Best Minds

for Allen Ginsburg

I've seen the best minds of my generation zoned out on Windows
gone Microsoft in the head and lost like cattle
in the perimeters of happiness without a clue
as to the way back home;
who loiter in the shopping malls at lunch hour
pressing thumb and forefinger against
Tommy Hilfiger casual wear,
who can't find spare change from their fashionable pockets
for street musicians or sympathy for bag ladies
collecting Pepsi cans form the garbage.

I've seen the best minds of my generation zoned out
in front of Seinfeld reruns
secretly admiring George Costanza
and tolerating unimaginable TV commercials selling garbage
for the mind and body,
who finally, frustrated and angry, can only rage
at the remote control
for not being able to make the entire world go mute.

I've seen the best minds browbeat by bureaucratic barbarism
chained to desks and ergonomic chairs
and losing valuable days of their lives
staring at fax machines and
waiting, waiting for a missive from Montreal or New York
so they can take one step forward or backward
or maybe nowhere at all,
who settle for new Japanese cars with staggering options
instead of freedom from career paths
etched in the ethereal circuitry of the internet
where gigabytes of information wait to pounce
like sleepless lions on the unaware clueless victims
and then drill codework into the left hemisphere of the brain,
who forgot the lessons of Vietnam and Nixon and Mulroney and Mars
but instead steal away to ClubMed to fake euphoria
while frying their pale skin beneath the cancerous sun
while sipping white zombies
and listening to watered down reggae music;
who came home to the city to chow down
at fashionable ethnic restaurants selling artificial foods
instead of home grown organic fare with lots of fresh herbs
from the garden,
who deal out moments of their lives
like cards in a stacked game of chance,
who arm wrestle the stock quotations in the Daily News,
who stare glassy-eyed at the video lottery machines
in smoky bars at 8 pm,
who squelch even harmless daydreams
with easy listening music
or drown themselves in espresso and cappuccino,
who retire from challenges of intellect
for the safety of stadium spectator sports,
who ignore the kids starving in Africa and Asia but wonder
if there's profit in selling soap
and powdered milk to emerging markets,
who sift through junkmail looking for cryptic clues
to the meaning of life as if
the Publishers' Clearinghouse Sweepstakes
has some answer in the fine print,
some respite from the hollowness felt in the bones of loners.

I have seen the best minds of my time
stop trying to react to impossible, intrusive goals
and settle down to dream the dream
of Calvin Klein underwear men and women,
who wake up late at night trying to remember
what crusade it was that sent them shouting in the streets,
who once knew instinctively the Gulf War was never won
but a lot of innocent children were killed by your side,
who almost had the courage to say the deficit
was not as important as the destitute,
who almost stood up to the racists and the rich
and the right wing zealots,
who grew up and trusted the integrity of their banks and senators
and bosses at the corporation
and opted for new taste as in microbreweries as a sign
that they were free-thinking and hip.

They still walk among us and rule and remind their children
that they almost went to Woodstock
and they really did change the world
and they believe in the life force of the planet
and admit that somebody's killing it but
it isn't them.

The best minds still have beating hearts but the blood
fails to find its way to the sleeping brain cells
that store revolution like withered flowers
in the secret place
at the very top of the spinal column.
Yes, I've seen the best of them turn shiny and successful
and boastful of boats and Bay Street, blind with allegiance
to anything but themselves,
lost in a haze of Bacardi ads in magazines
and the possibility of retiring early
with the goal of doing nothing
at all but maybe play golf and take naps and wait
for lodging in retirement communities.

Better for them to rage against the glitzy dying of the light,
the tedium of vicarious tabloid living.
Better to froth at the mouth and shout out love
like Milton Acorn in a Toronto Park.
Better to recite four letter words
and get arrested like Ginsburg in San Francisco
or better to sit in the woods alone
and contemplate the sutra of deer tracks,
and wintergreen root,
the succulent star moss and sifting mist of spruce trees.
Far too many of us have not gone crazy but remained sane and stable
and safe within the womb of the twentieth century.

But the howl of young idealism will not go away--
it's there inside your heart;
it's there sneaking up at you at the subway stop
at Bathhurst and Yonge;
it's there looking at you from the bubbles in the watercooler
near the photocopier;
it's there in the upper right hand corner of the picture
of a car wreck on the front page of the paper;
it's there living in your closet with your favourite blue shirt;
it's there, a lost soul in the carburetor of your Lawnboy mower;
it's there in your voicemail like a ghost;
it's there on the other line while you sort out problems
with the Purolater man;
it's sneaking up on you when you least expect it,
watching a rental video of Jurassic Park 2;
reminding you that there's still time,
still time for the best minds of our generation
to give back instead of just taking.
Ginsburg was right:
"Holy the supernatural extra brilliant
intelligent kindness of the soul."

~ Lesley Choyce

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