My Sad Self

By Allen Ginsberg 1926–1997 Allen Ginsberg

To Frank O’Hara

Sometimes when my eyes are red
I go up on top of the RCA Building
          and gaze at my world, Manhattan—
                     my buildings, streets I’ve done feats in,
                           lofts, beds, coldwater flats
—on Fifth Ave below which I also bear in mind,
          its ant cars, little yellow taxis, men
               walking the size of specks of wool—
   Panorama of the bridges, sunrise over Brooklyn machine,
          sun go down over New Jersey where I was born
             & Paterson where I played with ants—
   my later loves on 15th Street,
          my greater loves of Lower East Side,
             my once fabulous amours in the Bronx   
   paths crossing in these hidden streets,
      my history summed up, my absences   
             and ecstasies in Harlem—
      —sun shining down on all I own
       in one eyeblink to the horizon
               in my last eternity—
                                     matter is water.

      I take the elevator and go
             down, pondering,
and walk on the pavements staring into all man’s
                                           plateglass, faces,
             questioning after who loves,
      and stop, bemused
             in front of an automobile shopwindow
      standing lost in calm thought,
             traffic moving up & down 5th Avenue blocks behind me   
                      waiting for a moment when ...

Time to go home & cook supper & listen to
                      the romantic war news on the radio   
                                     ... all movement stops
& I walk in the timeless sadness of existence,   
      tenderness flowing thru the buildings,
             my fingertips touching reality’s face,
      my own face streaked with tears in the mirror   
             of some window—at dusk—
                                     where I have no desire—
      for bonbons—or to own the dresses or Japanese   
                      lampshades of intellection—

Confused by the spectacle around me,
          Man struggling up the street
                     with packages, newspapers,
                                           ties, beautiful suits   
                     toward his desire
          Man, woman, streaming over the pavements   
                     red lights clocking hurried watches &   
                            movements at the curb—

And all these streets leading
          so crosswise, honking, lengthily,
                            by avenues
          stalked by high buildings or crusted into slums
                            thru such halting traffic
                                           screaming cars and engines   
so painfully to this
          countryside, this graveyard
                     this stillness
                                           on deathbed or mountain   
          once seen
                            never regained or desired
                                           in the mind to come
where all Manhattan that I’ve seen must disappear.

New York, October 1958

Allen Ginsberg, “My Sad Self” from Collected Poems, 1947-1980. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Used with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Selected Poems 1947-1995 (2001)

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Poet Allen Ginsberg 1926–1997


Subjects Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Allen  Ginsberg


One of the most respected Beat writers and acclaimed American poets of his generation, Allen Ginsberg enjoys a prominent place in post-World War II American culture. He was born in 1926 in Newark, New Jersey, and raised in nearby Paterson. The son of an English teacher and Russian expatriate, Ginsberg’s early life was marked by his mother’s psychological troubles, including a series of nervous breakdowns. In 1943, while studying . . .

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SUBJECT Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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