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Sunflower Sutra Analysis

Author: poem of Allen Ginsberg Type: poem Views: 11

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I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and

     sat down under the huge shade of a Southern

     Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the

     box house hills and cry.

Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron

     pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts

     of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, sur-

     rounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of


The oily water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun

     sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that

     stream, no hermit in those mounts, just our-

     selves rheumy-eyed and hungover like old bums

     on the riverbank, tired and wily.

Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray

     shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting

     dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust--

--I rushed up enchanted--it was my first sunflower,

     memories of Blake--my visions--Harlem

and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes

     Greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black

     treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the

     poem of the riverbank, condoms & pots, steel

     knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck

     and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the


and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset,

     crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog

     and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye--

corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like

     a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face,

     soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sun-

     rays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried

     wire spiderweb,

leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures

     from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster

     fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear,

Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O

     my soul, I loved you then!

The grime was no man's grime but death and human


all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad

     skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black

     mis'ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuber-

     ance of artificial worse-than-dirt--industrial--

     modern--all that civilization spotting your

     crazy golden crown--

and those blear thoughts of death and dusty loveless

     eyes and ends and withered roots below, in the

     home-pile of sand and sawdust, rubber dollar

     bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards

     of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely

     tincans with their rusty tongues alack, what

     more could I name, the smoked ashes of some

     cock cigar, the cunts of wheelbarrows and the

     milky breasts of cars, wornout asses out of chairs

     & sphincters of dynamos--all these

entangled in your mummied roots--and you there

     standing before me in the sunset, all your glory

     in your form!

A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent

     lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye

     to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited

     grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden

     monthly breeze!

How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your

     grime, while you cursed the heavens of the rail-

     road and your flower soul?

Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a

     flower? when did you look at your skin and

     decide you were an impotent dirty old locomo-

     tive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and

     shade of a once powerful mad American locomo-


You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a


And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me


So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck

     it at my side like a scepter,

and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack's soul

     too, and anyone who'll listen,

--We're not our skin of grime, we're not our dread

     bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we're all

     beautiful golden sunflowers inside, we're bles-

     sed by our own seed & golden hairy naked ac-

     complishment-bodies growing into mad black

     formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our

     eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive

     riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sit-

     down vision.

                              Berkeley, 1955


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