To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
.......................................again
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, November 13, 2008

Abraham Abulafia Visits the Pope: A Fragment of a Steinian Opera

for Charlie Morrow

Scene One

Chorus
Jews in a ring.
Jews on a rollercoaster.
Jews who sing in a ring.
They are & they sing about everything.
Old Jews who do what they do they sing & they ride on a rollercoaster they sing in a ring & young Jews do too who move by ones & by twos they ride to the sky & over the sky they ride in Italy over the sky & on the sky Jews on a rollercoaster do who ride over Italy on a ride to the sky.

First Jew
[in black face & puffing on a stogie]
I am a Jew I am a Jew too & I have come to Italy to ride on the sky & to be blue oh yes blue yes blue blue.

Second Jew
[a pirate with a gold ring in one ear]
Over the sky in a rollercoaster I too who am a Jew & who say blow me away & shiver my timbers sweetly yes sweet my sweet Jewish timbers.

Third Jew
[in a feather bonnet he is an Indian tomahawk & all]
Yes yes I have come all the way to Italy to be a Jew like you oh like you yes yes like you I ride on a rollercoaster over the sky.

Fourth Jew
[majestically dressed he is dressed as the statue of liberty in a long gown & with a glowing torch]
I have left the golden land & I have a torch in my hand in my precious Jewish hand I have come to land in Italy too & to ride on the sky like you.

Fifth Jew
[a wolf mask over his face & a shepherd's crook in his hand]
Am I not a Jew if I am not a Jew what am I, but if an animal can be a Jew I am one too.

Sixth Jew
[in the clothes of an Arab or maybe of a patriarchal Jew]
I am a true Jew true & blue & I say barakh hu to everyone I see in Italy & here too.

Seventh Jew
[wears a military costume with medals on his chest & a cockade on his head]
A Jew who says one two & two knows one & two & can do whaever I do, he can ride on a rollercoaster & dance yes a Jew can dance too in advance of a rollercoaster.

Eighth Jew
[a faggot]
A Jew like me in Italy is a Jew & is a faggot too like me yes anyone who comes to Italy can be a Jew & he can ride on a rollercoaster on the sky & so I am true & blue.

Ninth Jew
[spherical & round he rolls across the floor]
I cannot say barakh hu & yet I am a Jew nevertheless & this is true.

Tenth Jew
[Abulafia]
But Abulafia who is a Jew is different too. He is the first to sing & the first to come to Italy. He is the first to meet the king the true Italian king & the first to meet the pope the way I do. He is the first in war the first in peace & the first in the hearts of his countrymen.

[The true Italian king comes in he is dressed like George Washington & rides on a bicycle.]

Chorus & Jews
[singing]
He is King.
He matters.
He is King.
He forgives.
He is King
He is King.
He attends a wedding.
He is King.
He attends a decision.
He attends.
He attends.
He dances.
We see.
He is King.
We siphon.
The inheritors dance.
He matters.
He is King.
We attend a wedding.
He is King.
He is King.
He forgives.

Abulafia
This is a scene.

King
In a garden.

Abulafia
In Italy.

King
What is your name.

Abulafia
Abulafia.

King
You have come a long way. What is your name, I pray, I pray.

Abulafia
My name is buried in a hat.
[He looks for it.]
Yes it is Abulafia. See. It is Abraham Abulafia.

King
I see & do you sit beside me.

Abulafia
Yes I do. Thank you I do.

King
I am a king.

Abulafia
I see that & I thank you too.

King
But I am a hidden king though I am most true.

Abulafia
Do not forget the penpoint when you do.

King
No but I forget the world in bits & pieces.

[Abulafia reads from a book.]

King
Will you read to me from a book.

Abulafia
Thank you, I pray & I pray. I will read to you from a book.

King
Begin here

Abulafia
Yes here.

[He begins to read aloud. The other Jews circle around him.]

Abulafia
Here is here now & here is here now & here is here now. And here. He does & does he sing between the curtains. Yes it says. A herd of horses crosses through his hall & circles. In a ring. What is his book called. It is called the Book of Witness. See. The little y is where his name is. It is here & here. Oh yes cries Abulafia & do it once. Once here & one here. One is called a king & two is called a king's king & three is called a king's king once. Four is fourth & goes forth to a door. He opens to begin a door. And five. Five is on a hand & is a herd of horses. Six are Jews & brightly. Seven is a proposition. Eight is also nine. And Abulafia again is ten & goes forth to a door.

[He passes the book to the first Jew.]

First Jew
He goes forth to a door. Here is Barcelona where the trip begins.

Second Jew
Begin is pleasing. Capri is rich with fish & goyim. If you can do mileage with a pencil others will find the way.

Third & Fourth Jews
When they say they say. When a month is far away they say the gay month.

Fifth Jew
Jews kiss Jews. A gay month. He is on his way to Rome.

Sixth Jew
Two Jews are on their way to Rome. One is gay & one is in golf shoes. The other is in despair.

Seventh Jew
A king a garden & a violin. The door before the Pope is open to a door. A door swings shut so sadly sadly.

Eighth Jew
Two Jews in golf shoes. Two Jews in paper hats. My hat is launched. To see the King first is to be with kisses.

Ninth Jew
Two Jews in tears. One bows before you. One is the other's keeper. The Messiah is the one called the Messiah.

Abulafia
Now Abulafia puts down the book. He is all smiles. The King is charmed by him & the Jews are irreversible. Abulafia winces. His right leg feels the skateboard still in place. Ring a rubber bell for me. He rings it. The house in Italy leads to a rollercoaster in the sky. A Jew lights a cheroot & feels a small decline. I let the King peak through my glasses. See oh yes I see. A wise Jew pisses in a tub. He rubs her ivories with lemons, then descends. Dance One: The King in Limbo. Strike a pose. Repose. Disclose. Expose. A thin Jew swings a shoe. Dance Two: The King is talking to his telephone. Where is the Pope is he in Rome of course the Pope would be in Rome. And the Messiah. Tell oh tell is the Messiah in the garden in which he fell.

King & Abulafia
Yes he is here oh yes yes he is here & here before a garden.

[The first scene of an opera conceived & planned with composer Charlie Morrow but never finished beyond the first two scenes nor ever put into production. Abulafia selbst (1240-c.1291) was a great mystic & master of a species of meditation that took the form, often enough, of a kind of mystical lettrism. In 1280, responding to a dream or vision, he set out for Rome to convert the Pope (Nicolas III) & to proclaim himself the Jewish messiah. Threatened with execution he was thrown into prison but saved by the sudden death of the pope himself. Some of his lettristic work, translated by me and Harris Lenowitz, appeared in A Big Jewish Book: Poems & Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to Present (a.k.a. Exiled in the Word), still in print from Copper Canyon Press.]