An excerpt from Over Glassy Horizons: Poetry From The Margins by Nico Reznick
In response to Howl by Allen Ginsberg
I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by sanity,
seen bold new visionaries resign themselves to clinical long-haul deaths,
drug-numbed to their own suffering, and everyone else’s;
seen raving revolutionaries give up, retire to minimalist Swedish-designed armchairs,
and never move again;
seen the horizon dim and draw ever closer,
and the tenacious lunatics with the wanderlust to stray beyond
become fewer and further between.
There are uglier destructive forces than madness:
Consider cognitive rehabilitation.
Consider absolutely nothing immeasurable.
Consider utter rationality.
Ritalin, lithium, risperidone, duloxatine. [I thought I heard a man speaking in tongues,
then I realised he was simply reading out loud from a pharmaceutical directory.]
Imagine a generation of loan brokers and loss adjustors;
Hicks gone these past seventeen years and Leary still alive;
sharks floating in formaldehyde;
all true human significance lost in pretentious symbols,
and no one raging.
No one raging for real.
Where are Plato’s maniacs now?
Where are their lunatic songs?
I hear only the steady, rational tapping of the accountants’ calculators,
occasionally, some lost and lonely bum crying out for one more shot,
and the PA system calling the next patient through, the doctor will see you now,
or asking would the owner of a light blue Honda Civic please move their vehicle,
as it’s blocking in a black Lexus full of lawyers with an ambulance to chase.
Is there really nowhere between here
and the bellow and buzz, the shiver and shriek of the asylum?
Someplace between this sterile, static, silent, windowless room
and the fizzing frenzy of the electroconvulsion suite,
there must be somewhere we might have paused and breathed and set up shop,
where we could have been happy – if we’d wanted to be –
and no more or less sane than we chose.
Dr Thompson saw it coming: the dawn of this new Age of Equilibrium.
He knew that football season was over, for good this time, and made his ballistic decision
to go stalk peacocks and hound Nixon through the Kingdom Hereafter,
assuring us, ‘Relax – This won’t hurt’.
He was right.
Safe and stable and sanitized, we can no longer follow your desperate, dirty verse.
Straitjacketed by reason, we perceive our world only in terms
of quantum and co-efficiency, of the logical and logistical,
of what can be conjured in the duration of the average commercial break,
of what can be computed to at least two decimal places.
We are the chemically castrated.
We are lobotomised by mutual consent.
We are the perfect ones: regular and moderate and so healthy, so functional.
We are the white strobing smiles of the toothpaste ads,
the poster children for good mental hygiene,
the footsoldiers of no more conflict.
We have lost our skill for the alchemy
that once distilled genius from the seething crucible of lunacy.
We medicate those whose vision would otherwise put our own to shame,
leave them as myopic and blinkered as the rest of us,
the breadth and depth and distance of their sight no longer a worry to anyone.
Give us back our madmen: we need them.
Give us back our crazed anthems, our burning shrouds, our leprous one-man-bands.
Give us back the fire and the filth and the fornication that kept us howling through
those endlessly polluted nights of Windscale and Watergate, McCarthy and motorcades, Hanoi and Hiroshima.
Please. Give us back our madmen.
I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by sanity.
We got out of the murder motel early,
while we still could,
before the rental car got stolen
or our room underwent dynamic drive-by refurbishment.
There was supposed to be a
complimentary continental breakfast,
but the coffee machine was broken
and someone had already swiped all the donuts.
My only frame of reference for Inglewood was that it was Sam Jackson's character's home turf in 'Pulp Fiction',
leading me to suspect it
probably wasn't a nice area,
although the fat hooker smoking outside
when we'd checked in at 2am
had seemed very friendly.
You were right about LA, about
how there must be a sun, but you can't
really see it, you just
sort of assume it's up there somewhere
behind the fog huffing in off the Pacific
and the toxic breath rising from the
city's gridlocked mouth.
We made for Venice Beach, because you
don't fly all that way and then not go,
us figuring ourselves early enough
in the grey, jet-lagged damp, to
avoid the junkies, the winos and the crazies,
the symptoms of America driving itself mad with
But they were already there, muttering and
shivering on sand and cement, some
under rags or cardboard,
just waking up in
spite of themselves.
A woman with the hungriest face I ever saw
threw a cigarette lighter at me, then yelled,
shaking in her filthy clothes, that she wasn't giving it to me, bitch, FYI,
FBI, CIA, JFK... then
started screaming about Kennedy and all those lying fucks up on the hill.
The ocean sucking away at the land behind us,
like it was whetting its appetite for the day when
San Andreas splinters, and the waves finally
The hungry-faced woman was still shouting when
we walked away, through the graffiti and
gangs of bastard-huge, hulking seagulls.
If I'd stopped and tried to talk to her, if I'd
gotten anywhere close enough, I was
afraid she'd tear a bite out of my face,
and I didn't know what shots I'd need if that happened, and we didn't have medical.
Which was a shame,
because I'd have liked to hear
what she had to say about Kennedy.
We walked to where you'd street-parked
the car which
still hadn't been stolen.
On the way, some guy, a stranger
coming the other way, called you
'Football Dude' and asked you
to catch his neighbour if she
jumped off her balcony, but
I think he was joking.
Oh, and the car was yellow.