Ginsberg’s Dream of Joan

William S. Burroughs, in a drunken game of William Tell, shoots his wife, Joan Vollmer, in the head. The party is over in Mexico. But Joan visits Allen Ginsberg in his dreams at a psychiatric ward in New Jersey. The premise of the following stretch from Canto Seven is inspired by Ginsberg’s Dream Record: June 8, 1955. The talking head bit is original, however, with a nod to Cocteau.

From Canto Seven


The poet Ginsberg has his memories
and dreams of Joan. “Can you still love your mortal
friends,” he asks her under garden trees
that end up shadowing her grave. “A portal
to the world of darkness might reprise
the light. What follows…is it love?” A chortle,
and the bullet hole and brow bestow
the comfort of a stone in Mexico.


Or else they ask how Kerouac is doing
(the puncture wound converses on her head
in Dada dream effect). “Well, Jack’s pursuing
his satori, digging gold in lead .”
“Retailored tailors blush at the ensuing
alterations.” “That is what he said.”
“And what of Burroughs?” “Now he writes to save
himself.” “The fugitive becomes a slave.”


The labial stigmata of the dream,
or rictus craniale, if you prefer,
is one of many visions in a stream.
No wonder Blake taps Ginsberg to confer
upon a mystic or romantic theme
from time to time. Again, the liquid blur
of cloud is consecrating Ginsberg’s space.
The ward becomes a graphic interface.


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