To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Toward a Poetry & Poetics of the Americas (13): Haroldo de Campos, Three poems & an essay on poetry

[Best known among us as the co-founder (with his brother Augusto de Campos and Décio Pignatari) of Noigandres, the great Brazilian experimental & concrete poetry movement of the later 20th century, Haroldo moved his work in multiple directions, to place him among the truly grand poets of the Americas, north & south, early & late, & in multiple languages.  His monumental poem series, Galaxias, can well be compared to modernist epics like those of Pound, Zukofsky, Williams, Neruda, & Césaire, all of whom will be featured in the transnational anthology of North & South American poetry that Heriberto Yépez & I are now preparing for University of California Press. And in a future posting on Poems and Poetics I will be including an excerpt as well from Haroldo’s Galaxias, translated by Odile Cisneros with Suzanne Jill Levine. (J.R.)]

Translation from Portuguese by A.S. Bessa



Silver birds, the Poem
draws theory from its own flight.
Philomel of metamorphosed blue,
measured geometrician
the Poem thinks itself
as a circle thinks its center
as the radii think the circle
crystalline fulcrum of the movement.


A bird imitates itself at each flight
zenith of ivory where a ruffled
anxiety is arbiter
over the vectorial lines of the movement.
A bird becomes itself in its flight
mirror of the self, mature
timing over Time.


Equanimous, the Poem ignores itself.
Leopard pondering itself in a leap,
what becomes of the prey, plume of sound,
gazelle of the senses?
The Poem proposes itself: system
of rancorous premises
evolution of figures against the wind
star chess. Salamander of arsons
that provokes, unhurt endures,
Sun set in its center.


And how is it done? What theory
rules the spaces of its flight?
What last retains it? What load
curves the tension of its breath?
Sitar of the tongue, how does one hear?
Cut out of gold, as such we see it,
proportioned to it—the Thought.


See: broke in half
the airy fuse of the movement
the ballerina rests. Acrobat,
being of easy flight,
plenilunium princess of a kingdom
of eolian veils: Air.
Wherefrom the impulse that propels her,
proud, to the fleeting commitment?
Unlike the bird
according to nature
but as a god
contra naturam flies.


Such is the poem. In the fields of eolian
equilibrium that it aspires
sustained by its dexterity.
Winged agile athlete
aims at the trapeze of the venture.
Birds do not imagine themselves.
The Poem pre-meditates.
They run the cusp of infinite
astronomy of which they are plumed Orions.
It, arbiter and vindicator of itself,
Lusbel leaps over the abyss,
in front of a greater king
a king lesser great.


in this re / verse of the ego
I see you
more plus than myself
plusquamfuture minuspoet
and in the trobar clus
of this hour (ours)
incestuous sister
prima pura impura
in which
ourselves (Siamese-same)

a poem begins
where it ends:
the margin of doubt
a sudden incision of geraniums
commands its destiny

and yet it begins
(where it ends) and the head
ashen (white top or albino
cucurbit laboring signs) curves it-
self under lucifer’s gift —

dome of signs: and the poem begins
quiet cancerous madness
that demands these lines from the white
(where it ends)

Translation from Portuguese by Jon Tolman
In order to bring to focus a willfully "drastic selection" in the pragmatic-utilitarian terms of Poundian theory, one could name the works of Mallarmé ("Un Coup de Dés"), Joyce, Pound and Cummings as the radial axes that generate the vectorial field of contemporary poetry. From the convergence of these axes and depending on the development of the productive process, certain results, some predictable, some not, will emerge.

It is not necessary here to enter deeply into the multiple problems which the mere mention of these names together provokes on the threshold of contemporary experiments in poetry. Instead it will be sufficient to merely give some hints of the morpho-cultural catalysis caused by their works.

