Three Poems by George Green

BOMB 35 Spring 1991
035 Spring 1991

Poem for His Divine Grace, Swami Prabhupada, Founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

I.

Unemployed again
in Tompkins Square Park
it’s a great joy to have
a paper plate full of hot prasada
doled out by the Hare Krishnas,
full of butter and sugar
Hare Krishna the butter-thief!
 
I’ve got to hand it to you, Prabhupada,
coming here in steerage at the age of sixty-nine
a retired pharmacist with fifty dollars,
a trunk of books, and some saffron robes.
A real American success story.
Then again your timing was good—1965.
 
Of course the Krishnas
have had their ups and downs
like everybody else over the years.
I’m thinking now about those unexplained corpses
in West Virginia.
Then one of your main Swamis
was caught blowing his chauffeur in India.
 
My favorite was that German kid
who decided he was a demigod
and started stockpiling firearms
and dealing drugs and whatnot.
Guns for a Krishna revolution.
He liked to charge around on horseback,
must have looked like a Cossack.
 
It’s a beautiful day,
an Indian summer.
The park could be a glade
in the Brindaban Forest
where last night Radha
waited and pined,
hating the moonlight.
Waited while Krishna amused himself
with such transcendental pastimes
as fucking 19,000 Gopis,
19,000 in one night!
The Gopis have boyfriends already,
but that doesn’t stop them or Krishna.
 
Radha is always forgiving.
Krishna plays on his flute
and his pet cow smiles.
The deer, I think, is another
of his attributes.  
 
II.

Probably your biggest mistake, Prabhupada,
was allowing the devotees to wear
the Brahmin cord in India.
On your deathbed you said
that your only regret was
taking on too many devotees,
too much Karma.
 
I only regret that I
missed the Hare Krishna rock band,
they only played India.
 
It is a shame,
but you were one of
the more sexist gurus
You once said that
women should sweep a lot
because it would make their breasts bigger.
 
The park has changed quite a bit
since you used to hang out here
twenty years ago.
It’s more like India now.
We have a whole new class of untouchables.
 
What I have here
is a shiny new copy of the Bhagavad-Gita
that I got with my second helping of prasada.
This is what you wanted most,
to spread Vedic culture in the West.
It’s what your guru told you to do in 1922.
You tried to put Gitas everywhere,
like Gideon Bibles.
 
One of the other bums
is trying to trade his prasada
for some Thunderbird.
That old woman is just playing with her food,
she’s too crazy to eat.
 
I’ve got to go home
and call my mother in Florida
and ask for two hundred dollars.
I swore this would never happen again.
 
It doesn’t matter,
it says right here in the Gita.
It doesn’t matter if I die today,
“For never was there a time
when I did not exist,
nor you, nor all these kings;
nor in the future shall any of us
ever cease to be!”  
 
III.

I talked to Gayle on the phone
she said you looked like a gangster
in your coffin.
I remember when I introduced you two
I never dreamed she’d marry you.
Lucy must be about ten now.
 
I’d heard you were dealing coke
and kept a bottle of Stoli in the freezer.
You must have got some good dope,
you were going for the Stoli
when you fell down on the kitchen floor
and went straight to the wrong Valhalla.
 
Me, I’m sober as a judge
you wouldn’t believe it.
I caught the last train out of Hell,
the last car,
and here I am
pumping iron
and chugging wheatgrass juice,
standing on my head
and reading the New Testament.  
 
 

Nagas
 

I.

The Nagas are Shaivite sadhus
who go around naked
or in loinclothes.
They cover themselves with ashes
from funeral pyres.
 
They resemble Rastafarians
in that they wear their hair
long and matted in a style
similar to dreadlocks
and smoke copious quantities
of hashish in chillums.
 
They arm themselves
with tridents and with
long knives, like ratchets
or machetes.
It was these tridents
that prodded the Buddhists
out of India.
 
