Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Monday 31 May 2010

Peter Orlovsky: Namaste


"Before the mirror I look like a sahara desert gost"

File:Git govind large.jpg

"The light in me sees the light in you"

File:Allen Ginsberg und Peter Orlowski   ArM.jpg

Snail Poem

Make my grave shape of heart so like a flower be free aired & handsome felt,

Grave root pillow, tung up from grave & wigle at blown up clowd.

Ear turnes close to underlayer of green felt moss & sound of rain dribble thru this layer down to the roots that will tickle my ear.

Hay grave, my toes need cutting so file away in sound curve or

Garbage grave, way above my head, blood will soon trickle in my ear -- no choise but the grave, so cat & sheep are daisey turned.

Train will tug my grave, my breath hueing gentil vapor between weel & track.

So kitten string & ball, jumpe over this mound so gently & cutely

So my toe can curl & become a snail & go curiousely on its way.

1958 NYC

File:Grapevinesnail 01.jpg

Death of Peter Orlovsky

“The Shelleyan farmer astride his Pegasusian tractor” as Gregory Corso once knighted him passed on today, May 30 2010 to the elysian fields, a bardo of becoming. First glance hour earlier Peter was resting with “trach” in throat in orange sheets at the kind Vt Respite Center in Williston, Vermont (but no extra tubes/ heroic measures for this advanced cancer on his lung!), a copy of the Songs of Saraha by his pillow, photo of beloved Allen Ginsberg companion of many years on the wall, other Buddhist images, iPod of music he loved including chants by Buddhist nuns, cards from friends and out the window a bird feeder with finch and red-winged blackbirds landing/taking off. Chuck and Judith Lief, faithful guardians and friends at his side. He had been moved less than 48 hours earlier from intensive care at a hospital in Boston, finally to hospice. His body we were touching we noticed suddenly turned cold like death was in the room. We got the nurse. Judy and I stepped out when suddenly Chuck called us back. Peter had opened his eyes. Chuck said “It might be the last time”. By his side now, looking into his eyes told out love, I thanked him for his presence in our lives, his poetry his care and love for Allen, his work at Naropa. Ah, I thought a flash of recognition shivering through! slight movement of mouth, light coming in on his handsome face through the window now, and Judy singing om a hum vajra guua padma siddhi hum in crystal voice said “don’t be afraid”. Joined in. Last breaths, one coming late, staggered: his heart/breath stopt. Poet Christina Lovin in room with nurse gave gentle witness who checked the clock 11:39 I think or so a.m. Earlier we’d played recording of Peter singing his Raspberry Song with great heart-soaring yodel and “how sweet you are”. “Make my grave shape of heart so like a flower be free aired and handsome felt” (“The Snail”). Tibetan Book of the Dead readings, in full final repose arranged with blue shirt, hands folded, consciousness a joyful gardener sprite? no fear, no fear working its way out…

Anne Waldman 5.30.2010

Vt Study Center


Biographical note: Peter Orlovsky

"My biography was born July 1933. Grew up with dirty feet & giggles. Cant stand dust so pick my nose. Trouble in school: always thinking dreaming sad mistry problems. Quit high school in middle of last term & got lost working in Mental hospital old man's bed slopy ward. Love pretzles & cant remember dreams anymore. Will somebody please buy me mountain with a cave up there. I dont speack any more. Wanted to be a farmer went to high school for that & worked hard, hard, I tell you, very hard, you'd be amazed. Did weight lifting with bus stops. Got to enjoy burnt bacon with mothers help. Stare at my feet to much & need to undue paroniac suden clowds. Enjoy mopping floors, cleaning up cat vommit. Enjoy swinning underwater. I want the moon for fun. Getting to enjoy blank mind state, especially in tub. This summer got to like flies tickleing nose & face. I demand piss be sold on the market, it would help people to get to know eachother. I.Q. 90 in school, now specialized I.Q. is thousands."