The Mallarméan constellation‑poem has as its base a concept of multi-divisions or capillary structure. This concept liquidates the notion of linear development divided into beginning‑middle‑end. It substitutes in its place a circular organization of poetic material that abolishes any rhythmic clockwork based on the "rule of thumb" of metrification. Silence emerges from that truly verbal rosette, "Un Coup de Dés," as the primordial element of rhythmic organization. As Sartre has said: "Silence itself is defined by its relationship with words, just as the pause in music receives its meaning from the group of notes which surround it. This silence is a moment of language."  This permits us to apply to poetry what Pierre Boulez affirmed of music: "It is one of those truths so difficult to demonstrate that music is not only 'the art of sounds,' but that it is better defined as a counterpoint of sound and silence."

The Joycean universe also evolved from a linear development of time toward space‑time or the infusion of the whole in the part ("allspace in a notshall"), adopting as the organogram of Finnegans Wake the Vico‑vicious circle. Joyce's technique evolved pari passu with his own work and under the influence of Bergson's concept of "durée."

Mallarmé developed a visual notion of graphic space, served by the prismatic notation of poetic imagination in ebbs and flows which are dislocated like the elements of a mobile, utilizing silence in the way that Calder used air. Joyce, on the other hand, holds to the materialization of a "polydimensional limitless flow"—the "durée réelle," the riverrun of "élan vital"—which obliges him to undertake a true atomization of language, where each "verbi‑voco‑visual" unit is at the same time the continent‑content of the whole work and instantly "myriad-minded."

Mallarmé practices the phenomenological reduction of the poetic object. The eidos—"Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le hasard"—is attained by means of the ellipsis of peripheral themes to the "thing in itself" of the poem. In the structure of the work, however, what Husserl notes with relation to his method also occurs: "Said with an image: that which is placed between parentheses is not erased from the phenomenological table, but simply placed between parentheses and affected by an index. But with this index it enters again into the major theme of investigation."

Joyce is led to the microscopic world by the macroscopic, emphasizing detail—panorama/panaroma—to the point where a whole metaphoric cosmos is contained in a single word. This is why it can be said of Finnegans Wake that it retains the properties of a circle--the equal distance of all its points to its center. The work is porous to the reader, accessible from any of the places one chooses to approach it.

For Cummings the word is fissile. His poems have as their fundamental element the "letter." The syllable is, for his needs, already a complex material. The "tactical modesty" of that poetic attitude is similar to that of Webern: interested in the word on the phonemic level, he orients himself toward an open poetic form, in spite of the danger of exhausting himself in the one‑minute poem, as he faces the hindrances of a still experimental syntax. As Fano has said with respect to Webern's early works, they are: "Short organizations materializing a 'possible' and concluding on the eventuality of new transformations. A catalytic procedure in which certain base elements determine the disintegration and clustering of a substance which is transformed, without themselves being affected."

Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, in particular "The Pisan Cantos," also offer the reader an open structure. They are organized by the ideogramic method, permitting a perpetual interaction of blocs of ideas which affect each other reciprocally, producing a poetic sum whose principle of composition is gestaltian, as James Blish has observed in "Rituals on Ezra Pound."

The contemporary poet—having at his disposal a lexicon which encompasses acquisitions from the symbolists to the surrealists, and in a reciprocal way, Pound’s "precise definition" (the poetic word comprehended in the fight of an art of "gist and piths"), and also having before him a structural syntax, whose revolutionary perspectives have only been faintly glimpsed—cannot allow himself to be enveloped by the Byzantine nostalgia for a fallen Constantinople, nor can he, polyp‑like, stagnate at the margins of the morpho-cultural process which beckons him toward creative adventure.

Pierre Boulez, in a conversation with Décio Pignatari, manifested his lack of interest in the "perfect" or "classic" work of art, in the sense of the diamond, and stated his concept of the open work of art as a kind of modern baroque.

Perhaps the idea of a neo‑baroque, which might correspond intrinsically to the morphological necessities of contemporary artistic language, terrifies by its mere evocation those slack spirits who love the stability of conventional formulas.

But this is not a cultural reason for failing to enlist in the crew of Argos. It is, on the contrary, a prompting to do so.

