Posted: September 2, 2010 in Poetry
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(First published in City Lights Review: Ends and Beginnings. Edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1994.)


Writing poetry is like a disease with no cure.

You let it run its course

and one day the fever breaks.

I’ve had the fever for twenty years.

I wrote hordes of wild, passionate poems.

I wrote square poems for square editors.

Radical poems for the revolution that does not exist.

Poems that begged for wine and music.

This is my last poem.

No American has written a decent poem

In twenty years and I’m tired of trying.

Poetry readings are boring. Real boring.

I’ve read flocks of my poems at poetry readings.

Jazzy poems. Shocking surreal poems. Boring poems.

The New Yorker prints shitty poems.

Poetry journals are filled with shitty poems.

I’ve written lots of shitty poems

And this is my last one.

My magnum crappus. Grand finale. Final exit.

Exodus el poetus. Exile from poetic bondage.

Ode to the ultimate farewell.

My last poetic words. My last words on poetry.

My omega of poetry. My dirge of poetry.

My eschatology of poetry. My poetic coffin.

My shovel of dirt on poetry’s grave.

This is my last poem and I feel better already.

Poetry sucks.

Most poets are O.K

Until they take themselves too seriously.

Then they turn into thirsty insects.

Poetry sucks poets dry. Really dry.

Anyone have a glass of water?  Cold beer?

Leave the bottle, because this is my last poem.

I’m tired of chasing verbs

through fields of bloodthirsty images.

No more swimming in swamps of syllabic scum.

No thanks.

This is my last encounter of the poetic kind.

I’m sick of hunting for metaphors

in the oozing stench

of bottom-feeding human perversions.

Poetry loves perversion and vice-versa.

Poetry is perversion and this is my last one.

The final arrow in my poetic quiver.

My swan poem.  My poetic nightfall.

Finito del poeto.  Endsville.

Total poetic Zeroland.

I’m tired of getting high and trying to have visions.

I’m really tired of trying to remember visions

and write them down.

I’m not going to write them down any more.

I’m as serious as cancer: this is my last poem.

Poetry has no value in America.

Everyone in America writes a poem in the fourth grade

and gets a license to practice poetry

and knows just how valuable poetry really is

in the fourth grade they know

they really know everyone is a poet in America.

In Russia poetry readings

are performed in soccer stadiums.

100,000 comrades moved all at once

by a few good poets.

That’s real value.  Who needs the Marines.

I would consider moving to Russia

but this is my last poem and I will remain in America

where life is easy

where tattooed teenage rock stars with fake names

get paid millions of dollars to masturbate and scream

songs they don’t even write

songs written twenty years ago, before they were born

while magnificent, visionary poets

go homeless and hungry and in jail.

Even the president is a poet in America.

Every judge is a poet in America.

Every cop is a poet in America.

Every dog is a poet in America.

Imagine this: everyone in America sells real estate.

We have marvelous stadiums

in which to hold poetry readings

while realtors go homeless and hungry and in jail.

Imagine this: everyone in America has an eyeball

next to his asshole so he can clearly see

all the shit he puts out

so he can clearly see his poetic output.

This is my last poem and I’m sorry

but I have to say these things.

Even this, my bottom poetic dollar

has no value in America.

This 12-gauge shotgun to my poetic head.

This 12-inch curved dagger

to the fair-skinned throat of poetry.

A lethal injection of viral torture.

A shy kiss from a blue ring octopus.

A gentle push over a jagged cliff.

A terminal dose of instant karma.

This has got to be my last poem.

Once I believed my poems proved my existence.

Once I believed my poems were immortal.

But all my poems combined have no value in America.

No value in the free world.

No value unless accompanied by sex or money.

Yet this is it.

The Great White Light growing closer in the distance.

The poetic glow fading away

as if from the eyes of a dying monkey.

Once I believed my poems made a difference.

I believed that writing poems

made the world a better place for everybody.

Now I believe there are too many poems in America.

