Bean Spasms

By Ted Berrigan 1934–1983 Ted Berrigan

for George Schneeman

New York’s lovely weather
                                                    hurts my forehead

                                                   in praise of thee
                                                                               the? white dead
                                                                               whose eyes know:
                           what are they
    of the tiny cloud my brain:
The City’s tough red buttons:
                                                                   O Mars, red, angry planet, candy

                                                                                 bar, with sky on top,
                             “why, it’s young Leander hurrying to his death”
                 what? what time is it in New York            in these here alps
        City of lovely tender hate
                                                             and beauty making beautiful
                                                                                                   old rhymes?
  I ran away from you
when you needed something strong
                   then I leand against the toilet bowl (ack)
         Malcolm X
                             I love my brain
         it all mine now is
         saved not knowing
                      that &
                      that (happily)
                      being that:

                      “wee kill our selves to propagate our kinde”
                                                                                                 John Donne
    yes, that’s true
                          the hair on yr nuts & my
                                      big blood-filled cock are a part in that

                                                PART 2
                                     Mister Robert Dylan doesn’t feel well today
                                    That’s bad
                                    This picture doesn’t show that
                                    It’s not bad, too

                                    it’s very ritzy in fact

                                    here I stand I can’t stand
                                    to be thing
                                    I don’t use                            atop
                                                          the empire state
                                                          & so sauntered out that door
That reminds me of the time
I wrote that long piece about a gangster name of “Jr.”
O Harry James! had eyes to wander but lacked tongue to praise
                                                             so later peed under his art
                 paused only to lay a sneeze
                                                                                      on Jack Dempsey
                                                                      asleep with his favorite Horse
                             That reminds me of I buzz
                                           on & off Miró pop
                                           in & out a Castro convertible
           minute by minute                                           GENEROSITY!
          Yes now that the seasons totter in their walk
          I do a lot of wondering about Life      in praise of ladies dead of
& Time plaza(s), Bryant Park by the Public                     eye of brow
Library, Smith Bros. black boxes, Times
                                             Pirogi Houses
                                                                       with long skinny rivers thru them
                                                      they lead the weary away
                                                                   off! hey!
                                                                                  I’m no sailor
                                                                                off a ship
                                                                                                         at sea   I’M HERE
                                                                                                  & “The living is easy”
                                                     & I’m in shapes
                                                     of shadow, they
                                                     certainly can warm, can’t they?

                 Have you ever seen one?                                                NO!
                                                            of those long skinny Rivers
                                                                 So well hung, in New York City
                                          NO!          in fact
                                                                        I’m the Wonderer
& as yr train goes by                               forgive me, René!              ‘just oncet’
I woke up in Heaven
                                        He woke, and wondered more, how many angels
      on this train huh?                      snore

                                                                    for there she lay
                                   on sheets that mock lust                  done that 7 times
                                                                                                  been caught
                                                                           and brought back
                                                              to a peach nobody.

                                         To Continue:
                                         Ron Padgett & Ted Berrigan
                                                  hates yr brain
                                                                my dears
                                                            amidst the many other little buzzes
                                       & like, Today, as Ron Padgett might say
                                                  “A tub of vodka”
                                                                                “in the morning”
                         she might reply
and that keeps it up
          past icy poles
                                           where angels beg fr doom then zip
                                                    ping in-and-out, joining the army
                      wondering about Life
                             by the Public Library of
                                                                                       No Greater Thrill!
                                                             (I wonder)

Now that the earth is changing I wonder what time it’s getting to be
                  sitting on the New York Times Square
          that actually very ritzy, Lauren    it’s made of yellow wood or
                                                     I don’t know something               maybe
                                  This man was my                       it’s been fluffed up
                                                          He had a sense for the
                                                                 vast                               doesn’t he?
                                                Awake my Angel! give thyself
                                                          to the lovely hours        Don’t cheat
                                      The victory is not always to the sweet.
                                                         I mean that.

Now this picture is pretty good here
Though it once got demerits from the lunatic Arthur Cravan
He wasn’t feeling good that day
Maybe because he had nothing on
                                                                    paint-wise I mean

                                                         PART 3

                                                        I wrote that
                                                               about what is
                                             this empty room            without a heart
                                                          now in three parts
                                                   a white flower
                                                  came home wet & drunk                2 Pepsis
                                                  and smashed my fist thru her window
                                                                                               in the nude
            As the hand zips you see
                                      Old Masters, you can see
                               well hung in New York              they grow fast here
                                    Conflicting, yet purposeful
                                              yet with outcry vain!