São Paulo, 1955, 1965

[The basic book for Haroldo de Campos in English is Novas: Selected Writings, edited by Antonio Sergio Bessa, Odile Cisneros, & Roland Greene, published by Northwestern University Press in 2007.  While Haroldo died in 2003, he and his brother Augusto are widely acknowledged today as two of the truly major poets of the last hundred years, bringing poetry & poetics together.]

Thursday, August 2, 2018

David Matlin: From “The Libido for the Ugly” (A work in Progress)

“The Libido for the Ugly” is the title of an essay the great American journalist, H.L. Mencken, wrote in the 1920s about the land and city-scapes he felt had been trampled into nightmare and belittling destitution as we, a hundred years later, are being trampled by presidential edicts which are the most invigorated corporate crusades to undo our Constitution and environment we have seen in generations. Mencken’s title provides some useful hold, and because it is part of our American Imagination I have brought it forward, and include here another statement made in 1920 in the Baltimore Sun, I believe now was written in a personal sorrow rather than scathing announcement, “As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.”
            Mencken’s title and statement cannot necessarily explain the mercury puddles Trump intends, but it may help to begin naming the treachery and fraud which at once is shattering and converting us into players who will, if we are not careful, be forced to live and die in a plot capable of making us dismiss what we have known and must know about the auguries and pantomimes now re-ordering our lives.
            Can the ancient risks of re-conceiving ourselves and our societies word-by-word be enacted to live regeneratively and indefatigably in order to initiate fresh point-of-life labors necessary to private and political well-being our children and grandchildren will need. I am 74 years old and I think about my children and grandchildren and what I might leave them as a novelist and poet word-by-word to help them craft and enunciate a meticulous wonder to help them become specialists who can turn away from what Whitman defined as “…the blind fury of scrofulous wealth…” transforming each day in this time into episodes of cruelty and barrenness. They may need to be more sinister and alive in their experiment; garden magicians at work with care and charms and mastery, an elegance they can enter at last. To write this piece I’ve set out to explore the languages of pornography, the principles of nuclear explosions, sweat of caterpillars climbing bark to extinction. What are the civilization’s sum of deeds and how can they be spoken to.

Guccifer 2.0
DC Leaks

refers to the GRU or Russia’s Military Intelligence Service and the on-line person identified as “Guccifer 2.0” with the website “DC Leaks” used to spread rumor and panic into the election stream of America’s 2016 Presidential campaign.
            “Guccifer 2.0” sounds like a pornographic free-for-all-penthouse pet; live, local, direct from the Dungeon. You can open any “Hustler” or “Velvet” magazine, then tune into the Call Grandma Today motel and hotel adult videos and take the Limo into XTASY with Vibrator Virgins, Jenteal Hyapatia Lee, the Gasmic Epicures, or look at the Las Vegas NUDE entertainment guides and you’ll experience the same sounds, the same lures, the same carnivores.
            Give it “Shower Power” “Tub Tarts” the “Someone’s Watching” Guccifer girls and boys in the “We’re Gonna Finish You Off” details.
            “Bionica” is there, “Felicia” in all her dialects, “Debi Diamond” and “Putin’s
            “Queeroxes” from the White House to Jared Kushner’s all we want is direct access to where the back door really begins.
Guccifer 2.0/DC Leaks
Experience the wet
T-Shirt Contest

My entrance identification badge reads
CE                         RETAIL
ID 0492554 GR

