Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"When I Drive a Cab" - Lew Welch, Part I

Lew Welch & Allen Ginsberg (Courtesy:
Lew Welch was associated with the Beat poets. In the late 1950s, he drove a cab in San Francisco. Here is part one of his "Taxi Suite":


When I drive cab
         I am moved by strange whistles and wear a hat.

When I drive cab
         I am the hunter. My prey leaps out from where it
         hid, beguiling me with gestures.

When I drive cab
         all may command me, yet I am in command of all who do.

When I drive cab
         I am guided by voices descending from the naked air.

When I drive cab
         A revelation of movement comes to me. They wake now.
         Now they want to work or look around. Now they want
         drunkenness and heavy food. Now they contrive to love.

When I drive cab
         I bring the sailor home from the sea. In the back of
         my car he fingers the pelt of his maiden.

When I drive cab
         I watch for stragglers in the urban order of things.

When I drive cab
         I end the only lit and waitful thing in miles of
         darkened houses.

In On Bread and Poetry, a discussion with Philip Whalen and Gary Snyder, Welch described sharing his taxi poems with other cab drivers: "The cab drivers like my cab poems. They said, 'Yeah, that’s just the way it is. By gosh, you write like that, hunh? That’s good.'" 

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