                                                        PART 4

                                                      Praising, that’s it!
you string a sonnet around yr fat gut
          and falling on your knees
                                                        you invent the shoe
                                                        for a horse. It brings you luck
                                              while sleeping
                                                        “You have it seems a workshop nature”
Have you                                              “Good Lord!”
                                                                                        Some folks is wood
seen them?                                          Ron Padgett wd say
                                                                    amidst the many other little buzzes
                                                                past the neon on & off
                                                                     night & day     STEAK SANDWICH
                                                             Have you ever tried one Anne?          SURE!
                   “I wonder what time ‘its’?”
                        as I sit on this new Doctor
NO             I only look at buildings they’re in
as you and he, I mean he & you & I buzz past
                                                              in yellow ties      I call that gold
                                         THE HOTEL BUCKINGHAM
                        (facade) is black, and taller than last time
is looming over lunch         naked        high time        poem       & I, equal in
                                                                                   perfection & desire
                 is looming         two eyes         over coffee-cup (white) nature
                                             and man:         both hell on poetry.
                                                   Art is art and life is
                                                         “A monograph on infidelity”
                                   Oh. Forgive me stench of sandwich
                                    O pneumonia in American Poetry

                  Do we have time?                           well look at Burroughs
                          7 times been caught and brought back to Mars
                                                       & eaten.
“Art is art & Life
is home,” Fairfield Porter said that
                                                    turning himself in
                                                                Tonight arrives again in red
some go on            even in Colorado                                 on the run
                                                                the forests shake
                                                   coffee            the cheerfulness of this poor
                                                                          fellow is terrible, hidden in
                                                                          the fringes of the eyelids’
                                                   blue mysteries          (I’M THE SKY)
                    The sky is bleeding now
                                             onto 57th Street
                                        of the 20th Century &
                                                                HORN & HARDART’S
                                          Right here. That’s PART 5

                                                           I’m not some sailor off a ship at sea
I’m the wanderer                                                                (age 4)
                                                   & now everyone is dead
                            sinking bewildered of hand, of foot, of lip
     nude, thinking
laughter burnished brighter than hate
                                    André Breton said that
                                                                                  what a shit!
Now he’s gone!
                                    up bubbles all his amorous breath
                              & Monograph on Infidelity entitled
                                                                                         The Living Dream
I never again played
                                             I dreamt that December 27th, 1965
                                   all in the blazon of sweet beauty’s breast

                   I mean           “a rose”           Do you understand that?
                                                             Do you?
The rock&roll songs of this earth
commingling absolute joy AND
incontrovertible joy of intelligence
                                                                      certainly can warm
                                                                   can’t they?        YES!
                                                 and they do
                           Keeping eternal whisperings around

                                                                       (Mr. MacAdams writes in
                                                                       the nude: no that’s not
(we want to take the underground         me that: then zips in &
           revolution to Harvard!)                 out the boring taxis, re-
                                                                      fusing to join the army
                  and yet this girl has                asleep “on the springs”
                         so much grace                   of red GENEROSITY)
                                 I wonder!
                      Were all their praises simply prophecies
           of this
                           the time!           NO GREATER THRILL
                                                                      my friends

           But I quickly forget them, those other times, for what are they
   but parts in the silver lining of the tiny cloud my brain
drifting up into smoke the city’s tough blue top:

                                          I think a picture always
                                         leads you gently to someone else
Don’t you? like when you ask to leave the room
                                         & go to the moon.

Ted Berrigan, "Bean Spasms" from The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan. Copyright © 2007 by Ted Berrigan.  Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.

Source: Selected Poems (Penguin Books, 1994)


Ted Berrigan—Edmund Joseph Michael Berrigan Jr.—was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the oldest of three children of Margaret Dugan and Edmund Berrigan, the chief engineer at Ward’s Baking Company. On both sides the family was Irish Catholic. Berrigan attended local schools and entered Providence College, a local Catholic school, but left after a year and enlisted in the army.

Berrigan was sent to Korea in 1954 but never saw . . .

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