Waves of cold sundown wind begin to move over the Nevada Desert as I check into a “Westward Ho” room, turn on the television after hours of dangerous Mojave driving in a Friday night two hundred mile traffic jam headed seven days into the new Millennium, and headed too for Las Vegas and the International Porn Convention. I’m an “official” guest of my son and his friends from the barrios of Carson, California, tough “Homeys” who come to this round-up every year, a posse of samplers ready for titty bars, lap dancers, and awards ceremonies for best blow jobs, best anal sex, best gang bangs just off shore from all of America’s versions of Christianity, though if you care to look, the edges of that continent still loom with irradiated angelologies, double formed satans, and congenerated harlot nights.
A commercial for the “Titanic” appears on screen. Items from the remote tragedy are on display at one of the casinos – clocks stopped in time, sumptuous jewelry floating in underwater scenes with hands pulling slowly, lingeringly apart at the moment of tenderest anguish. I notice the curtains are just thin enough to let in a display of neon so concise in its force, its dilations of hungers I don’t see at first the litter swirling everywhere in this arched, straining ground zero licked by writhing gold belly tides.
The drive has made both my son and me restless so we go down Las Vegas Boulevard, or “The Strip.” The sidewalks are covered with ripped and shredded porn advertisements taken from perfumed vending boxes located about every twenty yards.
You can call:                          dreamkittens, the
                                                ultimate purring girls,
                                                Brie (796-N6U8D3E3)
                                                Bad Ass Bitches
                                                Maggie the French Maid who’ll
                                                come to yer room, Little Boys Blue,
                                                Country Girls Gone Big City, Pigtails & Panties
                                                A Man Called Horse
                                                Lil, turned off by red meat and
                                                Watch Me Bend Every Which Way Kim

[note.  As a poet & novelist, as well as in his groundbreaking study of America’s prisons (Prisons: Inside the New America), Matlin gives us a political/mental/visceral mapping of the fate of America, its people, & the other worlds on which it has impinged in the course of our lifetimes.  In his work, then & now, he displays the poetry/history combine that marks the best side of American writing in whatever form it takes.  In an early description of that work Robert Creeley wrote of Matlin’s prowess & promise: “Unremitting particular powers of the human long before it got lost in the junk—where a bird can still sing it.”  And Charles Stein, going still further: “Matlin's work is not a comfortable ‘read’—in fact it is not a ‘read’ at all—but an initiation, possibly, into the predatory condition of one's own vitality. It is a poetry that bears witness to the occluded stain of violence across American life, local and historical; its means are an ear that is tense and accurate, and an attention, particular, conscientious, and cleansing.”  The proof by now is overwhelming. (J.R.)]

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Jerome Rothenberg: Five Dream Poems, Recovered

[I’m turning on today’s Poems and Poetics to some unpublished poems of my own, in which, over the years, I’ve carried along the common enough practice of using dreams as a source of poetry, sometimes as given, sometimes with multiple changes.  For me this links up most closely with our Surrealist predecessors but also of course with the far deeper poetics of shamanism, which I’ve been lucky enough to explore going back to the days of Technicians of the Sacred and Shaking the Pumpkin. The thin line between waking & oneiric writing is one that we’re still tempted to cross & that takes on many different guises in the crossing.]

Dream Poem
A Fragment

Those who must wait, wait.

The machinery attended to,
the sheets turned back,
the steam released into the air,
the dirty particles released.

I am the foreign engineer,
the shirtless one.

I search where you are,
and I sweep
the absent leaves.* 
* [the ancient leaves]

Dreaming of Buddha
A Fragment

the sky intersected
by two buddhas

strange to say
& beautiful

as when we dream
the particles

fall into place –
each finds its hole

its wholeness only now
allows it

& we’re helpless
to do more

the dream of buddha

Blue Dog Poem

He bit me,
a blue dog,
& leapt
down from the blackened hills,
he clattered.
Blue dog
had a voice.
Call it elliptical.
Call it proud.
What possessed us
to be in love
when there were tombs
on top of tombs?
A little bird
has whispered us
to sleep.
How phantom rich
my life becomes
empty or full.
It is the fact of life
that stirs me,
not its demise 

Abattoir                                                                                                                                                                                after Robert Doisneau

a man looks at
a cow’s head
all white

its eyes are shut
it sleeps
in death

“we were the lords of what we locked in place
                                                                        after Reverdy

A hand opens

            High & dry & curved over the roofs
            The loss of memory takes hold

            Slogans go rapidly from bad to worse

     Life’s got no chance
Something you push away & it attacks you

A fact
     Night as it withers springs to life
        Grows like a sponge
Flags fluttering restored
            So everything is threatening to die

A hill looms up & still you turn from it
                                          Not moon enough
        But where the street has opened up is where our bodies
                                        Come into sight
Eyes wide to everything
We were the lords of what we locked in place
Our groans died back in us
Sounds stayed unsounded
                                    All that was once still is
Nights shutting down at nightfall
            Too late the lonely ghost springs back to life
Beyond the fissures where men pan for gold

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Cecilia Vicuña: DISPROSODIES or Saint Visions, after TOCADAS by Xul Solar

                                                            Translated from Spanish by Christopher Winks

I write these lines on the day of Hurricane Sandy, the biggest storm in history, the beginning of the future, lashing Manhattan.