In our presence Peter was never anything but gentle, sweet and kind. A lovely and wise person, with as it sometimes seemed a vulnerability as of someone at intermittent distance of abstracted remove from this world (I believe I envied him that) yet always in the same moment very much right here, with the dirt of the earth on his bare feet whenever possible. And indeed he was tougher than the rest. All through one icy Colorado winter, I would bump into him in the street, with snow on the pavement, in light clothing, never any shoes. Nature boy. Because he often was outshone in the domestic constellation it was sometimes thought by the imperceptive that he wasn't there. I was never tempted to think that, in fact the reverse. An intense unthreatening presence. Hey, where's Peter? Banging pans around in the kitchen, a dissonant music when necessary to keep the celestial mechanics in order. Peter, genius loci. In fact because of the feeling, probably errant as the deepest truths of human relations are (no doubt for good reason) hidden from understanding, that he was a kind of appointed protector for the poet friend, I suppose I was in the habit of thinking of him as a bit of an angel (though the last time I saw him was in a tipi, of all places). Angels of course are our superiors. Namaste, Peter.

Tom Clark 5.30.2010

Berkeley, Ca.

Peter Orlovsky: photographer unknown, n.d. (via American Museum of Beat Art)
The poet Jayadeva bows to Vishnu: artist unknown, 1730 A.D. (Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh)
"Before the mirror...": from Second Poem: Peter Orlovsky, in Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs, 1978
Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, Frankfurt airport, 1978: photo by Ludwig Urning, 1978
Snail Poem: Peter Orlovsky, from Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs, 1978
Grapevine snail (Helix pomatia)
: photo by Jürgen Schoner, 23 May 2005

The Death of Peter Orlovsky: Anne Waldman e-mail to TC, 30 May, 2010
Moche land snails (Scutalus sp.), 200 A.D.: Larco Museum Collection, Lima, Peru
Biographical Note: Peter Orlovsky: from The New American Poetry, 1960
Peter Orlovsky (1933-2010): photographer unknown, n.d., via Brian Nation
I Took a Heavenly Ride Through Our Silence: photo by Lucy in the Sky, 2010



Thank you Tom, for this. Very moving to read, not having heard anything until this. Anne's eyewitness account takes me back to my father's last bedside (last November), your picture of him in "icy Colorado winter . . . in light clothing, never any shoes. Nature boy," Lucy's beautiful photo at end, of an end. . . .
Leslie on Friday night, Peter on Sunday morning, Memorial Day takes on new meaning.


blinding silver edge of sun above still
shadowed ridge, white of moon by branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

possibility of work complete,
that idea in phenomena

is between surface and depth,
visible, form of space

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
shadowed green slope of ridge across it

TC said...


You can say that again.

Your poem a beautiful memorial for the day and persons present and past,

possibility of work complete,

still not quite in sight.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thank you, Tom, for this loving remembrance, for Anne's accounting. A gentle consideration of spirit, which fills us all.

today again
death draws nearer...
the wildflowers

translated by David G. Lanoue

human being said...


is it too late to know you when you are gone?
is it too late to read you when all your words are sung?
is it too late to watch you when your presence is but an icon?
is it too late to love you when night is sinking down at dawn?



TC said...

Thanks Don (and Issa).

Ah Peter and the other wildflowers.

TC said...


Thank you for reminding us.

Never too late to love when night is sinking down at dawn...

Anonymous said...

once peter
saved me
at leslie fiedler's dinner table
kindly drawing me into
the laughter of the big
boo hoos
of literary conversations

TC said...

A disposition to welcome and include, sign of a natural generosity.

aditya said...


"Before the mirror I look like a sahara desert gost"

"All I need is a mirror for the rest of my life. "

from his Frist Poem. I like the way he spelled Tom , a little eccentric but it did release you from the monotony set firm in concrete.
Not just the spellings Tom , but his poems too (of what little I have read).

My dreams lifted me right out of my bed.
I dreamt I jumped into the nozzle of a gun to fight it out with a
My body turned into sugar, poured into tea I found the meaning
of life

A lovely remembrance written by you. Read it over and over.

On a different note, I have been amused by the interplay of Hindu Mythology/Traditions at your place Tom. At the "Eternity" post and the follow up too. Now the picture of poet Jayadev bowing to Lord Vishnu.

Namaste Tom!

TC said...

Aditya, my friend, undoubtedly that curious interplay is a result of your inspiration and influence.

Peter's crazy-like-a-fox spellings are interesting. In anybody else they might seem fey or precious. But when he does it, I "buy it", like they say.