There’s women’s poetry

and gay poetry and black poetry.

There’s Afro-American lesbian Christian poetry.

Hispanic poetry, Croatian poetry.

The poetry of Viet Nam vets.

the poetry of Vietnamese refugees

of Nicaraguan refugees

of psychedelic refugees

the surreal poetry of the American dream

the homeless poetry of a two-bedroom dumpster

the bankrupt poetry of global economies

the nuclear poetry of propulsion and trajectories

the melting fission poem of ground zero

the inevitable poem of lost continents

the poem that is spoken only at death

the only poem that counts.


Why did I start writing poems?

Why does anyone write poetry?

I believe poems choose someone to write them.

I believe poems choose someone to give them form

just like this poem chose me

to give it a place on this paper

to give it a voice in this room.

I believe that in the beginning there really was the Word

and when the Word sought beauty

the first poem was created

and it was a perfect poem

that reached deep into your soul

every phrase so clear and sublime

that just one line made you weep

reading the whole poem could blind the strongest men

or rejuvenate the weak of heart.

It was a powerful poem that created

every amoebic alliteration

every allegorical allegation

every juvenile juxtaposition

every synaptic simile

every monad of hyperbole

every molecular rhyme

every gang of cells

making goo-goo eyes in the plasmic night.

The perfect poem moved entire hemispheres

shifted the earth’s axis

altered the orbits of galaxies

and inspired the first true love and madness.

Every poem that has called man to action

every poem that has stirred a generation

incited a riot and started a revolution

every poem that has actually reached out

and changed the course of history

every great poem is part of the perfect poem

every Song of Myself and Season in Hell

every Howl and Coney Island of the Mind

all of William Blake’s poems

are born of that first perfect poem.

And all poets, whether they know it or not

search for the perfect poem

and want to caress it and hold it down

and call it their own.

I have stalked the perfect poem many times.

Yes, I saw it once.

It came to me like a seizure

and just a few words made me dizzy.

It is the Holy Grail of poems

the Emerald Tablets of poems

the Great Pyramid of poems

the Philosopher’s Stone of poems

the ancient Cabala of poems

the Skull and Roses of poems

its truth and necessity crushed me

like the weight of the solar system.

I reached for a pen and paper.

I wanted to cage the magic words

but they escaped me like smoke

from an open window.

I never saw them again.

I hunt the almighty poem no more.

My quest for the great mover has expired.

But I do believe the perfect poem will be found

or maybe another piece of it will appear

and we’ll know it when we hear it.

Yes, everyone in America will know the perfect poem

as if it was a rock star.

I hope nobody is waiting for my next poem

because it does not exist.

But all my poems are better than this one.

Take my word for it.

This is my last poem and that’s all that matters.

Does it matter if the kamikaze

performs an exquisite final descent?

Does it matter if the paisley parachute almost opens?

The spitting cobra misses your eyes before it strikes?

Does it matter if a legal overdose is unintended?

Imagine this: a friendly missile

traveling at the speed of light

lands right on top of your head.

You never heard it coming.

You never saw the flash.

Does it matter if a mushroom cloud is not symmetrical?

Some things just run their course.

Close up shop.  Cease and desist.  Hang up the fiddle.

I grab the ragged curtain of poetry with my teeth

and pull it through the floor.

I burst the elite bubble of poetry with my dick

and set the whole played out mess to rest

a soft, satiny pillow smothering poetry’s sweet face.

It’s easier than you think to write your last poem.

It’s not like writing Revelations

or the knock-out poem of eternal blackness

and unconditional love.

It’s not like being part of anything cool

like the Beat Generation.

Nothing at all like that.

And it’s definitely not like jumping headfirst

off the top of the Mark Anthony Hotel

or drinking two quarts of whiskey a day

at your mom’s house.

It’s just my last poem.

The butt, the tail, the crack of doom

fait accompli, hosta la vista, baby, adios.

A simple sionara of pennies shining on my poetry’s eyes.

A little something for the ferryman: keep the change.

