Writ on the Steps of Puerto Rican Harlem

By Gregory Corso 1930–2001 Gregory Corso
There’s a truth limits man
A truth prevents his going any farther   
The world is changing
The world knows it’s changing
Heavy is the sorrow of the day
The old have the look of doom
The young mistake their fate in that look   
That is truth
But it isn’t all truth

Life has meaning
And I do not know the meaning   
Even when I felt it were meaningless
I hoped and prayed and sought a meaning
It wasn’t all frolic poesy
There were dues to pay   
Summoning Death and God   
I’d a wild dare to tackle Them
Death proved meaningless without Life
Yes the world is changing   
But Death remains the same   
It takes man away from Life   
The only meaning he knows   
And usually it is a sad business   
This Death

I’d an innocence I’d a seriousness
I’d a humor save me from amateur philosophy
I am able to contradict my beliefs   
I am able able
Because I want to know the meaning of everything
Yet sit I like a brokenness   
Moaning: Oh what responsibility   
I put on thee Gregory
Death and God
Hard hard it’s hard

I learned life were no dream
I learned truth deceived
Man is not God   
Life is a century   
Death an instant

Gregory Corso, “Writ on the Steps of Puerto Rican Harlem” from Long Live Man. Copyright © 1962 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

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Subjects Death, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Death, Living

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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