Dittos with the Namaste.

Elmo St. Rose said...

he didn't die alone
and that's a good thing

aditya said...

I feel elated you said that Tom. I do not know how you describe this sort of feeling. Maybe I should have let the turbulence sink.

I like visiting your place. Feels like home you know. The other night I re read In Bolinas again after I had stumbled on to references at other some other places and then realized you had lived there long.

Poetry: a whistling in the void, with fifty years spent listening for the echo.

No wonder your place feels like home.

Regarding the Indian mythology/tradition thing, I myself am a little low on the religion thing. We are all humans and as long as all get treated the same way, well who cares. Tradition is entirely different you would say. And so I would I. Am glad you could connect your texts and poetry with our tradition. Have you been to India Tom??


ps- That usage of precious made me look up in to a dictionary. It told me you still carry a part of UK with you.

Curtis Roberts said...

Please accept our condolences on the loss of your friend. Curtis and Caroline

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore said...

First met Peter when he and Allen were living in a Volkswagen bus on Gough Street in San Francisco, he of little words and quiet gestures, who would sweep your floors and rearrange your fridge before you even knew he was there... (and how's Bob LaVigne these days...up in Seattle? I spoke to him a year or so ago by phone but he said his mind was gone...) They all formed a Kosmos, Peter, Allen, wild pioneers, deep hearts. God speed him to his rest and his compadres.

The white road
speeds all our hearts
on the winds of our words.

human being said...

that was just a tribute (crow style) for this beautiful soul and poet i happened to know just now...
surely inspired by this tribute post of yours...
didn't want to remind anything... to anyone...

just wanted 'him' to remember 'me'...

Anonymous said...

He must have had a full life, being Mother Nature's son, and he certainly is wearing the sweetest smile as he spies on your kind tribute.

May he have a wonderful journey to Ithaca.

TC said...


That was my first thought too. (Think about that moment more and more often, now.)


I have been to India only in my imagination, in my dreams, and through words, and pictures, and music, and so... is that a "no" or a "yes"?

To hear this place in invisible space feels like home to you warms my ancient heart and helps make the place feel a bit more like home to me, too.


Many thanks to you and Caroline. But perhaps condolences are not in order. This was a spirit of great essential lightness, suffering perhaps less from material attachment than many of us, so that it would be good (albeit maybe impossibly hopeful), to think that what has happened is less a loss than a setting free of that "sahara gost"...


It is very lovely to hear from you. You probably won't remember (why would you??), but we had a few times together, way back when. In particular I recall your big dark Berkeley craftsman house where a celestial orchestra performed, my memory of it is probably being amplified by reconstructive fantasy when I say I remember great ungainly Tibetan style horns or perhaps diggeri-doos or the like... you will of course know about that.

(The specific evening I summon to these misty sessions of memory is one from early April, 1968.)

This --

"...he of little words and quiet gestures, who would sweep your floors and rearrange your fridge before you even knew he was there..."

-- is absolutely Peter to a T.

See you on that white road someday 'ere long...


I should have said "reminding me". Those are questions one ought to be ready to ask oneself. The first I think is the hardest. I discussed them with my closest friend, who thought the fourth one was the only one that would allow an unqualified "yes". (As to the first, she, a confirmed realist, said, Yes, sometimes it is too late -- meaning, I think, we should get to work on this earlier.)

Ah the qualifications.

("Crow style", to me, by the way, means the same thing as "poet style". This because of the effect your airborne words have had, over this period of time.)


"Mother Nature's Son," perfect. I think Peter believed he had been born to be a farmer... and then in the fullness of time he did become one.

My guess or hope is that his soul is at this very moment enjoying a Heavenly Ride Through Our/Your Silence by way of that wonderful Lucy in the Sky photo of your Patagonian Andes at the bottom of the post. To be traveling through eternity there, in that state of elevated tranquility, would be, for him, to be in his natural element.

Muchissimas gracias, y besitos.



