Underwear

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti b. 1919 Lawrence Ferlinghetti
I didn’t get much sleep last night
thinking about underwear
Have you ever stopped to consider   
underwear in the abstract   
When you really dig into it
some shocking problems are raised   
Underwear is something   
we all have to deal with   
Everyone wears
some kind of underwear
The Pope wears underwear I hope
The Governor of Louisiana   
wears underwear
I saw him on TV
He must have had tight underwear
He squirmed a lot
Underwear can really get you in a bind
You have seen the underwear ads
for men and women
so alike but so different
Women’s underwear holds things up
Men’s underwear holds things down   
Underwear is one thing   
men and women have in common   
Underwear is all we have between us
You have seen the three-color pictures
with crotches encircled
to show the areas of extra strength
and three-way stretch
promising full freedom of action
Don’t be deceived
It’s all based on the two-party system
which doesn’t allow much freedom of choice   
the way things are set up   
America in its Underwear
struggles thru the night
Underwear controls everything in the end   
Take foundation garments for instance   
They are really fascist forms
of underground government
making people believe
something but the truth
telling you what you can or can’t do   
Did you ever try to get around a girdle   
Perhaps Non-Violent Action
is the only answer
Did Gandhi wear a girdle?
Did Lady Macbeth wear a girdle?
Was that why Macbeth murdered sleep?   
And that spot she was always rubbing—
Was it really in her underwear?
Modern anglosaxon ladies
must have huge guilt complexes
always washing and washing and washing   
Out damned spot
Underwear with spots very suspicious   
Underwear with bulges very shocking   
Underwear on clothesline a great flag of freedom   
Someone has escaped his Underwear   
May be naked somewhere
Help!
But don’t worry
Everybody’s still hung up in it
There won’t be no real revolution
And poetry still the underwear of the soul   
And underwear still covering
a multitude of faults
in the geological sense—
strange sedimentary stones, inscrutable cracks!   
If I were you I’d keep aside
an oversize pair of winter underwear   
Do not go naked into that good night   
And in the meantime
keep calm and warm and dry
No use stirring ourselves up prematurely   
‘over Nothing’
Move forward with dignity
hand in vest
Don’t get emotional
And death shall have no dominion   
There’s plenty of time my darling
Are we not still young and easy
Don’t shout

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Underwear” from Starting from San Francisco. Copyright © 1961 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: These Are My Rivers: New and Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti b. 1919

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Subjects Humor & Satire, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Lawrence  Ferlinghetti

Biography

As poet, playwright, publisher, and activist, Lawrence Ferlinghetti helped to spark the San Francisco literary renaissance of the 1950s and the subsequent “Beat” movement. Like the Beats, Ferlinghetti felt strongly that art should be accessible to all people, not just a handful of highly educated intellectuals. His career has been marked by its constant challenge of the status quo; his poetry engages readers, defies popular . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Humor & Satire, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.