Acropolis like any Golgotha, by Allen Ginsberg (Athens, 1961)

‘The light thru Parthenon columns is a great white-blue solid color – like looking thru eyesockets of a skull.’

Allen Ginsberg, Athens, Fall 1961. From a letter to his father Louis as included in Family Business: Selected Letters Between a Father and his Son, Allen and Louis Ginsberg, ed. by Michael Schumacher, New York: Bloomsbury, 2001.

Acropolis like any Golgotha
has blue eyesockets
thru the columns the bright
blue north
a void for hair – and empty blue
metafisks surround
all the blocks of bright new marble
ο α θ η ν α ι ο ν τ π η α ς
Passengers seated on the steps
of the huge slow moving bus
that’s standing still.


Have yr photo taken thus
with a marble skeleton background.

At nite, walking around the old streets under Acropolis
I am as lonely as the sound of a cat –
Suddenly a dark square with tobacco kiosk
and above in the sky, the poor toy Acropolis –
Face to face with the hair veined cock
in my mouth, at my eye, pressing against the hair of my unseen hole,
“This is the country of Socrates and Alcibiades”
A long white dog barking at me in the dust-covered pavement –
There is a wind from below the World,
The sun is down, in my white suit
and beige crepe-soled suede shoes that comfort my feet
pacing the streets, beyond the Tower of Winds,
at the edge of Hadrian’s Library I took a piss,
and walked the circle around new ancient streets,
each familiar, face to face with the statue of a man,
knowing Patroklos dead, Achilles remembering that tender breast on
his own –
an old man leaning out of his chair to see trucks
Pass the street; the bus stop –
Five boys in a circle, the sailor leans & plants a lip on
lips of a younger man touching his shoulder –
Who am I after 3,000 years?
This is the land of marble and skin
This is the love of man. This is the buttocks
that do not shit. This is the marble of understanding
this is the old sympathy. This is money changing hands
and young men eager at the loins
This is the doom love I was remembering in the Paterson Library;
This is all my melancholy come home
Alexandria, where beyond?
This is my palm tickled. This is my poverty.
This is what I wished come true to mock me & make me red faced.
This is me a machine. Here come the German tourists
with blond beards, climbing the stones to Erechtheum.
Whose feet should I kneel at, and not pay money to love.
How many loves can I buy at once?
The Acropole, I saw from Aeolus street, sticking up in sky
a scatter of stars in the deep night blackness –
Those sympathetic architects and boy love sculptors
weeping made golden triangles to match their dying boys
breasts & cocks, foreskins & balls,
triangles of gold hair, foreheads smooth, short hair’d,
eyes clear smiling more knowing than agued age –
belly perfect as a many columned temple dome –
dome smooth & delicate as Phidias’ boy’s buttock –
Old farmers smiling & wise; sons more gentle
in bed with guilty foreigner me
than I was hoped made hairy flesh –
Who pocketbook tonite, I sit in
cafe ascribble sneering at human bellybuttons –
The Acropolis is a Chimera, Parthenon stands forlorn,
the hair of the nymphs
is white, their bones are brittle under Kore –
I shd go wander and meet who I meet –
If no money w/d they love me still?
Where are the girls, equally sensitive?
Am I going mad in Athens, staring at every waiter?
Diving champions come to the rich architect
and he takes 3D pictures in color – their bellies and eyes in the water,
their legs open in bed, their hats on,
their eyes shining: Greece –
the national Museum, Pan with barbaric beard
and hair-foot pipes to the boy;
Syntagma, Harmonia, the bald waiters staring
at what they were – a yellow sweater, palm against cheek
eating meat pie, curled black hair, the waiter jiggles his knee –
the youth, the youth out of Phidias in machine dress
army or streetboy – looks out at my eyes –
I am 3 beers in sorrow, I refuse


Featured Image and text (extract) from Allen Ginsberg, Journals: Early Fifties, Early Sixties, ed. by Gordon Ball, New York: Grove Press, 1977. In the photo: Allen Ginsberg at the Acropolis, August 30, 1961.

Start the conversation