When Robert Frost was twenty years old

he proclaimed he would become a real poet

by the time he was thirty

or he would find another profession.

I heard that story when I was seventeen

and it sounded very noble.

I am thirty-seven years old now

and it sounds like public relations.

Either way, the poetic journey is more sweet than cruel.

And because I believe poetry is a good investment

in one’s soul

and because this is the sunset of my forevering

and because I have no choice

I will always see poetry

in the wrinkles of my bed sheets.

I will seek unspeakable adventures

I may even chance upon the perfect poem

but I will never write another poem.

I take a very deep breath

and consider the death of a close friend.

The incredible loss and suffering we must endure.

The fear and loathing.

I am lucky I am only losing my last poem.

I take a very deep breath and remember Allen Ginsberg.

“Listen to the silence between your breaths,”

he said, “that is the source of pure poetry.”

I sit very still and listen to the silence

between my breaths.  I listen for a long time

and hear only silence

as if nothing really does add up to nothing

and that’s really all there is.

It is time to rest a while and shut up.

I close my eyes, cut the cord

and watch my last poem take its final, quiet breath

as all the poems I’ve ever written flash before my eyes.


Cutting the cord that feeds your last poem

is like slashing your wrists.

If you cut in the wrong direction

if you miss the artery

if you misjudge the geometry of death

you will not ring the silver bell.

You will not send your victim to sleep with the angels.

You will not let her go.

Poetry is like a woman who won’t go away

like a woman who sends me to the moon.

Poetry is like a woman who is horribly good

like a dark, spooky woman

a soft-spoken, strong woman

a vivacious, voluptuous woman

who knows the ultimate secret

a vicious vampire woman

who is on close personal terms with pain

a  woman who knows how to dance the lambada

a woman who knows how to fake it

a woman who doesn’t know what she wants

a woman who knows how to get it anyway.

Poetry is like a woman who wants to see me bleed.

A heroic woman, a generic woman

an exotic woman, an erotic woman.

She is every poets sweetheart

she is every poets whore.

She opens her arms, spreads her legs

and wiggles her toes.

She double flips off the high-wire

and lands in a bed of soft wet kisses.

Locker room incense burns the air.

The deep pulse of heavy breathing

rises from her soul: the soul of poetry.

I cannot kill this poem.

I cannot harm the gentle bird that wakes me.

I cannot will this poem to die.

I cannot click my heels and make it go away.

This poem is like the Elvis who keeps showing up.

I can only abandon this poem

like my first car

like immortal childhood friends.

I can only abandon this poem like old skin.

I buy my last poem a one-way ticket to Graceland.

I take it to the bus station.

I watch it fade away into the blue sequin sunset.

I imagine my last poem

kicking and screaming in the back seat

its sad face pressed to the window.

Maybe I should have sent it to Las Vegas.

I watch to make sure it doesn’t come back

And feel my last poem in the silence all around me.

No blame. No regrets.

Gratitude and happiness in every direction.


Losing my last poem is more like losing a finger

than like losing an appendix.

Losing my last poem makes me queasy.

The nausea of happiness

is the first symptom of creative madness.

Disaster is an energy source.

Hallucinations bloom under stress.

Painters knew this and to prove it they cut off their ears

and every painter started their own schools of painting.

Painting has been fifty years ahead of poetry ever since.

I started my own school of poetry

and tried to catch up with all those painters

and I found out the photographers

had already shot the cans out from under the painters.

I am the only student in my school of poetry.

Painters and photographers are welcome to attend.

My school of poetry will close forever

when I abandon this poem once and for all.

Who is this “I” that writes this poem?

Whose voice do I really hear

when I close my eyes and listen?

When I close my eyes and try to find

the next lines of this poem

when I try to find the perfect ending for this poem

when I try to find the words

that say everything that must be said

the beautiful words that will make you shiver.

Where does this poetic voice come from?

Oral hallucinations come from the right side of the brain

but how’d they get there?  I don’t know.

