To the Oracle at Delphi

Lawrence Ferlinghetti - 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

Americus, Book I [excerpt]


I.

To summarize the past by theft and allusion
With a parasong a palimpsest
A manuscreed writ over
A graph of consciousness at  best
A consciousness of   felt life
A rushing together 
Of the raisins of wrath
Of living and dying
The laughter and forgetting
The maze and amaze of life.

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