An Interlude with Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I Am Waiting

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting
for someone to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep through the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American

and I am seriously waiting
for Billy Graham and Elvis Presley
to exchange roles seriously
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the living end
and I am waiting
for dad to come home
his pockets full
of irradiated silver dollars
and I am waiting
for the atomic tests to end
and I am waiting happily
for things to get much worse
before they improve
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the human crowd
to wander off a cliff somewhere
clutching its atomic umbrella
and I am waiting
for Ike to act
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and save me forever from certain death
and I am waiting
for life to begin
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am waiting
for Ole Man River
to just stop rolling along
past the country club
and I am waiting
for the deepest South
to just stop Reconstructing itself
in its own image
and I am waiting
for a sweet desegregated chariot
to swing low
and carry me back to Ole Virginie
and I am waiting
for Ole Virginie to discover
just why Darkies are born
and I am waiting
for God to lookout
from Lookout Mountain
and see the Ode to the Confederate Dead
as a real farce
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for Tom Swift to grow up
and I am waiting
for the American Boy
to take off Beauty’s clothes
and get on top of her
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am waiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

— L.F. , 1958

Note:  The above poem includes extra lines not found in many versions on the Web.  Does anyone have a copy of Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind to check?

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13 Comments on “An Interlude with Lawrence Ferlinghetti”

  1. bloglily Says:

    Oh my — I had no idea this wonderful poem existed and I’m so happy to discover it through you! There are so many things I like, but I’ll say that Elvis and Billy Graham might be my favorite. xo, BL

  2. qazse Says:

    I do. What would you like me to check?

  3. fencer Says:

    Hi qazse,

    I was curious whether the lines above are the complete poem as originally published (I believe) in Coney Island of the Mind. There are versions of the poem, whether later renditions perhaps by LF or not, with fewer lines… missing are lines like the South section or the refererence to Ike in some versions I’ve seen on the web.

    I read this poem late one night and it resonated with me a lot for some reason, partially because I was thinking of the Cold War years.

    Regards

  4. qazse Says:

    I’ll check it out tonight

  5. qazse Says:

    fencer,

    this version matches the one found in my copy of the twenty fourth printing of the New Directions paperback. It was purchased in the early eighties for $2.95. ( I also have a copy from the sixties somewhere.) There seems to be no other editions apart from a 1968 clothbound. The various versions of I Am Waiting might be attributable, in part, to the following introduction to the sectionof the book in which the poem is found:

    “These seven poems were conceived as spontaneously spoken ‘oral messages’ rather than as poems written for the printed page. As a result of continued experimental reading with jazz, they are still in a state of change.” (LF)

    So put on your beret, light up a smoke, dust off the bongos and have your way with the poem. For myself, I am on my way to bed and will read this poem more slowly and will let you know my reaction tomorrow. Good night West Coast .

  6. qazse Says:

    oh, and yes it was A Coney Island of the Mind.

  7. fencer Says:

    Hey thanks for checking that out. It is the kind of poem to be chanted out loud.

    Looking forward to seeing what you think… It’ll be real cool, man.

    Now where did I put those bongos…

    Regards

  8. qazse Says:

    I fell asleep after the first read and have not had time yet to read again – but I will.

  9. fencer Says:

    Thanks qazse… whenever!

  10. fencer Says:

    Hi bloglily,

    For some strange reason your comment ended up classed as spam until I went and recovered it… It must have been the mention of Elvis and Billy Graham!

    Regards

  11. qazse Says:

    My first read was done in haste. I initially was not enamored with it. I am now on my third and have been richly rewarded for the effort.

    I like it better with each read and my next will be aloud. I love how he refers back to the notion of “wonder” as central and necessary. I like the use of the phrase “I am waiting” both perspectively and rhythmically. I think in it is a beautiful creation and deserves anyone’s consideration. The only criticism I have is some of the outdated references. If I were editing it, I would think of paring down to free it of its context. Not that the context is unimportant. I think people should read the contextualized version also – just not first. After all, he said it was an evolving piece.

    best

  12. fencer Says:

    Hi qazse,

    I think I know just what you mean… take out some of the dated references and it still rings with a contemporary tone. That rythmic, repetitious reference to a rebirth of wonder takes us with him.

    Actually that’s how I came to this piece: somebody posted a version of this poem without all the out-of-date references that slow it down a bit, and it grabbed me. But the full version also gives me a sense of the poem’s and the author’s place and time.

    Regards

  13. bullish1974 Says:

    ah, good things come to those who wait.
    lovely poetry.


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