To the Oracle at Delphi

- 1919-
Great Oracle, why are you staring at me,
do I baffle you, do I make you despair?
I, Americus, the American,
wrought from the dark in my mother long ago,
from the dark of ancient Europa—
Why are you staring at me now
in the dusk of our civilization—
Why are you staring at me
as if I were America itself
the new Empire
vaster than any in ancient days
with its electronic highways
carrying its corporate monoculture
around the world
And English the Latin of our days—

Great Oracle, sleeping through the centuries, 
Awaken now at last
And tell us how to save us from ourselves
and how to survive our own rulers 
who would make a plutocracy of our democracy 
in the Great Divide
between the rich and the poor
in whom Walt Whitman heard America singing

O long-silent Sybil, 
you of the winged dreams, 
Speak out from your temple of light 
as the serious constellations 
with Greek names
still stare down on us 
as a lighthouse moves its megaphone 
over the sea
Speak out and shine upon us 
the sea-light of Greece 
the diamond light of Greece

Far-seeing Sybil, forever hidden, 
Come out of your cave at last 
And speak to us in the poet's voice 
the voice of the fourth person singular 
the voice of the inscrutable future 
the voice of the people mixed
with a wild soft laughter—
And give us new dreams to dream, 
Give us new myths to live by!

Read at Delphi, Greece, on March 21, 2001 at the UNESCO World Poetry Day

More by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....

A Far Rockaway of the Heart, 2

Driving a cardboard automobile without a license
                           at the turn of the century
             my father ran into my mother
                                               on a fun-ride at Coney Island
                  having spied each other eating
                                       in a French boardinghouse nearby
And having decided right there and then
                                         that she was for him entirely
       he followed her into
                                      the playland of that evening
          where the headlong meeting
                                         of their ephemeral flesh on wheels
                    hurtled them forever together 

And I now in the back seat
                                          of their eternity
                                                     reaching out to embrace them

A Coney Island of the Mind, 11

    The wounded wilderness of Morris Graves
           is not the same wild west
                                                   the white man found
It is a land that Buddha came upon 
                                               from a different direction
    It is a wild white nest
                              in the true mad north
                                                               of introspection
           where ‘falcons of the inner eye’
                                                             dive and die
                     glimpsing in their dying fall
                                                  all life’s memory
                                                               of existence
               and with grave chalk wing
                                                draw upon the leaded sky
      a thousand threaded images
                                                  of flight

It is the night that is their ‘native habitat’
  these ‘spirit birds’ with bled white wings
          these droves of plover
                              bearded eagles
                                           blind birds singing 
                                                             in glass fields
  these moonmad swans and ecstatic ganders
                                                                       trapped egrets
                                                   charcoal owls
                                                                       trotting turtle symbols
  these pink fish among mountains
                                                       shrikes seeking to nest
                       whitebone drones
                                                   mating in air
                among hallucinary moons
And a masked bird fishing
                                          in a golden stream
     and an ibis feeding
                                   ‘on its own breast’

           and a stray Connemara Pooka 
                                                           (life size)

And then those blown mute birds 
                                            bearing fish and paper messages
       between two streams
                                  which are the twin streams
                                                                           of oblivion
           wherein the imagination
                                             turning upon itself
             with white electric vision
                                           refinds itself still mad
                            and unfed
                                            among the hebrides