Shivaratri 1979 by Ira Cohen

‘The tongue of a water buffalo is big & covered with straw’

Shivaratri 1979 by Ira CohenThis is a big poem full of tourists  & cameras set on tripods,
this is a poem seen from bamboo scaffolding of the Golden Temple’
a poem with one hand reaching up out of the earth counting on a rosary—
This is a poem of lost children looking for money.
a poem trying to hold a split bag of rice in a moving crowd,
this is a poem burning like charas in the pipe of a friend,
a poem of Shivaratri carried on staggering legs to see the king,
this is a poem striving towards the light sparked from the heart of Basudeb,
this is a poem which wants to tie itself around your neck like the skinny legs of The Man of the Sea—
this is a poem interrupted by elephantiasis,
this is a poem leaning against a temple wall drawing energy from the sun,
this is a poem smiling with no nose,
a poem reluctant to sing,
Ira Cohen in Kathmandu 1978-1979a trident of a poem aimed at your pineal,
this is a poem of pilgrimage,
an offering of struck bells to a dead dog in the river—
This is a poem looking down on pagodas,
this is a poem waiting for opium.
this is a poem of suicided sadhus
surrounded by trees in a foreign land,
anonymous as the voice on the loudspeaker,
this is an anonymous poem covered with birds….

(george farrow scanned the poem & wrote: “108 copies of this poem were published by Ira on hand made Nepali rice paper. I still have two copies given to me by Ira at that time”).

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3 Responses to “Shivaratri 1979 by Ira Cohen”

  • Thank you to Sadhu George for contributing this as a memorial for Ira Cohen.

    Ira Cohen Photo Album is here:
    And an Encyclopaedia entry here:

    If anyone has any personal photos or memories of Ira, please contact The Flower Raj here:


  • I knew Ira in Kathmandu in the early 70s. We had a number of friends in common, Allen Ginsberg, Princess Zena Rachevsky and a few others. He went everywhere with German Petra his alter-ego. The two of them dressed in black from head to toe. Petra looking like a shade from another world, Ira scowling through his thick black beard, muttering some account of injustice or unrighteous action, planning poetry events, publishing poems with John Chick or some other shipwrecked poet. Just his appearance on the scene was theater. Irascible but somehow lovable he was the Ancient Mariner of the Himalayas and like the Ancient Mariner he had many dark tales to tell.

  • Ira and his then girlfriend Rose, writing The Hashish Cookbook, lived nearby me in the Tangier Medina in 1961 or ’62. Ira’s later intenseness and mumbling was maybe being influenced by his early space and time investigations and those of other adventurous voyagers present at that time.

    We were a community whose common cause was floating around the Medina on a wide and interesting variety of local and foreign exotic magic carpets. Gyroscopes were sometimes unbalanced by use of untested products; often there was unsurity of destination, altitude or where we would land.

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