[Intermezzo] A Howling Phantasma or, Is That You, Allen Ginsberg?

I met Allen Ginsberg today. Thirty year old, Howl-era Ginsberg. Pre-beard, lean-faced, second-hand button down shirt and wrinkly chinos Ginsberg. Passionate, open, distilled, intellectual. Chatty, with a beatific smile. Slight yet strong, like a controlled exhalation. He didn’t seem to know who he was, the great Ginsberg unaware of his greatness. How could that happen? Modesty is not one of his virtues. There’s a sturdy ego beneath that skull, that nose, those glasses. He was there, but not there. Present yet absent. The voice, the words, the attitude-all off. Wrong. He was fading, chimerical. If I blinked one more time, would he be gone, disappear into nothing, recede into my brain cells? No, he was still there. Moving to the door, thanking me. Thanking me for the package carried in his hand. Only now his shirt was too smooth, the chinos too crisp, the shoes too smart. The accent was all wrong, there was no poetical thought behind the eyes. Just a nice man, polite. Grateful. Gone. Gone, with his casual canniness worn like smooth skin, neither pondered nor known.

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