By Allen Ginsberg

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on the sunny
       pavement of Greenwich Village.
downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I’ve been up all night, talking, talking,
       reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues shout blind on the
the rhythm the rhythm—and your memory in my head three years after—And read
       Adonais’ last triumphant stanzas aloud—wept, realizing how we suffer—
And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember, prophesy as in the
       Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of Answers—and my own imagination of a
       leaf—at dawn—

(Today’s poem appears via Fair Use. Read “Kaddish” in its entirety at The Poetry Foundation.)

“Kaddish” also known as “Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg (1894–1956)” is a poem by Beat writer Allen Ginsberg about his mother Naomi and her death on June 9, 1956. The Kaddish of the title refers to the mourner’s prayer or blessing in Judaism. This long poem was Ginsberg’s attempt to mourn his mother, Naomi, but also reflects his sense of loss at his estrangement from his born religion. The traditional Kaddish contains no references to death, whereas Ginsberg’s poem is riddled with thoughts and questionings of death. (Courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: For my father, gone now four years, but with us always–in poetry, in music, in memory, and otherwise.

“Kaddish” is one of Ginsberg’s masterpieces. It grapples with the incomprehensible themes of death and religion, of the mother-son relationship and one’s place in a spiritual and physical world. What one remembers. What one cannot let go of. What one carries and what one cannot forget. Where else do Ray Charles and questions of life, death, and religion exist alongside one another as if that were the natural order of things?

Want to read more Kaddish?
Read “Kaddish” in its entirety at The Poetry Foundation.

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Managing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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