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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jerome Rothenberg: from The Gorky Variations

... posted 11.xii.11 in celebration of my birthday ...

Variation One
The Pirate

draws blood from stone
or brilliance
that a paper bag

men on a journey
who can spy
their lord
in stones & rocks

their eyes askew
grown blue & hard
like glass or ice
lose colors

pale or shining
silver as the sea
might look from heaven
robots riding high

another journey starts
the pilgrim
like an iron man
breaks thru the snow

the lord’s flag
rises overhead
above the garden
laughter rises too

a voice calls
from a paper bag
blue snow
cold iron

ice within an inch
of where they wander
stone & iron
sounding in a dream

at the moment when he rose
the sand turned gold
then green
then gold again

the grey light
made the gold grow pale
the world absorbed it
locked in a cabinet

so many centuries
of growth
illumined by a candle
bound by iron wires

grains of light

how jewish is it
where the women
hold up candles
cash old clothes

where jews look out
beneath creased eyebrows
squeeze bent keys
against the corpse’s throat

laughter carried by
the wind     a tongue
that wags & ceases
overcome by sleep

his heart has skipped
a beat     his hair
bound by a string
falls to his chest

over the dead we place
an awning
flowers all around
no cash at hand

the system fails
& falters
leaving a smell behind
stale odors

basket like a casket
where the body lies
old hands old fingers
jews & phantoms

a store awash with
phantom jews

open the door & let
the sun flood in
& bathe the little town
inside its shell

the heaviness of dreams
at first a trickle
swells & overwhelms
the sleeper

a body without
air & water
cannot live or thrive
nor can a forest

inside a shell
glass skews the light
each man a refugee
entombed in water

water fills their eyes
when light dies out
the false excursion ends
the air aflame

sight lost forever
in the sudden heat
men die from
specks of light

inside the shell

[Derived from "The Pirate," in J.R., The Gorky Poems / Poemas Gorky, El Corno Emplumado, Mexico, 1966]

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