Hexagram 25 / Wu Wang / Innocence (The Unexpected)
Heaven is above; movement is below.  When movement follows the law of heaven, man is innocent and without guile.

On an empty pampa a lightning accent protexts me, an alloffire semi-human god approaching me, juxtafloating, round him all are flames, the god is made of admixed manremains, the whole of living-dead, jointup there, the remains to be revived by magic and memory.  The glow of a recollection, human magnitude reanimates them, I see the gluon, the strength that unites them, fluidify, & so, people awaken.

Firecide, the city that was fire and is no more, the dead city that will no longer be, glomeration plurdisposedof, outswept.  Theres no one, everythings gone.  The pale alloffiregod loses his materbreast, his humanity is extinguished and a lumiglobe lights up with otherness, his phoskin phosphoresces lighting up that which will be.

Oh fount of future fierywater, fount of it, where are you in your wandering loss?  In what sinks and goes away?  Something draws me on and sinks me into fire, chemipurifying, the fire cleanses me and I dont feel a thing.  The betr to see & be another I imagine nonbeing, the mean-while of who I left and who Ill be, here I shud selfflameup, illuminate-myself on my own.  The exo, the outside dusnt mean anything if we don’t withfeel it, I with-feel and at last I flaym something, loving the divine lights me up, meupfires, I am only the firethought, what burns and shines in nonbeing, the firethought that saturatthis space.  I whish to see the people fromere, swarms of quasunformed flowbeings, rather.  Oh, fullondreemlet, I liv by dreeming, seeing other people who are not people but star.

Lost in the one-hand-stars, sum of the human and the stellar, I hear the audble being: “deity is pandeity” & it must be theokai here, adored, exalted, goldenlightnucleus says the light of now, unimpeded shining, light of the plurother beings, filled with others, totalities of others, those who are the light of the other, those of the hintercrossing shine brighter (those who touch each other and cross each other shine more brightly, though separated), both copoints, I allso si them sunq into the same point, one point, through a superdimension, above an incalculable scale, an infinite inner phosgrey.

Hexagram 24 Fu / Return (The Turning Point) / (Prophecy of Occupy)

When the dark lines have pushed all of the light lines upward and out of the hexagram, another light line enters the hexagram from below.

i intro in the shape of a vital centipede through the door of this sign.

veri thinqing braine                          very thinking brain
veri feelful harte                                very feeling heart

                                    i lose shape
                        i whoam a god aswell

occupy                                    infinite                        cosmos

                        occupying is the cosmos!

                        hou     light    tubers

peacefully enraptured little potatoes golden with light

Hexagram 3 Chun / Difficulty at the Beginning (Ar Chi Tect Tures)

A blade of grass pushes against an obstacle as it sprouts out of the earth.  A thunderstorm beings release from tension, and all things breathe freely again.

eeh aye eeh                           eye                              the flooded ones still do not want to see!

foams and wavecrests sparkle inopportunely, in the internal storm lone beings emit light. what is in this solid globacity that does not connect to this force, this strength whichz now whatz real?

Floatsathing with a large hole of blugrey air with same stoorrmm, denser winds.

Finally a procession arrives, beings neerthotof, thinking as one, thinkers in a circle, mother-of-pearl and felt!         

I soor into light celestial sky, plants biomove & hum.

Fromtother side is a floating temple, many pray, in their theo-co they touch the god, they saintexult, participate in the divine and their auras flow with prana.

