Transformation & Escape

By Gregory Corso 1930–2001 Gregory Corso
1

I reached heaven and it was syrupy.
It was oppressively sweet.
Croaking substances stuck to my knees.
Of all substances St. Michael was stickiest.
I grabbed him and pasted him on my head.   
I found God a gigantic fly paper.
I stayed out of his way.
I walked where everything smelled of burnt chocolate.   
Meanwhile St. Michael was busy with his sword   
hacking away at my hair.
I found Dante standing naked in a blob of honey.   
Bears were licking his thighs.
I snatched St. Michael’s sword
and quartered myself in a great circular adhesive.   
My torso fell upon an elastic equilibrium.
As though shot from a sling
my torso whizzed at God fly paper.
My legs sank into some unimaginable sog.
My head, though weighed with the weight of St. Michael,   
did not fall.
Fine strands of multi-colored gum
suspended it there.
My spirit stopped by my snared torso.
I pulled! I yanked! Rolled it left to right!
It bruised! It softened! It could not free!
The struggle of an Eternity!
An Eternity of pulls! of yanks!
Went back to my head,
St. Michael had sucked dry my brainpan!
Skull!
My skull!
Only skull in heaven!
Went to my legs.
St. Peter was polishing his sandals with my knees!   
I pounced upon him!
Pummeled his face in sugar in honey in marmalade!   
Under each arm I fled with my legs!
The police of heaven were in hot pursuit!
I hid within the sop of St. Francis.
Gasping in the confectionery of his gentility   
I wept, caressing my intimidated legs.


2

They caught me.
They took my legs away.
They sentenced me in the firmament of an ass.
The prison of an Eternity!
An Eternity of labor! of hee-haws!
Burdened with the soiled raiment of saints
I schemed escape.
Lugging ampullae its daily fill
I schemed escape.
I schemed climbing impossible mountains.
I schemed under the Virgin’s whip.
I schemed to the sound of celestial joy.
I schemed to the sound of earth,
the wail of infants,   
the groans of men,   
the thud of coffins.   
I schemed escape.
God was busy switching the spheres from hand to hand.   
The time had come.
I cracked my jaws.   
Broke my legs.
Sagged belly-flat on plow
on pitchfork
on scythe.
My spirit leaked from the wounds.
A whole spirit pooled.
I rose from the carcass of my torment.   
I stood in the brink of heaven.
And I swear that Great Territory did quake   
when I fell, free.

Gregory Corso, “Transformation & Escape” from The Happy Birthday of Death. Copyright © 1960 by New Directions Publishing Corporation. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Mindfield: New and Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1989)

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Poet Gregory Corso 1930–2001

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 Gregory  Corso

Biography

Gregory Corso was a key member of the Beat movement, a group of convention-breaking writers who were credited with sparking much of the social and political change that transformed the United States in the 1960s. Corso's spontaneous, insightful, and inspirational verse once prompted fellow Beat poet Allen Ginsberg to describe him as an "awakener of youth." Although Corso enjoyed his greatest level of popularity during the 1960s . . .

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SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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