Yes, "a Heavenly Ride Through Our/Your Silence by way of that wonderful Lucy in the Sky photo of your Patagonian Andes at the bottom of the post. To be traveling through eternity there, in that state of elevated tranquility, would be, for him, to be in his natural element." That's the way to go,and also a way for us still here to imagine/think about being up there in the blue ---


grey whiteness of cloud against invisible
top of ridge, blue jay calling on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

graphite inscribed in middle
left, bleu / bleu pale

transpires, sight looks that
is, telling perception

blue-white haze reflected in channel,
wingspan of osprey flapping overhead

TC said...


Thanks for the welcoming sky made of your blues,

blue jay calling on branch

left, bleu / bleu pale

blue-white haze reflected in channel

-- all the more welcome as here it's a heavy, leaden grey overcast morn. (With slight sprinklies.)

Bobby Byrd said...

This is very beautiful. I never knew Peter O, except through his words on pages, his angelic presence, as you say, in the domestic constellation. The stories I've heard along the way. But now, with this--Anne W's words, your words, the snail poem (again, after a long time), the biography (“Enjoy mopping floors, cleaning up cat vommit. Enjoy swinning underwater. I want the moon for fun.”)--I feel I've missed so much and at the same time somehow having known him. Many thanks.
Bobby Byrd

Bruce Shlain said...

I met Peter O. at the Naropa Institute in the summer of '75. I was living in Boston and a good friend from Ann Arbor called and said they just had dinner with Ginsberg and Burroughs and that I should get out there, so in three days I was in Boulder at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Ginsberg would hang out with us sometimes, so when Orlovsky hit town he came over as well. Without saying a word he cleaned our dirty pots and pans for over a half hour before he sat down. We said thanks and he just said "Kitchen Yoga." He was in good spirits, his collected works, "Clean Asshole Poems and Smiling Vegetable Songs," was just published (I don't have my copy, lent it out too many times). He was remarkably without pretension of any kind, a gentle righteous soul with the old country strength of a stevedore. A poetry savant of sorts. Wasn't it Ron Padgett who coined the "Dumb Guy Meditations?" Orlovsky was the true original, at once hilarious and spiritually cleansing. Kitchen yoga, indeed.

Anonymous said...


Sifting through the googlaze I stumbled upon Elsa Dorfman's recount (on her Housebook website) of experiencing PO's supernatural at-your-serviceness:

"As if sensing that I needed to be distracted from any self-pity, the steam pipes in my cellar burst. All of a sudden I heard this rushing water. Unmistakable. I had to find the plumber on a Saturday night, turn off the oil furnace, do something about the mess. I sat in the kitchen figuring out what to do next. There was a hard knock at the door. The plumber so soon'! No. Peter Orlovsky. God couldn't have been more provident."

doowman said...

Sorry, here's the address from that last (unintentionally anonymous) posting:

TC said...

Bobby, Bruce, Doowman,

Many thanks for testifying. I owe it to Peter for bringing so many good souls here in the middle of my long night.

Peter really comes alive in this testimony, indeed I fear that while reading these great comments I have more than once been guilty of wishing he could be reincarnated on the spot to show up and give a hand with shoring up the ruin of this collapsing old domicile. Things like kitchens and fixing... well, bottom line: most poets (i.e. me) are useless, Peter was not.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Tom, magnificent epitaph ...

Most poets are useless,
Peter was not.


human being said...


u se(e) less

you feel more

isn't this the way of poets?


TC said...

Well, in saying poets are useless, I probably should have said I am speaking not only for but of myself.

But yes, Don, what better epitaph could there be for anyone.

It is moving to hear of the affection and respect with which Peter's memory is held by those who have commented here.

I wish it were possible to say that a similar respect has encompassed the notices I have seen elsewhere. It was disturbing to see the treatment accorded this departed poet in commentary allowed to stand without response on perhaps the most popular of poetry information blogs. But I am constantly being surprised by what is after all not really surprising.

Outside this country, where perhaps the perspective is a little less skewed, there have been some relatively more encouraging signs.

Here for example is an obit by Marcus Williamson in The Independent.

Steve Silberman said...


I loved your statement about Peter. This was perhaps my favorite thing said about him yet: "Hey, where's Peter? Banging pans around in the kitchen, a dissonant music when necessary to keep the celestial mechanics in order."

I wrote my own memoir of knowing Peter here, with some photographs of him that the world has not seen before:

Impossible Happiness

Thank you Tom.

TC said...

And thank you, Steve. Lovely.