Fromtother side a tower of books, pri petri, epi, tijol, xy’l epi, rolhi, hi.
Letters like flies perisoar in letred swarmz allround.

Living archi tec tures, biopalaces and biohuts armed perhaps with soul and thought thruchange into biocumuli quiver move about rise up, interpenetrate and float on their own.

Houses here be burning, but not destroyed, constructed more than structed.  Their fire is lyfe & the greater the burn the greater the palace.  The people co-flame aswell.  Houses and people boil with fervor, explode with love, smoke and geyser of love.  Various and piledup togethergrown fervisprouting local offices of love.

Houses here be growing, growing on their own, zonti, bies, upa, yuso, gordi: here they buzz squeak crow speak in consodissonant tongues.

The ground of this citie is a plural cloud.
Under this citie be another upside down citie.
Gloomy, slow, dark, and alive downward growing.

I seegain the other citie, the rabble sky, rabble of the happyhigh sky, clouded with fog and coagulates: outlines of thought and smokymud ennui. Here be Aztec teocallis only of book tongues whar their readers embodify, not reading but sucking forces, vital brio, juice of languages.

Sexpanding undulating spokers of all linguages with their swarms of letters thickets glyphs and disprosodies.  Counterpointing they co-, dis-, re-form sense and ever new lingold.

note. The work, above, is from the recently published New & Selected Poems of Cecilia Vicuña (Kelsey Street Press, July 2018).  Of this beautifully complex poem Vicuña writes by way of introduction: “The piece comprises three poems and was commissioned by Lila Zemborain for the book-catalog of the exhibition ‘Xul Solar and Borges: The Art of Friendship’ at the Americas Society in New York, 2013.  I was asked to respond to Xul’s writing, and I did this piece, recreating/paraphrasing his work of the 1920’s, written in neocriollo, a language he invented.”
Of Xul Solar himself, a major experimental/innovative poet/artist of the Americas, she has written elsewhere: “Xul said of himself: ‘I am maestro of a writing no one reads yet’ and ‘I am world champion of a game no one knows.’ But Jorge Luis Borges, who was influenced by him, said: ‘Xul took on the task of reforming the universe, of proposing on this earth a different order. For that, among other things, he changed the current numerical system of mathematics to use a duodecimal system, with which he painted his watercolors.’

“But Xul remained a secret” [she continues]. “I remember hearing about him in the 1960s, but never coming across his work. His writings are uncollected even today, and his art didn't begin to circulate until the 1980s. At one point, I wanted to edit a selection of his work and went to Buenos Aires to visit his old home, now a Xul Museum. Someone showed me to his room and opened the closet for me. I saw his white iridescent tie and his green plastic belt. I could suddenly ‘hear’ him speaking in Pan Criollo and dancing with Lita, his wife:

Olas, ólitas, vintos, hálitos, réspiras, kinflores, hondónadas, pirmanchas, kingramas, biovacíos, tunzoes: too fon.

‘Waves, wavies, wine-reds, breath-rests, kinflowers, profundiads, firestains, kingrams, biovoids, tongtoes: Too fun.’”

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Toward a Poetry & Poetics of the Americas (12): María Rivera, “Los Muertos”

 Translation from Spanish by Richard Gwyn

[When Ezra Pound defined an epic as a poem including history, he indirectly called our attention to the fact that American poetry has been struggling all along to let the concerns of & with history flow through it.  Taken for some time as a striking feature of latterday North American poetry, this sense of history is evident as well in the poetry of the other Americas, an outstanding example of which is this poem naming names of the recently murdered & disappeared by the contemporary Mexican poet María Rivera. (J.R.,)]

