Ferlinghetti 21.25

Casting her eyes to heaven
she meandered through what was.
If only
she’d sensed his other half,
those gentle hands fisted as
love pummeled, possessed too far.
She lie now, crumpled to the floor, that
human mass he abandoned in the night.


Sometimes poetry can be written to call attention to an endemic problem. This is dedicated to all those who face domestic abuse. Written for dVerse in a unique format that takes one or two lines from another poem and uses these words, in order, as the end words of the new poem. Photo credit: Linda Lucerne

Ferlinghetti’s poem titled 21 is from the 60th Anniversary Edition, City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology, edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti:

was only half as far that night
at the poetry recital
listening to the burnt phrases
when I heard the poet have
a rhyming erection
then look away with a
lost look
‘Every animal’ he said at last
‘After intercourse is sad’
But the back-row lovers
looked oblivious
and glad

48 thoughts on “Ferlinghetti 21.25

  1. Mary May 5, 2016 / 12:54 pm

    Ah, the gentle hands have another side. I wonder IF she could have known….or I wonder if she DID know before…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 1:09 pm

      …sadly sometimes it is so well hidden… And other times there are very subtle signs that appear over accumulated time — and still, there are people who blame themselves. Would that all could be gentle among us.


  2. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) May 5, 2016 / 1:51 pm

    So terrible when that happens, abuse is so much about power… If you are weak inside you think that fists are your solution.. And it keep happening…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. whimsygizmo May 5, 2016 / 2:07 pm

    Lillian, this is a stunning use of the form. A breathtaking line to begin with, especially when tied back, so tragically, to your subject matter. Truly a wonderful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 6:02 pm

      I do so appreciate your words. Hard to use the “like” button on this piece.


  4. Glenn Buttkus May 5, 2016 / 3:05 pm

    Heavy duty message, & fine rocking of the prompt. You made it look so easy. I used some Leonard Cohen lines, & struggled a bit with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 6:03 pm

      The form was an interesting one. I did as someone suggested and wrote the line down
      and then filled in the words in front of each word. Still, a tough form for me.


  5. AnnMarie Roselli-Kissack May 5, 2016 / 3:10 pm

    your exquisite marrying of sound and imagery makes ugly subject matter beautiful in the moment of reading –
    so very sad, abuse in any form exists alongside humanity

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 6:04 pm

      An ugly subject matter indeed. Sad that these abuses happen — sadder still that so much of it goes unnoticed until it is literally too late.


  6. Bodhirose May 5, 2016 / 4:19 pm

    Such a tough place to be…loving those who abuse you. I love these words: “those gentle hands fisted as/love pummeled, possessed too far.” Of course we know that it is not “love” that pummels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 6:05 pm

      Exactly. Hard to use the “like” button on this one.


  7. The Literary Doc May 5, 2016 / 4:41 pm

    What I really admire is how you’ve structured the poem. It feels broken, but that makes sense, given your topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 6:06 pm

      These are both broken souls. I appreciate your reflection here.


  8. Misky May 5, 2016 / 4:55 pm

    Tragic. I can’t think of anything else to say, Lillian. Just tragic.


  9. navasolanature May 5, 2016 / 4:55 pm

    So powerful and such a way with the words and feelings in the Ferlinghetti poem to create a broken relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 6:07 pm

      Thank you for your refletion and thoughts here. Truly appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 6:08 pm

      It is. And sometimes I think the love must be there….and you wonder what was in the individual’s background that results in such tragic actions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Victoria C. Slotto May 5, 2016 / 7:40 pm

        I think often the abuser is carrying on what he saw as a child. Shivers.


      • lillian May 5, 2016 / 7:41 pm

        Can not hit the like button here but absolutely agree.


  10. ghostmmnc May 5, 2016 / 5:32 pm

    So sad that people in the world are still having to endure such cruelty. This poem brings much needed attention to this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 6:08 pm

      Very very sad indeed. I think too much is hidden — and people are afraid to reveal.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sanaa Rizvi May 5, 2016 / 5:34 pm

    Oh Lillian I so love the fact that even though you chose a strong topic the verse is so touching and tender to read ❤ Beautifully poignant.

    Lots of love,

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 7:00 pm

      Thank you Sanaa…….it is a very very tough thing but these words came from the line….and from the heart.


  12. Linda Kruschke May 5, 2016 / 5:41 pm

    For some reason I saw hope at the end of your poem because after the abuse he abandoned her, leaving her free to heal and rise again. So often the abused are not afforded that option. Although, now that I’ve written that comment, it occurs to me that she sees heaven because the abuse has led to death, still a release from the pain but not as I was originally thinking. Well done take on the form.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 7:01 pm

      I like your interpretation Linda. And perhaps she was praying — and his leaving is an answer to her prayer. We must believe in hope.

      Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 7:02 pm

      Thank you, Walt. I appreciate your comment here.


  13. kanzensakura May 5, 2016 / 9:10 pm

    she meandered through what was…oh my. What an incredible take on that line and how it grew of itself into something so unique and powerful. No one ever abused me physically (well once but he learned how the flat bottom of an iron skillet felt) but at the end of a long long relationship, his words became his fists. Grateful to have the example of loving parents and strong women, he learned he would get as good as he gave. But that is no way to live. Writing happy poems is not a bad thing. But this foray into the dark and a pervasive problem was just breath taking. Beyond excellent. I hope you double dip and do another. This form likes you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 11:00 pm

      Your words are so kind here. Thank you so very much.


  14. jillys2016 May 5, 2016 / 10:43 pm

    The form forced the line ‘if only’ – which is the pivot point. Wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 5, 2016 / 11:02 pm

      For many, the if onlys are small regrets in life. For the abused, the if onlys can be life and death.
      Thank you for your reflection here – and kind words.


  15. kim881 May 6, 2016 / 3:04 am

    I love the way you have taken words from a poem written by a man and rewritten them from the point of view of a woman, showing how women often see the best in others: ‘she’d sensed his other half,/those gentle hands fisted as/love pummeled’. When I read the original poem, I thought the lines ‘when I heard the poet have/a rhyming erection’.could be the thoughts an abuser might have. I agree with Linda, there is some hope at the end of your poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 6, 2016 / 8:14 am

      Thank you so much for the thoughtful read here. Yes – hope is needed here.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. kaykuala (@hankkaykuala) May 6, 2016 / 7:00 am

    But the back-row lovers
    looked oblivious
    and glad

    Tersely brilliant Lilian, short and sweet! There are feelings between them that given the stormy relationship of frequent spats they still seek the solace of each other’s company. Amazing what love can do! Though they should not push their luck too far as it might snap just as easily!


    Liked by 1 person

  17. Patti May 6, 2016 / 1:34 pm

    Abuse is often well-concealed, its victims feeling powerless to stop it. I really like how your poem focuses on the exact opposite feeling of the line fom Heaven you used.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. PSC May 10, 2016 / 3:25 pm

    Such a sad and serious twist you gave to a choice of words that began so sweetly. Nicely done, Lillian! Poignant capture of a horrible, and all too common, situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian May 10, 2016 / 3:27 pm

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Hard to hit the “like” button on this. Too many live this way.


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