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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jerome Rothenberg: At the Hotel Monopol

in Breslau
PROEM [1988].   It was raining when we got to Wroclaw [Breslau], the miles from Auschwitz bringing back the memories of what had happened there.  Traveling with our son we had made reservations for a single suite at the Hotel Monopol, but when we pulled in, the hotel could only come up with two separate rooms.  After a while, though, the desk clerk said that they had found a suite for us that was free.  An elderly bellhop carried our bags up the central flight of stairs, threw the big doors open, put our bags down on the floor, and asked me with a little smile, “And do you know who slept here?” Then he answered his own question: “Hitler!—And he made a speech from that balcony.”  After which  he turned and closed the doors behind him, leaving us to think again about our fate and theirs.

in the room
where Hitler slept
dreams didn’t come
but sounds
broke from the walls

& cracked
then crackled
made us stare down
past our feet
the dance beginning

while over our heads
the lights would flicker
brought to life
we stepped out

on his balcony
& hailed the crowds
hard faces
theirs like ours

our fingers flat
above our lips
looking like hairs
bunched up
touched by his tongue

the rain falls
from iron boxes
the dead outside the ring
surround us

cousins fallen
where the rain
like tiny knives
opens their wounds

children & rain
the redfaced killers
reach up to the man
the victims without faces
broken underfoot

I hadn’t been there
where the lines of gymnasts
march to the sounds
of open flesh

for them his face
is golden
old as time & echoing
the cry of what can never
be reborn

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