Lawrence Ferlinghetti is against the war with Iraq. I’m sure of this
Because a poem of his is tacked up in the hall outside my office —
By whom, I don’t know. The title is “Speak Out.” Still, I do know
It’s a poem because
It comes up short
Of the right side of the page. Now and then, students pause
In front of the poem, and they read a line or two, although
I once saw a girl with lowriders and a pierced navel linger
To read several stanzas. As she read, her right index finger
Was slowly tracing over the pastel contours of her lower lip.
So Lawrence Ferlinghetti is against the war. Warmongers like me,
Yes, like me, are supposed to be unnerved to learn this. He is, I’m
Sure, one of the best minds of his generation, starving hysterical
Naked, the Negro streets, et cetera. Actually,
I met Ginsberg once, back when I was in graduate school. He
Taught a course in, well, himself. He was peeing at the next urinal.
He kept his eyes forward. And I mine.
The world was pretty quiet at that moment. There was the fatwah
On Rushdie. Not much to rage against. Still, Ginsberg had signed
A petition; he had scolded a cabbie who defended the Ayatollah:
“Well, then,” Ginsberg cried from the back seat, “I spit on Allah.”
His boy friday recounted that story, years later, at his memorial.
But Ferlinghetti says America is “beginning the third World War,
The war with the Third World.” (Cut to the scene of Iraqi women
Dancing in the streets of Basra with coalition troops.) And then
Ferlinghetti says, “the terrorists in Washington are shipping out
The young men to the killing fields again.” (Cut to Iraqi children
Chasing after the decapitated head of Saddam’s fallen statue
And slapping it with a dusty shoe.) Ferlinghetti ends, “Now is
The time to speak, O silent majority, before they come for you.”
Ah, yes, the silent majority! What a glorious day it will be when
Tehran and Damascus and the West Bank wake up and listen!