Peter Orlovsky (1933 -2010)

Anne Waldman on Peter Orlovsky’s Passing:

“The Shellean farmer astride hid Pegasusian tractor” as Gregory Corso once knighted him passed on today, May 30 2010 to the elysian fields, a bardo of becoming. First glance hour earlier Peter was resting with “trach” in throat in orange sheets at the kind Vt Respite Center in Williston, Vermont (but no extra tubes/ heroic measures for this advanced cancer on his lung!), a copy of the Songs of Saraha by his pillow, photo of beloved Allen Ginsberg companion of many years on the wall, other Buddhist images, iPod of music he loved including chants by Buddhist nuns, cards from friends and out the window a bird feeder with finch and red-winged blackbirds landing/taking off. Chuck and Judith Lief, faithful guardians and friends at his side. He had been moved less than 48 hours earlier from intensive care at a hospital in Boston, finally to hospice. His body we were touching we noticed suddenly turned cold like death was in the room. We got the nurse. Judy and I stepped out when suddenly Chuck called us back. Peter had opened his eyes. Chuck said “It might be the last time”. By his side now, looking into his eyes told out love, I thanked him for his presence in our lives, his poetry his care and love for Allen,  his work at Naropa. Ah,  I thought a flash of recognition shivering through! slight movement of mouth,  light coming in on his handsome face through the window now, and  Judy singing om a hum vajra guua padma siddhi hum in crystal voice said “don’t be afraid”. Joined in. Last breathes, one coming late, staggered: his heart/breath stopt.  Poet Christina Lovin  in  room with nurse gave gentle witness who checked the clock 11:39 I think or so a.m. Earlier we’d played recording of Peter singing his Raspberry Song with great heart-soaring yodel and  “how sweet you are”. “Make my grave shape of heart so like a flower be free aired and handsome felt” ( “The Snail”). Tibetan Book of the Dead readings, in full final repose arranged with blue shirt, hands folded, consciousness a joyful gardener sprite? no fear, no fear working its way out…

Anne Waldman  5.30.2010

Vt Studio Center

Peter Orlovsky

Snail Poem

Make my grave shape of heart so like a flower be free aired
       & handsome felt,
Grave root pillow, tung up from grave & wigle at
       blown up clowd.
Ear turnes close to underlayer of green felt moss & sound
       of rain dribble thru this layer
       down to the roots that will tickle my ear.
Hay grave, my toes need cutting so file away
       in sound curve or
Garbage grave, way above my head, blood will soon
       trickle in my ear -
       no choise but the grave, so cat & sheep are daisey
Train will tug my grave, my breath hueing gentil vapor
       between weel & track.
So kitten string & ball, jumpe over this mound so
       gently & cutely
So my toe can curl & become a snail & go curiousely
       on its way.

1958 NYC

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4 opinions on “Peter Orlovsky (1933 -2010)”

  1. Pierre,

    Thanks for posting Anne Waldman’s lovely and personal witnessing of Peter Orlovsky’s passing. I remember him as a wild and free spirit during my years in Boulder, CO long ago. The life Orlovsky brought to his home with Allen, and to the students around Naropa at that time, was full of amazement and joy — and for those privileged to accompany him on his jaunts about the city always an adventure. In truth, a heart shaped man.


  2. remembering the tree he showed denise and me… a standing giant against the night sky … johnny appleseed he told us…thought it was coming to get me…julius that summer speaking his first words in 2 years… denise, can you sew my pants… playing velvet underground for us …hiding cigarettes and sneaking them later in the night… haying the fields with godly and radha not far behind… picking enough corn to feed an army…showing the city girls how to put up tons of tomatos… denise and peter bringing sacks of them down to the city to give away… thank you for the snail poem… time knowing peter was crazy and short…he was bigger than life…

  3. i am a social worker for peters younger brother nicholas. i am desperately trying to locate the other three children to see if they are still alive as nicholas wants to wish them his best. if anyone has any information please email me at

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