The Dead

Here they come
the decapitated,
the amputees,
the torn into pieces,
the women with their coccyx split apart,
those with their heads smashed in,
the little ones crying
inside dark walls
of minerals and sand.
Here they come
those who sleep in buildings
that house secret tombs:
they come with their eyes blindfolded,
their hands tied,
shot between their temples.
Here come those who were lost in Tamaupilas,
in-laws, neighbours,
the woman they gang raped before killing her,
the man who tried to stop it and received a bullet,
the woman they also raped, who escaped and told the story
comes walking down Broadway,
consoled by the wail of the ambulances,
the hospital doors,
light shining on the waters of the Hudson.
Here they come
the dead who set out from Usulután,
from La Paz
from La Unión,
from La Libertad,
from Sonsonate,
from San Salvador,
from San Juan Mixtepec,
from Cuscatlán,
from El Progreso,
from El Guante,
those who were given the goodbye at a karaoke party,
and were found shot in Tecate.
Here comes the one they forced to dig his brother’s grave,
the one they murdered after collecting a four thousand dollar ransom,
those who were kidnapped
with a woman they raped in front of her eight year old son
three times.
Where do they come from,
from what gangrene,
oh lymph,
the bloodthirsty,
the heartless,
the murdering
Here they come,
the dead so alone, so mute, so much ours,
set beneath the enormous sky of Anáhuac,
they walk,
they drag themselves,
with their bowl of horror in their hands,
their terrifying tenderness.
They are called
the dead that they found in a ditch in Taxco,
the dead that they found in remote places of Chihuahua,
the dead that they found strewn across plots of crops,
the dead that they found shot in la Marquesa,
the dead that they found hanging from bridges,
the dead that they found without heads on common land,
the dead that they found at the side of the road,
the dead that they found in abandoned cars,
the dead that they found in San Fernando,
those without number they cut into pieces and have still not been found,
the legs, the arms, the heads, the femurs of the dead
dissolved in drums.
They are called
remains, corpses, the deceased,
they are called
the dead whose mothers do not tire of waiting,
the dead whose children do not tire of waiting,
the dead whose wives do not tire of waiting,
they imagine them in subways, among gringos.
They are called
baby clothes woven in the casket of the soul,
the little tee shirt of a three-month-old
the photo of a toothless smile,
they are called mamita,
they are called
little kicks
in the tummy
and the newborn’s cry,
they are called four children,
Petronia (2), Zacarías (3), Sabas (5), Glenda (6)
and a widow (a girl) who fell in love at primary school,
they are called wanting to dance at fiestas,
they are called blushing of hot cheeks and sweaty hands,
they are called boys,
they are called wanting
to build a house,
laying bricks,
giving food to my children,
they are called two dollars for cleaning beans,
houses, estates, offices,
they are called
crying of children on earth floors,
the light flying over the birds,
the flight of pigeons in the church,
they are called
kisses at the river’s edge,
they are called
Gelder (17)
Daniel (22)
Filmar (24)
Ismael (15)
Agustín (20)
José (16)
Jacinta (21)
Inés (28)
Francisco (53)
in the scrubland,
hands tied
in the gardens of ranches,
in the gardens of ‘safe’ houses,
in some forgotten wilderness,
disintegrating mutely
and in secret,
they are called
secrets of hitmen,
secrets of slaughter,
secrets of policemen,
they are called sobbing,
they are called mist,
they are called body,
they are called skin,
they are called warmth,
they are called kiss,
they are called hug,
they are called laughter,
they are called people,
they are called pleading,
they were called I,
they were called you,
they were called us,
they are called shame,
they are called sobbing.
Here they go
breasts bitten,
hands tied,
their bodies burned to a crisp,
their bones polished by the sand of the desert.
They are called
the dead women that no one knows no one saw being killed,
they are called
women who go out alone to bars at night,
they are called
working women who leave their homes at dawn,
they are called
chucked away,
they are called meat,
they are called meat.
without flowers,
without tombstones,
without an age,
without a name,
without sobbing,
they sleep in their cemetery:
its name is Temixco,
its name is Santa Ana,
its name is Mazatepec,
its name is Juárez,
its name is Puente de Ixtla,
its name is San Fernando,
its name is Tlaltizapán,
its name is Samalayuca,
its name is el Capulín,
its name is Reynosa,
its name is Nuevo Laredo,
its name is Guadalupe,
its name is Lomas de Poleo,
its name is Mexico.