Imagine this: the poetic voice inside my head is a recording.

All the poems I ever wrote were prerecorded

and I just listen to them inside my head

and believe they belong to me.

Maybe this poem will not end with a bang.

Maybe it will end with a


Imagine this: the poetic voice inside my head

Is the voice of God

Spoken long ago and received by my brain

Like my brain is a cheap radio

and God is a heavenly DJ

and His show ricochets around the universe

and lands inside somebody’s head purely by chance.

Maybe the poetic voice inside my head is recorded by God.

Maybe poets only transcribe God’s message machine.

Maybe the poetic voice inside my head

is not recorded by God.

Maybe it is recorded by regular angels.

Maybe bad guys regularly hijack the poetic airwaves.

Imagine this: insects are really the best poets.

Their antennas tune in to primo airwaves.

Cockroach poetry must be really intense.

Imagine the frantic poems of their colonies.

The magnificent love poems ants write for their queen

the rich, sweet poetry of the hive

the humble, melancholy poem of the praying mantis

the unquenchable, high-voltage poem of the cicada

graceful midnight poems of fireflies

annoying little mosquito poems

gorgeous poems of corpse-eating blowflies.

My last poem is like a centipede

crossing a busy street

and every car just misses it by a breath

until finally it gets to the other side

and a boy on a bicycle squishes its rear end

and it is just able to drag itself to a safe haven

when a hubcap flies off the last Yugo in America

and lands right over of my centipede

like a rusty mausoleum

like a roadside memorial

like a requiem for what might have been

like a rhapsody for the next world.


My name is J.T. Gillett

and I just want to know why I’m really here.

My name is J.T. Gillett

and there are lots of people out there

telling me I’m here for different reasons.

They tell me I’m somebody I don’t always know.

They tell me I’m somebody I don’t always like

but sometimes I don’t know or like my own poems.

My name is J.T. Gillett

and I just want to know why I am writing this poem

when invisible viruses

have declared war on my species

when slate-wiping viruses

are spreading in the jungle

when entire tribes are wiped out by viruses

that make you bleed to death through your eyes

when these viruses are one day away via air express

when millions of viruses fit on the head of a pin

like Manhattan at rush hour

everybody shopping for a gracious host.

Bill Burroughs says language is a virus from outer space.

I just want to know why I’m writing about viruses

when I could be watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island

or reading Mondo 2000.

I just want to know why I am writing my last poem

when there is so much beginning to do.

So many do-do birds swallowed by extinction.

Every day so many absolute fade aways

creation is precious, every moment so complete

endless moments in every minute

all dying

all sentient beings

all dying

all things (including those that don’t exist)

all dying

Ashland dying

Oregon dying

San Francisco dying

redwoods dying

Pacific ocean dying

good clean air dying

ozone dying

Grateful Dead gone

I’m dying

you’re dying

this poem is slowly dying

rock ‘n roll says it’s not dying

but I’d double-check the pulse.

There are so many ways to prove I am alive

so many ways to use my body

these hands, ears, tongue and eyes

there are so many ways

to feel the music

and fall from the window

there are so many ways

for my last poem to hit the ground.

I can almost hear its final word

A whisper reflected upward

From an empty sidewalk.

I can almost hear its final echo

Just after it hits the concrete.


How should I spend my last poem?

Should I aim my last poem at some heavenly bulls-eye?

Should I try to save a rain forest?

Or is my last poem an aimless assassin

Stalking a nonexistent enemy

My drive-by shooting poem

Taking lazy pot-shots at random targets.

My armed and dangerous kamikaze poem

my kamikaze poem that never misses.

My kamikaze poem can’t go down alone.

My kamikaze poem wants to settle some scores.

