Propositioned By Ginsberg

August, 1968, Chicago. It was the Summer of long hair, and long hot nights. Small wonder America would soon be in flames, when all the South Side was sleeping on the beach by Lake Michigan. Like London in the Underground, during war. And there was war. Guerrilla fighting on the streets, from the top of city monuments. War against the war, war against the shadows on the walls after dropping acid. War against the staid, complacent, uptight. We were mobilized for action by SDS.  All the young were there, and we formed in lines in Grant Park and then as night fell, on Wabash Avenue against a line of police. The police put tape over their badge numbers; they couldn’t wait to charge; the sons of dark against the sons of light. The whole world was watching, we screamed, and they came. Vans were overturned, heads cracked in the melee. It was culture versus culture. It was Gettysburg.
I ran. I wasn’t a fighter, none of us were. We were musicians, poets, artists. My poetry was more than protest; it was my soul. I wanted it to outlive the flash of tonight and outdate the hippie kingdom. I went to the nearby Art Institute on Wednesday evenings  for signal flares, and carried the light home and poured it, privately, on a page.
There were tents in Lincoln Park, during the Convention. Organizers of the protest hosted  counter-culture events: poetry readings, guitar strumming on the grass. The night after the Charge of Wabash Avenue, I went to a reading. My poems weren’t ready to be seen, or heard. I stood in a throng of ourselves, certain of our cause, and hipness. Ignoring the buzz of chaos. A small, dark bearded man noticed me. Hey, he said. Hey, I said. He took my hand. No, man, I said. Loud. He was insulted. He was troubled, very unsure and disappeared into the mass. I went home.

Charles Bane

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Charles Bane, Jr, is a Pushcart Prize Nominee and the author of The Chapbook ( Curbside Splendor, 2011). His new collection of poetry is available for pre-order at kelsaybooks.com

5 responses to Propositioned By Ginsberg

  1. And this tells us what about Allen Ginsberg that we didn’t know? That he was gay? That he could be hurt and “troubled”? You write well, but I’m disappointed that you need to use Allen Ginsberh’s name and a fleeting interaction; to promote yourself.

    • Dogs bark when elephants walk by.

      • Man, what an ego! Allen Ginsberg didn’t “proposition” you. The title of your piece is misleading and exploitative. Your tenuous brush with fame does not reflect on you (other to affirm your youthful good looks)or give you any connection to the Beats.

        • This seems like a harsh reply. To me Charles has written a little memoir of an encounter with Allen Ginsberg that struck him as interesting and important in his own life and he thought to share it with the readers of Beatdom. We often post things like this. Stories that make the Beats tangible. We read about Kerouac at his typewriter and Burroughs shooting Joan in the head… we also hear about them influencing Bob Dylan and Tom Waits and so forth… but what about the everyday stories? What about how they personally effected the lives of their readers, not just through literature but through life? I love hearing from people who bumped into them on the street. Ginsberg and Burroughs especially seemed remarkably open and acknowledged people who reached out to them. One of our editors had fascinating encounters that made it onto our pages, and into the archives. I think that Beatdom’s readers (and certainly its editors) love reading about theses stories. I don’t believe for a minute that this is inappropriate or disrespectful.

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