[From Richard Gwyn, ed., The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America, Seren Books, 2016].  A video of María Rivera reading “Los Muertos” can be found here, & an interview with her appears at Numero Cinq on the internet.  The translator Richard Gwyn is the author of six collections of poetry, an anthology of contemporary poetry from Wales,  & two novels. His work has appeared in translation in over a dozen languages, & he is currently the Director of the MA in Creative Writing at Cardiff University & the author of Ricardo Blanco’s Blog.]

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Amish Trivedi: Excerpt of "Automata", from FuturePanic, with a note by the author

To keep waking up
missing the suns
beyond our own. The future
is a hard limit, the arc of history

long enough that no one here
will ever see enough of it.
Long after humans, maybe
two-hundred thousand years old,

would long have been buried

                        in the Earth’s graveyard,



Art is a kind of engagement
            with the future, depleting resources

so it can replicate itself. What art does in crisis,
machines do in space

over a few million years. Poems are fast enough
their language is not forgotten, buried.

Whatever you create
while reading this
is my intellectual property
and you creep me out.


By the time anyone looks us up, we’ll be dust,
void, ashes scattered into the galaxy’s ocean,

Wake up knowing
            there are only enough mornings. Wake
up knowing no one
knows we’re here. Wake up knowing
we won’t be missed. Lonely,
            alone enough out here.

I’m not worried about my future—
there’s a hard limit to it.

Worry without really meaning it. There’s a hard limit.


An egg hatched, an astrochicken— a machine
            that’s alive and giving birth
            to itself. Four million years
            of a future that’s not ours, of
            replicated mornings. Life

an infinite loop until it rebuilds itself.
Pre-history for future Earthlings. We are
relics, mythology.

Time is terrorism unstoppable, exiled. A refugee of time.
            I assemble you, call you into being, my baby universe.

A limited number of possibilities in an infinite universe:        
                        not everything is permissible.


I stood in a room
and looked at all the things in it—

            things that had been bought,
                        given, taken. I am

just as guilty. We are not guilty
because the house is divided—

we are guilty because
we are the ones

that divided it. Dying this way
may have been easy enough

but we’re living in a denial
that cannot hold itself together

forever, even if it can replicate itself
endlessly by draining us,

a planet, a star, a cow, a child, an Earth
of all resources, a parasite, our disease

spreading out across a galaxy for millions of years
after we’ve already killed ourselves

and left evidence in the only graveyard
no one can find.


Went into the river clean and came out with 
one eye damaged. Was told there was time now 

but heard it differently. I cannot hear 
any of you: 

            the screamings of the mind have made ears
of new ghosts. It's not the words that are hollow,

just the voice behind it. Ready to be something 
other than deceived.


A lotus wilting above an abyss: locked out of the
unisex bathroom, bleeding, right leg first. Beginnings

mean nothing without your head
in an oven. It’s the way it’s

said that gets one in trouble; it’s the way it
breathes that chokes. It’s afternoon:

sirens are heard as they pull through
the intersection.


Time now for the earth below
to stand open: bringing the mountain in

means hearing its cries
in the night. One seed buried below,

            one above.
One caught, strangled. About prayers

that settle into the room: I
set their skin on fire as the music stopped.

NOTE: FuturePanic encompasses macro and micro concerns to transform the reader’s sense of space and time and force them to engage with the present era’s perceptions of death, politics, and the border at which they meet. The opening (presented here) considers the Von Neumann Machine, an as-yet impossible organic machine designed to replicate itself across the galaxy over the next 400,000 years. Conceptual, expensive, and perplexing, the Von Neumann Machine raises questions present throughout FuturePanic – who benefits from the long reach of technology? How do the earth-bound conceive of transformation light years away? And how do mortals deign to simultaneously explore the potential for never ending life at the cost of killing death for machines, while grappling with their own limitations – corporeal death, political conceit, and economic destruction of the world around them? Is the quest for knowledge that may outlast us all worth stargazing above the screams of others in the here and now and the cries of our own limited bodies and minds?