylan whining through the stereo down mandela road
all that talk of sex, hippies, and cigarettes, and the myriad ironies of our rat lives 
it was just the evening, and the time 
to remember that man with the crazy eyes
a big fat book of collected poems at the professor’s 
to remember how it felt reading the first lines of Howl for the first time
how the pages began to scream, drilling through years of bullshit, screaming:
boy, this is poetry too!
to remember being blown away by the reams of gibberish a madman had let loose
by cosmopolitan greetings!
the onslaught of associations and all that dope smoked in tribute
to remember the stupor of those days when I believed I could shock the world into changing
and above all, to remember thinking to myself:
man, this guy knows! this guy fucking knows!

but then, to have gotten over it
to talk of him as someone I met on a crazy trip years ago
to laugh and shake my head at the freshly ginsbuggered, and be all:
yeah, I had a phase too… yeah, he’s pretty amazing… yeah, rhythm rhythm, fuck, beat, buddha something, revolution… captured zeitgeist… kaddish and love… and howl, and love, and howl… and blah and blah and blah…
but today, I remember you, Ginsberg
that feeling
and the searing, heartbreaking, scrotum-tightening truths of your time and place you sang
that’s the least a bastard can give
* * *

Read other poems from the 'America' Tribute Series.

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