this Act done by my own voice,
published to my own senses,
blissfully received by my own form
approved with pleasure by my sensations
manifestation of my very thought
accomplished in my own imagination
all realms within my consciousness fulfilled
--Alan Ginsberg, "Wichita Vortex Sutra"
In the late '60s I covered the huge anti-Vietnam war rally in Washington for The Lexington Herald, and I recall being stunned by the diversity of the great number of people who showed up. Yes, there were the expected dropouts, outlaws, and Hippies, and that SDS group that had stormed and taken over the offices of Columbia University. But then there were an overwhelming number of people of all kinds, of every description. Nuns, young mothers with their babies, guys in suits, guys in sweat suits, jeans, old folks and young folks. Solid, high-value folks from middle-America.
For the first time I understood the magnitude of the anti-war protest. All along I’d thought it was just us young liberals against the conservative old fucks who were running the show--hayseed arm-twisting shitkicker President Lyndon Johnson, and that slick, fast-talking McNamara.
And there in the middle of the crowd was the poet Alan Ginsberg. He had just published a poem, "Wichita Vortex Sutra," that was every bit as moving and astonishing as Howl, which had entranced me. There the great man was, in full black beard, encouraging the mob that surrounded him to chant OM as loud as they could.
“Well,” he said, “if we join forces we will levitate The Pentagon, over there, guarded by those legions of rifle- and baton-toting National Guardsmen and other military types.”
All together now! OM! OM! OM!
“Don't give up, people! Soon that obscene edifice will rise two feet off the face of the earth and the war will come to a halt.”
OM! OM! OM!
Later things turned ugly. A very young blonde girl with flowers in her hair lifted her long dress, squatted down, and pissed on the leg of a U.S. Marshall who stood there, gritting his teeth, his knuckles white on his baton, which he held rigidly horizontally across his chest. Behind him more troops in formation with fixed bayonets looked grim, some of the young soldiers looked afraid. No telling WHAT this crowd will do next.
A boy and a girl, in an attempt to make the troops break ranks, pulled down their jeans and started making love on the grass.
Then, suddenly, a few SDS types flanked the soldiers and ran to one of the Pentagon's doors, and entered. And just a second or two later, they came flying out, rolling on the ground, being beaten by white-shirted security goons bearing big sticks.
The next day, back in Lexington, I’m in the Federal courthouse and one of the U.S. Marshals spots me and says, “Hey, you come with me. Right now.”
I follow him into an office. There are a group of Marshals sitting around drinking coffee, and he says to me, “OK, you were in Washington yesterday, I recognized you. So tell these guys about the shit that went on. They don’t believe me.”
So I told them the whole story of what I witnessed, including the young girl pissing on the Marshal's leg, and the couple fucking on the grass.
“So how come you didn’t write about that?” one of the Marshals asked.
“I did," I replied, “but my city editor took all the good parts out. He said it was a family newspaper.”