May 18, 2022

Selections from Songs for Schizoid Siblings

By Lionel Ziprin

Photograph of Harry Smith and Lionel Ziprin, courtesy of the Ziprin archive


a is the aether that anchors the ark.
b is the blemish that brightens the bark.
c is the crimson that circuits the chance.
d is the demon that deadlocks the dance.
e is the ergot that extrudes the ear.
f is the fungus that fractures the fear.
g is the golem that gnasheth the gate.
h is the hollow that horneth the hate.
i is the ibex that invades the inn.
j is the justice that jostles the jinn.
k is the keeper that kooleth the keg.
l is the leopard that looseth the leg.
m is the matrix that mothers the moon.
n is the nadir that nurtures the noon.
o is the oblique that obverts the ounce.
p is the piston that pellets the pounce.
q is the quantum that quickens the quest.
r is the reflex that redeems the rest.
s is the solid that spinneth the swirl.
t is the toroid that truncates the twirl.
u is the unction that utters the urge.
v is the vacuum that vibrates the verge.
w is the wedding that weathers the wrecks.
x is the x-ray that xerics the x.
y is the yoga that yonis the yen.
z is the zygote that zooids the zen.


alas, my love,
the answer lies below!

why look upstairs,
arise from your big toe.


the cup and saucer in the eye,
the drop of butter on my tie,
the apathetic ambulance,
the method by which wild bees dance,
the rock that keeps me underground,
the cord with which my skull is crowned,
the superannuated air,
the jug by which i grease my hair,
the thunder which my hands evoke,
the deluge in the microscope,
	         are all examples of the thing
	         on whose behalf my praises ring.

the alligator bound in rag,
the meaning of the mouldy hag,
the pumpkin on the pumpkin stand,
the doughnut powdered white with sand,
the pelican who feeds like blind,
the apparatus of the mind,
the names of angel and of host,
the manner by which devils boast,
the mouse who cries he’s without blame,
the heel that crunches out all flame,
	      are likewise aspects of the thing
	      on whose behalf my praises ring.

the metamorphosis of pigs,
the man who finds what no one digs,
the spirit in the night time twitch,
the thread the seven demons stitch,
the inextensile egg of chalk,
the proclamations that i talk,
the shape of things in general,
the albatross who turns to gull,
the goose inside the blistered fig,
the cat who resurrects his wig,
the waters of the double sea,
my own unique insanity,
	      are also portions of the thing,
	      on whose behalf my praises ring.


the loaf’s located in the crumb.
return to where you started from.
reverse directions and you find
the inner edge of outer mind.


lunge inside the smallest point.
when you reach the elbow joint

that connects it with the sun,
shatter it! you’ve just begun!

taking rays from moon and mars,
each criss-crossed in astral bars,

split the point again in nine,
turning it to a straight line.

then, by making fire cold,
thread the line through molten gold,

and set it on the other side
of the ray you mean to hide.

this may give you space to see
the face inside eternity.

Songs for Schizoid Siblings, a book-length poem, was published by The Song Cave in 2017. Ayin Press is grateful to the estate of Lionel Ziprin for the permission to republish these excerpts, as well as to Alan Felsenthal and the team at The Song Cave for their support.

Lionel Ziprin (1924–2009)—mystic, poet, comic-book author, and artist—lived his entire life on the Lower East Side of New York City. Descended from an illustrious rabbinic lineage (he was the grandson of renowned rabbi Nuftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia), Ziprin bridged dramatically different worlds—twentieth-century avant-garde psychedelic counterculture and authentic “old world” mystical Judaism. Throughout the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, Ziprin convened clandestine meetings for a group of creators in his legendary Lower East Side apartment, and was deeply esteemed by associates ranging from Harry Smith and Bruce Conner to Thelonious Monk and Bob Dylan. In the words of Ira Cohen: “He was much larger than a poet . . . He was one of the big secret heroes of the time.” 

A prolific author, Ziprin did not write for publication, and only a small portion of his voluminous writings saw print during his lifetime. Songs for Schizoid Siblings (The Song Cave, 2017) is the first manuscript of Ziprin’s work to be published in its entirety. It is, as Jonas Mekas writes, a “joyful irreverent book of wordplay, humorous surrealism and limerick wisdom.”