My kamikaze poems knows this is its last blast

And it wants its money’s worth

It wants somebody big to get what’s coming

It wants to lay the smoking guns on the broken table

it wants to put some ex-presidents in jail

it wants Nixon to pay for the Kent State massacre

it wants Reagan to dig up some mass graves

in the jungles of El Salvador

it wants George Bush to share a cell with Manuel Noriega

it wants Dan Quayle to share a cell with Charles Manson

it wants Obama on Fox News 24/7

it wants to dig up J. Edgar Hoover live on CNN

while the latest famous newspeople

read and endless list of atrocities.

We are harasses by cops

every time we look in the rear view mirror

every time we park our car on a city street

every time they hide behind bushes with radar guns

we are harassed by cops.

We are harassed by a defense industry

That wants to kill us all.

Harassed by governments that want to watch

every move we make

we are harassed by maniacs

who want to put bombs in space.

We are harassed by an IRS that wants to take our money

To create more devices to kill us from greater distances.

By governments that know what’s best for you and me.

By governments that want us to buy more TVs

So we can watch it all go down from safe, digital distance.

Bagdhad bombed after dark so we can enjoy fireworks

But we can’t see the maimed babies

We can’t see the innocent bodies piled high in the streets.

We are harassed by governments

that want us to buy more hamburgers

and more booze and more guns.

Our government keeps ghettos full of crack and smack

throws everybody else in jail for smoking pot.

Jails are filled with pot smokers and victimless criminals.

These are political prisoners, these are political prisoners

There are more political prisoners in America

Than in any other country in the world.

There are more people in American jails

than in Russian jails.

There are more people per capita in jail in America

than in any other country in the world.

They are building more jails all the time.

Prisons are already a commercial enterprise in America.

There are more cases of mistaken identity than ever before.

You could be next. Your sons and daughters. Or mine.

This is my last poem and I want to spend it on freedom.

Not freedom in the theoretical or absolute sense.

Not any Platonic ideal or categorical imperative.

Not even constitutional freedom (ha ha ha).

I would like to spend my last freedom

doing exactly what I am doing.

That’s the freedom I want to buy with my last poem.

The freedom I can feel in every pore of my body.

It’s not much.

Just buying a little time.

A temporary state of grace.

My last poetic wad blown without reservation

blazed with total disregard for rules and regulations

total disregard for friendly suggestions

total disregard for the possibility of publication

my last poem dancing with total abandon until it drops.


My last poem may be the humble beginning

of a manic explosion of last poems

all diving headfirst into oblivion

a slithering orgy of last poems

thrusting themselves out of this world

waking up out of their bodies.

­Yes, yes, I invite all poets to join me

and let your last poems bloom.

Let there be last poems about sitting on the couch

eating tofu hot dogs

watching intelligent cheerleader movies

betting on metaphysical football games

running for mayor of unknown cities

and plotting sweet revolutions.

Imagine this: vast gardens of last poems

veining around skyscrapers

like whirling Babels of last poems

colossal brambles of last poems

taking over the White House.

Armies of young republicans

cutting down forests of last poems

but the last poems strip them naked

and slap their white asses.

They try to poison their roots

but they just slap harder

and grow back stronger.

Glorious hallelujahs of last poems.

Platoons of last poems

marching in tight formation.

Wild bands of last poems

running crazy in every direction.

Last poems taking over TV stations.

Last poem trading cards available everywhere.

Multi-national alliances of last poems.

Coalitions of last poem cartels.

Interstellar conspiracies of last poems.

Last poems coming back from the dead.

Yes, yes, I invite all poets to join me

and write their last poems!

Even if you’ve never written a poem before!

(don’t hesitate, start right now!)

It’s never too late to write your last poem.

May all poems be last poems

may last poems gush forth

may last poems never end

may streets overflow with last poems!

Last poems will bury police cars.

Last poems will eat the rich and rewrite history.

Last poems will make the world a better place.

They will accurately forecast

the consequences of hear and now.

They will always tell the truth.

They will bring heaven to earth

just like in the old days

when we believed the world

was going to end very soon

and poetry would live forever.

To be continued.

  1. faton says:

    Wonderful Poem. I have read part one in Albanian language translated by Fadil Bajraj.

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