The auditorium at the state college was packed. I sat with my girlfriend in a front row seat off to the left of center stage. It was 1973, and I was excited. My poems were flowing with what I was sure was a never ending regularity. I was in love. I had just given my first public reading. What more natural thing to do than to go and hear Louis and Allen Ginsberg read?
We sat politely through the father’s reading. I’m sure that I don’t remember a line but I applauded. In retrospect, the old man must have felt a mixture of pride and embarrassment while the audience waited for him to finish do that they could hear his son. Louis had written regular verse for the now defunct Paterson Morning and Paterson Evening News. I remember thinking what kind of a poet wrote for a 3rd rate newspaper?
The Dean of Humanities at Montclair State introduced Allen. The audience stood for the dark haired, paunchy, bespectacled man who said when he reached the microphone, “I wanted to come here to read because my brother attended this college for four years and never got laid.” We laughed hard as the flustered Dean tried to be gracious. We forever bookmarked Montclair State as a place where no one had sex.
His voice was an unearthly thing that came from inside of a different place from what we all have. My girlfriend took hold of my arm. He sang and roared and uncovered the beauty of words with elongated lines that were like enormous breaths of consciousness. He read Howl. He read from the collection of poems that was to become The Fall of America. He sang the songs of William Blake and accompanied himself on a strange looking squeeze box that he said was like the one that Blake had played. He stretched the possibilities of who we could be. He taught us that the war in the Middle East was a battle of the gods. He rode language through the air as if he were an enormous gliding bird floating on the dizzying currents of wind that soared through our canyon. When he was finished, we cheered.
There was a small crowd of people around him on the stage. He was packing his notebooks into a knapsack, slumped forward in a chair with a pile of poems scattered in front of him, a dark shag of hair covering his face. I stood in the center of the ring and spoke in my clearest voice, “I love the way that the language dances for you.” He parted his hair with his hands and looked at my lean body and smooth face. I felt the power of his eyes on me. Then he got up and folded me into his arms and kissed my mouth. He whispered into my ear, “You are a beautiful boy.”
My mind and body went into shock. I wanted to squeeze my girlfriend’s breasts and feel the rhythm of her hips beneath me. But a famous poet thought that I was beautiful and he must know. All I could say was “thank you.” I waited for him to say something else and I suppose he waited for me or dismissed me as one more well-wisher. I’ll never know.
His words were in my mind. The feeling of his inspiration in my heart, but also the feel of his lips were on my face. She teased me for the rest of the night but knew that I needed to expiate my pettiness with sex before I slept.