Gregory Corso (Video)

  • I'm Leon Miller, and I'm curator
  • of the Louisiana Research Collection,
  • which is part of the Special Collections
  • Division of Howard Tilton
  • Memorial Library at Tulane.
  • And I'd like to read the poem Marriage,
  • written in 1960 by the beat poet
  • Gregory Corso.
  • Like a few great beat poets, Corso
  • spent some time in prison
  • and while incarcerated, he'd
  • like to read dictionaries.
  • He loved reading dictionaries.
  • He loved, just, the sound of words.
  • And that's one of the things
  • that I like about this poem;
  • the way it gives you pleasure
  • and just the sound of words.
  • Toward the end of the poem
  • is a reference to "She,"
  • which is an 1879
  • novel by the great Victorian
  • adventure novelist H Rider Haggard.
  • "She" was a woman who live forever.
  • The 1965 movie starred Ursula Andress,
  • which gives you a sense of
  • what kind of woman "She"
  • was supposed to be.
  • So Marriage by Gregory Corso.
  • Should I get married?
  • Should I be good?
  • Astound the girl next door
  • with my velvet suit
  • and faustaus hood?
  • Don't take her to movies,
  • but to cemeteries;
  • Tell all about werewolf bathtubs
  • and forked Clarinets;
  • then desire her and kiss her
  • and all the preliminaries and
  • she going just so far and I understanding
  • why not getting angry
  • saying You must feel!
  • It's beautiful to feel!
  • Instead take her in my arms lean against
  • an old crooked tombstone
  • and woo her the entire night
  • the constellations in the sky —
  • When she introduces me to her parents
  • back straightened, hair finely combed,
  • strangled by a tie,
  • should I sit with my knees
  • together on their third degree
  • sofa and not ask Where's the bathroom?
  • How else to feel other than I am,
  • often thinking Flash Gordon soap —
  • O how terrible
  • it must be for a young man
  • seated before a family
  • and the family thinking
  • We never saw him before!
  • He wants our Mary Lou!
  • After tea and homemade cookies
  • they ask What do you do for a living?
  • Should I tell them?
  • Would they like me then? Say All right
  • get married, we're losing a daughter
  • but we're gaining a son —
  • And should I
  • then ask Where's the bathroom?
  • O God, and the wedding!
  • All her family and her friends and
  • only a handful of mine
  • all scroungy and bearded
  • just wait to get at the drinks
  • and food — And the priest!
  • He's looking at me
  • as if I masturbated
  • asking me
  • Do you take this woman
  • for your lawful wedded wife?
  • And I trembling what to say say
  • Pie Glue!
  • I kiss the bride
  • all those corny men
  • slapping me on the back.
  • She's all yours, boy! Ha-ha-ha!
  • And in their eyes
  • you could see some obscene
  • honeymoon going on — then all that absurd
  • rice and clunky cans and shoes
  • Niagara Falls! Hordes of us!
  • Husbands! Wives! Flowers! Chocolates!
  • All streaming into cozy hotels
  • All going to do the same thing tonight
  • The indifferent clerk
  • he knowing what was going to happen
  • the lobby zombies they knowing what
  • The whistling elevator man he knowing
  • Everybody knowing!
  • I'd almost be inclined
  • not to do anything!
  • Stay up all night!
  • Stare that hotel clerk in the eye!
  • Screaming; I deny honeymoon!
  • I deny honeymoon!
  • running rampant
  • into those almost climactic
  • suites yelling Radio belly!
  • Cat shovel!
  • O I'd live in Niagara forever!
  • In a dark cave beneath
  • the Falls I'd sit there
  • the Mad Honeymooner
  • devising ways to break marriages,
  • a scourge of bigamy a saint of divorce —
  • But I should get married
  • I should be good.
  • How nice it'd be to
  • come home to her and
  • sit by the fireplace
  • and she in the kitchen
  • aproned young and lovely
  • wanting my baby and
  • so happy about me
  • she burns the roast beef and
  • comes crying to me
  • and I get up from my big
  • papa chair saying Christmas teeth!
  • Radiant brains!
  • Apple deaf!
  • God what a husband I'd make!
  • Yes, I should get married!
  • So much to do! Like sneaking into
  • Mr. Jones' House late at night and
  • cover his golf clubs with 1920
  • Norwegian books Like
  • hanging a picture of Rimbaud
  • on the lawnmower
  • like pasting Tannu Tuva
  • postage stamps all over the picket
  • fence like when
  • Ms. Kindhead comes to collect
  • for the Community
  • Chest grab her and tell her
  • There are unfavorable omens in the sky!
  • And when the mayor comes to get my vote
  • tell him When are you going to stop
  • people killing whales!
  • And when the milkman comes
  • leave him a note in the bottle
  • Penguin dust, bing me penguin dust,
  • I want penguin dust —
  • Yes if I should get married
  • and it's Connecticut
  • and snow and she gives birth to a child
  • and I am sleepless,
  • worn, up for nights,
  • head bowed against a quiet window,
  • the past behind me,
  • finding myself in the most
  • common of situations a trembling man
  • knowledged with responsibility
  • not twig-smear nor Roman Coin soup —
  • O what would that be like!
  • Surely I'd give it for a pacifier
  • a rubber Tacitus
  • For a rattle a bag of broken
  • Bach records
  • Tack Della Francesca all over its crib
  • Sew the Greek alphabet on its bib
  • And build for its playpen
  • a roofless Parthenon
  • No, I doubt I'd
  • be that kind of father not rural
  • not snow no quiet window but
  • hot smelly tight New York City
  • seven flights up, roaches
  • and rats in the walls a fat
  • Reichian wife screeching over
  • potatoes Get a job!
  • And five nose running brats in love
  • with Batman And
  • the neighbors all toothless
  • and dry haired like
  • those hag masses of the 18th century all
  • wanting to come in and watch TV
  • The landlord wants his rent
  • Grocery store Blue Cross Gas
  • & Electric knights
  • of Columbus Impossible
  • to lie back and dream Telephone snow,
  • ghost parking — No, no!
  • I should not get married.
  • I should never get married!
  • But — imagine if I were married
  • to a beautiful sophisticated woman
  • tall and pale wearing an
  • elegant black dress and long black gloves
  • holding a cigarette holder
  • in one hand and a highball
  • in the other and
  • we lived high up in a penthouse
  • with a huge window from
  • which we could see
  • all of New York and
  • even farther on clearer days
  • No, I can't imagine myself
  • married to that pleasant prison dream —
  • O but what about love?
  • I forget love not
  • that I am incapable of love it's
  • just that I see love
  • as odd as wearing shoes —
  • I never wanted to marry a girl
  • who was like my mother
  • and Ingrid Bergman
  • was always impossible and
  • there's maybe a girl now,
  • but she's already married and
  • I don't like men and —
  • but there's got to be somebody!
  • Because what if I'm 60 years old
  • and not married,
  • all alone in a furnished
  • room with pee stains on my underwear and
  • everybody else is married!
  • All in the universe married but me!
  • Ah, yet well I know
  • that were a woman possible
  • as I am possible
  • then marriage would be possible —
  • Like "She" in her lonely alien gaud
  • waiting her Egyptian lover So I wait —
  • bereft of 2,000 years
  • and the bath of life.