Zizi's Lament

(1977)

"Zizi's Lament" is the tenth movement and fifth solo song of Bernstein's cycle Songfest. The song is for tenor and orchestra, but a piano reduction is also published. Bernstein notes that when the song is performed separate from the cycle, a high baritone or female voice may sing it.

This poem was first published by City Lights Books in 1958.

Zizi's Lament
by Gregory Corso


I am in love with the laughing sickness
it would do me a lot of good if I had it --
I have worn the splendid gowns of Sudan,
carried the magnificent halivas of Boudodin Bros.
kissed the singing Fatimas of the pimp of Aden,
wrote glorious psalms in Hakhaliba's cafe,
but I've never had the laughing sickness,
so what good am I?


The fat merchant offers me opium, kief,
hashish, even
camel juice,
all is unsatisfactory --
O bitter damned night! you again! must I yet
pluck out my unreal teeth
undress my unlaughable self
put to sleep this melancholy head?
I am nothing without the laughing sickness.


My father's got it, my grandfather had it;
surely my Uncle Fez will get it, but me, me
who it would do the most good,
will I ever get it?


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