Imagining improbable things

Allen Ginsberg, 1975. Pictorial Press Ltd

Let’s start this with a little exercise.

Imagine yourself sitting outside. The sun is coming up at the horizon. You can see the clouds gaining some colours, the sky is slowly turning brighter. The birds are chirpy-duping. Some left-over party humans are returning home. You say hi. You feel the wind tousling up your hair. And, suddenly, the morning sun is getting too bright, too warm. You get off the bench, or chair, or log, or other entity you imagined yourself sitting on, and go.  Where to? I don’t know. That’s up to you to fantasise about.

Let us now reflect on the above fictional scenario. Let us take a moment to acknowledge the fact that chances are very slim that any individual reading this text sees, feels, hears, or experiences it the way you just did. Or the way I did. For some, I described a peaceful morning stroll. For others, a very late return from the club. Every individual’s fantasy world is unique and so immensely rich. Our private fantasy world is a place that offers us the possibility to hide, daydream, experience, rewind time, travel and do so so so many more mind-boggling imaginative things. When taking place in the comfortable space that (hopefully) is our mind, we are unattainable by societal rules, norms, morals or taboos.

When alone in our heads, we can become anyone we want and experience this new individual. We can play with and fantasise about all those things we are curious about, but never actually been in contact with: eating only salad for a month, owning 7 cats, being THE popular girl/boy in school, BDSM, actually becoming an astronaut, murder, you get where I’m going. Curiosity, the innocent and the crude one, can to a certain extent be satisfied through fantasy worlds.

So far, nothing is shocking. Almost everyone uses their fantasy for mental, time and space travel. Where it can become a slippery slope is when private and in society’s view disturbing fantasies, are publicly advertised and distributed through art. To what extent is a thought innocent or harmful? To what extent are we allowed to tell the world what our fantasy world looks like? To what extent is freedom of speech acceptable?

I am personally in no position to offer you satisfying reasoning or an answer to any of these questions.  Stronger, I personally believe that no one can (and maybe even should). The position that I am in is simply to make you think. And to do so, I propose this:

Following is a poem by Allen Ginsberg. It’s named “The Lion for Real”. Please read it carefully and think about what the lion could signify for the text’s character and for you as an individual.

Harold Chapman

The Lion For Real by Allen Ginsberg

I came home and found a lion in my living room

Rushed out on the fire escape screaming Lion! Lion!

Two stenographers pulled their brunnette hair and banged the window shut

I hurried home to Patterson and stayed two days


Called up old Reichian analyst

who’d kicked me out of therapy for smoking marijuana

‘It’s happened’ I panted ‘There’s a Lion in my living room’

‘I’m afraid any discussion would have no value’ he hung up


I went to my old boyfriend we got drunk with his girlfriend

I kissed him and announced I had a lion with a mad gleam in my eye

We wound up fighting on the floor I bit his eyebrow he kicked me out

I ended up masturbating in his jeep parked in the street moaning ‘Lion.’


Found Joey my novelist friend and roared at him ‘Lion!’

He looked at me interested and read me his spontaneous ignu high poetries

I listened for lions all I heard was Elephant Tiglon Hippogriff Unicorn


But figured he really understood me when we made it in Ignaz Wisdom’s



But next day he sent me a leaf from his Smoky Mountain retreat

‘I love you little Bo-Bo with your delicate golden lions

But there being no Self and No Bars therefore the Zoo of your dear Father

hath no lion

You said your mother was mad don’t expect me to produce the Monster for

your Bridegroom.’


Confused dazed and exalted bethought me of real lion starved in his stink

in Harlem

Opened the door the room was filled with the bomb blast of his anger

He roaring hungrily at the plaster walls but nobody could hear outside

thru the window

My eye caught the edge of the red neighbor apartment building standing in

deafening stillness

We gazed at each other his implacable yellow eye in the red halo of fur

Waxed rhuemy on my own but he stopped roaring and bared a fang


I turned my back and cooked broccoli for supper on an iron gas stove

boilt water and took a hot bath in the old tup under the sink board.


He didn’t eat me, tho I regretted him starving in my presence.

Next week he wasted away a sick rug full of bones wheaten hair falling out

enraged and reddening eye as he lay aching huge hairy head on his paws

by the egg-crate bookcase filled up with thin volumes of Plato, & Buddha.


Sat by his side every night averting my eyes from his hungry motheaten


stopped eating myself he got weaker and roared at night while I had


Eaten by lion in bookstore on Cosmic Campus, a lion myself starved by

Professor Kandisky, dying in a lion’s flophouse circus,

I woke up mornings the lion still added dying on the floor–‘Terrible

Presence!’I cried’Eat me or die!’


It got up that afternoon–walked to the door with its paw on the south wall to

steady its trembling body

Let out a soul-rending creak from the bottomless roof of his mouth

thundering from my floor to heaven heavier than a volcano at night in


Pushed the door open and said in a gravelly voice “Not this time Baby–

but I will be back again.”


Lion that eats my mind now for a decade knowing only your hunger

Not the bliss of your satisfaction O roar of the universe how am I chosen

In this life I have heard your promise I am ready to die I have served

Your starved and ancient Presence O Lord I wait in my room at your



Paris, March 1958

Allen Ginsberg – Self Portrait, 1995

I think it is a beautifully written work, so bare in mind that, in no way, I now want to diminish the extent of Ginsberg’s literary genius. Rather, I would like you to read the poem again, but with the new information that Ginsberg’s lion is, in fact, pedophilia.

Allan Ginsberg was a pedophile and had to restrain his sexual desires to comply with others’ and society’s well-being. As a pedophile that did not act upon his pulsion, Ginsberg found an escape into the world of fantasy. And this is but an example of the immense power of fantasy. This poem has the literal power to infuriate some, to make others feel compassion, to create discomfort and probably many other reactions that I cannot even fathom.

Fantasy and circulating imagination in the form of artworks have the power to quite seriously change the world. It offers some a space to fully be themselves, has the strength to change the way we think and perceive certain individuals or groups of people, shapes the way we interact with society, etc. How incredibly scary and magnificent is it to think that fantasy (aka something that doesn’t exist!) can do so much for individuals, groups and society at large? It leaves me speechless for sure. Or, it inspired me to write this article. I hope I didn’t turn this moment of reading into an intense existential questioning. Well, maybe a little.  

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