They beg and often extort alms
from householders or passersby.
Most of them are celibate.
 
My friend the Swami
once saw a Naga
string his cock
between two wooden blocks
and then hammer the top block
down again and again
as though he meant
to pulverize himself
and in that way
diminsh sexual desire.
 
Mahādevī, a Vīrasaiva
bhakta saint,
was married to Shiva
like a nun.
All her songs
are about her
search for him.
 
She wandered around
twelfth-century India
naked, covered only
in her tresses,
like Lady Godiva.
 
She was of surpassing beauty,
and men pursued her.
Somehow she eluded them.
Finally, she was forced
into a marriage
with Kaúsika, the king.
But she escaped
to Srīsaila,
the holy mountain,
and died in a state
of god-intoxication
or oneness-with-Shiva.
She was 25.
   
II.

I think that Jesus was mad
when he cast the money-changers
out of the temple. The Johannine Gospel
places the incident at the beginning
of His ministry, but I believe the
Synoptics are correct, and it happened
only days before the Passion.
 
I don’t think He started a riot
just because they were selling some pigeons.
I think that Jesus was mad
because He didn’t want to leave
His own sweet human body
He knew that they were going to
torture Him to death,
but He had no idea
what the Resurrection Body would be like,
or how terrible it might be
to live in eternity.
 
He was afraid.
He thought the world was coming
to an end in a few years.
He was wrong about that.
He loved His human body.
He wanted things to stay the same.
I don’t think He knew
that He’d get to stay
around for a while
after the Resurrection,
and eat the honeycomb,
and cook some fish,
and walk on the road again
for miles in the dust,
explaining the Scriptures,
appearing and disappearing,
shoving Thomas’s hand
into the hole in His side.
 
 

Iowa City
for Tom Gallo (1951–1986)
 

I.

I remember punching
Larry Roe in the head
that time he came at me swinging.
We both had the same girlfriend, Judy Hilton.
He went down with blood gushing.
I had a longer reach
and he was blind drunk.
 
It was a shameful incident
and Dan Hottel came downstairs
and made fun of Larry.
And Dan died that year from whiskey and heroin.
 
I was Judy’s last boyfriend
and then I stole Barbara from Raymond
and I was her last boyfriend.
It was that year, I guess,
that a lot of girls went gay on us.
 
Well, Bill Larson said
that he’d fucked Judy
and I knew it was true
but it was much later
when he knocked me down
and kicked me in the head
with a pointy-toed cowboy boot
and I rolled against the wall
like a log out cold
and woke up the next morning
feeling just fine
and I still maintain that he
(Bill Larson)
was not well read.
And that winter John Haydon
came home drunk
and locked out, he fell down,
and slept and froze
right to the porch.  
 
II.

And Hope followed me out from New Haven,
she hitched a ride with a truck driver.
Hope Payne was her name
I’m not making any of this up.
I used to say no hope
and lots of pain
and I didn’t want her there.
 
Well, R. G. had mushrooms
and I ate a whole bag
and drank a quart of George Dickel
and Hope and I fought and
fought and I ended up
trying to strangle her
and she ran out.
Well, I drank more
and the mushrooms came on
and I started crying uncontrollably
and I went out
and stamped through the snow
around and around for hours
crying “Hope! Hope! Hope!”
 
She was with you, Tom Gallo
and she tried to fuck you
I know she did
and it would have been fine
but you were afraid of hurting anybody
and you were loyal to me
and now you are dead
from vodka and heroin, Tom.

George Green is bartender at the Muse Tavern and an English major at Hunter College.

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BOMB 35, Spring 1991

Featuring interviews with Kathy Bates, Philip Taaffe, Lynne Tillman, Kid Capri, Luisa Valenzuela, Meg Cranston, Melissa Kretschmer & Maya Lin, Zhang Yimou, Keith Reddin, Ira Silverberg & Amy Scholder, Jennie Livingston, and James Wines.

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035 Spring 1991