KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 9: Spring 2018
Memoir: 259 words
Commentary: 200 words

Ginsberg’s Last Soup

by Dan Gilmore

This morning I wrote a poem about death. This evening I made some soup. My soup was better than my poem. The broth was deep and rich. I tossed in some chopped carrots, tomatoes, a big zucchini, garlic, basil, rosemary, and onion. The poem was a meditation on how the world might adjust to my loss when I die.

Long ago I was lucky enough to have dinner with Allen Ginsberg. He made soup. He took pride in his soup. He said he’d give me what we didn’t eat, and suggested I freeze it in ice cube trays. He said every cube would be worth a lot of money after he died. I thought he was joking.

The last soup Ginsberg made before he died was a complex fish chowder. It contained parsnips, cilantro, tofu, mussels in their shells and fish heads. It’s now frozen and on display at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles alongside mouse pie (said to cure stuttering) and an exhibit about sin-eaters (people hired to consume chunks of bread that had been passed over a corpse).

I let my soup simmer for an hour and added some sprigs of thyme and parsley. I dipped chunks of bread in it and ate them while considering the possibility of converting to Judaism. Then I thought, maybe I dwell too long on how the empty space I leave can’t possibly be filled. I deleted the poem, froze the leftover soup in ice cube trays, and started a funny poem about mouse pie.


—From Gilmore’s book in progress, Dharma Box, forthcoming from KYSO Flash in 2018

Commentary by Dan Gilmore: 6 May 2015

In the Seventies, Ginsberg and Ram Dass showed up at my crazy college for two weeks1. They stayed at my place. We prepared meals together. The first night Ginsberg wanted to make his “famous vegetable soup.” So he did and we ate it with cornbread and honey and baked acorn squash. Long meal, lots of talk, and at the end lots of soup left over. So Ginsberg said, “Someday I’m going to be famous. Dan, you should freeze the leftover soup in ice trays, and ten years from now each soup cube will be as valuable as gold.” We laughed and ate the soup for breakfast the next morning.

Years later, after Ginsberg died, I read an article in The New Yorker.2 A friend who cleaned out Ginsberg’s apartment after he died found two trays of frozen soup in the refrigerator and couldn’t figure out what to do with them—eat the soup for holy inspiration, toss it, or have some sort of ritual goodbye. As I recall, he contacted [a museum] and donated Ginsberg’s frozen soup cubes to them. As far as I know they may still be there—cold little metaphors.

Publisher’s Notes:

1. Ginsberg and Ram Dass were among numerous resident artists at Thomas Jefferson College in Michigan where Dan Gilmore was serving as Dean. During the summers of 1971, 1973, and 1975, the college hosted three National Poetry Festivals which attracted “dozens of the country’s most honored and innovative poets...for workshops, exhibits, readings and other events, including such luminaries as Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, Donald Hall, Gregory Corso, Robert Creeley, Diane Wakoski, Diane DePrima, Galway Kinnell, Nikki Giovanni, Ishmael Reed, and many, many more” (from “GVSU History,”, accessed on 19 February 2018).

2. “Ginsberg’s Last Soup” by Steve Silberman in The New Yorker, “Department of Immortality” (19 March 2001):


Dan Gilmore
Issue 9, Spring 2018

is the author of a novel, A Howl for Mayflower (Imago Press, 2006); a collection of new and selected haibun stories, New Shoes (KYSO Flash, 2016); a chapbook of haibun stories, Just Before Sleep (KYSO Flash, 2015); and three collections of poetry and monologues: Season Tickets, Love Takes a Bow, and Panning for Gold. He has won the Raymond Carver Fiction Contest, the Martindale Fiction Award, and multiple Sandscript Awards for Short Stories. His poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, San Diego Reader, Aethlon, Blue Collar Review, The Carolina Review, Sandscript, Loft and Range, KYSO Flash, and Serving House Journal.

“Happiest Black White Man Alive,” one of Gilmore’s flash fictions, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and was chosen by novelist Robert Olen Butler as one of the winning stories appearing in the anthology, The Best Small Fictions 2015.

In his time, Gilmore has been:

  • a fry cook,
  • a jazz musician,
  • a draft dodger,
  • a soldier,
  • an actor,
  • a minister in a Reno wedding chapel,
  • a psychologist,
  • a single parent of two children,
  • a college professor,
  • a dean, and
  • a consultant to business.

Currently, he lives in Tucson, Arizona and divides his time between playing jazz, writing, and loving his children and grandchildren, his life partner JoAn, and his cat.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

New Shoes, Gilmore’s collection of new and selected haibun stories reviewed by Kathryn Kulpa in KYSO Flash (Issue 7, Spring 2017)

Just Before Sleep, Gilmore’s chapbook of haibun stories reviewed by Duff Brenna in KYSO Flash (Issue 4, Fall 2015)

Dan Gilmore Poetry Reading at The Rogue Theater in Tucson, Arizona; in addition to Gilmore reading from his poetry collections, also includes readings of his poems by actors such as David Greenwood (“Semper Fi” and “Prayer Wars”)

Consternation and two other prose poems in Serving House Journal (Issue 9, Spring 2014)

The Hyperbolist and three other poems in Serving House Journal (Issue 8, Fall 2013)

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