O Let Me Burst

berrigan
Ted Berrigan (1934 – 1983)

The Sonnets:  III

by Ted Berrigan

Stronger than alcohol, more great than song,
deep in whose reeds great elephants decay,
I, an island, sail, and my shoes toss
on a fragrant evening, fraught with sadness
bristling hate.
It’s true, I weep too much. Dawns break
slow kisses on the eyelids of the sea,
what other men sometimes have thought they’ve seen.
And since then I’ve been bathing in the poem
lifting her shadowy flowers up for me,
and hurled by hurricanes to a birdless place
the waving flags, nor pass by prison ships

O let me burst, and I be lost at sea!
and fall on my knees then, womanly.


It feels like we are an entire country in mourning.   I don’t know if I am more attuned since the pandemic to the obituaries but it feels like the list of those passing weighs heavier, regardless of the cause of death.  Poetry has always been a way to express grief and loss, to remember those that are missed.  If you were to follow Berrigan’s example, what poem would you write in tribute to those friends and strangers whose deaths have marked you with sadness and gladness of perspective for the celebration of their life?


People Who Died

by Ted Berrigan

Pat Dugan……..my grandfather……..throat cancer……..1947.

Ed Berrigan……..my dad……..heart attack……..1958.
Dickie Budlong……..my best friend Brucie’s big brother, when we were
                                                        five to eight……..killed in Korea, 1953.
Red O’Sullivan……..hockey star & cross-country runner
                                                who sat at my lunch table
                                                            in High School……car crash……1954.
Jimmy “Wah” Tiernan……..my friend, in High School,
                                       Football & Hockey All-State……car crash….1959.
Cisco Houston……..died of cancer……..1961.
Freddy Herko, dancer….jumped out of a Greenwich Village window
     in 1963.
Anne Kepler….my girl….killed by smoke-poisoning while playing
                                    the flute at the Yonkers Children’s Hospital
                                    during a fire set by a 16 year old arsonist….1965.
Frank……Frank O’Hara……hit by a car on Fire Island, 1966.
Woody Guthrie……dead of Huntington’s Chorea in 1968.
Neal……Neal Cassady……died of exposure, sleeping all night
                                            in the rain by the RR tracks of Mexico….1969.
Franny Winston……just a girl….totalled her car on the Detroit-Ann Arbor
                                    Freeway, returning from the dentist….Sept. 1969.

Jack……Jack Kerouac……died of drink & angry sickness….in 1969.

My friends whose deaths have slowed my heart stay with me now.

Published by

A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations.

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