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

Monday, December 28, 2015

Jerome Rothenberg: Three Poems from “The Disasters of War” after Goya

                                                He is a real man
                                                when he murders,
                                                is he not?

Sad presentiments
of what must come
to pass   a rage
of shredded clothes

the darkness
through which images
rain down
a ruined world

of bricks & walls
erased   or crumbled                      
shattered*                                         * splattered
on the broken ground

made present
by an unseen hand
like mine
the lines concealing

men & women
trees & gardens
grass gates gravestones

shrines & temples
class rooms
radios & books
old dresses

fifes & fiddles


clocks & watches
street signs
works of art

the man’s face
shows it
chest & forearms

stumps for legs
the cry of blood
so fierce
it stops his heart

his eyes see only
lines like knives
blood or rain

the word is misery
that binds him*                                *blinds him
where the waters rush
& rage


with reason
or without
the fate of real men
facing off
guns at the quick
or lances

the cries rise up
between clenched lips
the itch & thrill
of suffocation
driving them on

for which the mind
is never still
but races screaming
somewhere beyond
the zone
where real men go

theirs is the dream
of children
& old mothers
huddled masses
at their feet
the dream of where we go

& where the bayonet
enters the sad flesh
the dark device
explodes behind us
ready like them
to make its mark

the blood is like
a ribbon
where it leaves
his mouth
the knife his hand holds
hot to strike

the mind of Goya
falters   sightless
writing in a room
without a light
he feels the thrust
much like his own

the speed of thought
where thought ends
the rest is flights
of spirits
dibbiks who will never
find a home

how heavy
we have all become
trying to free our hands
to etch our names
still mindful that the dead
will never sleep


the same thing
from the ax
as from the sword
the fury*                                *vengeance 
of the dead
against the quick


those who survive
knives like lights
cutting through time
& leaving us
minus a hole to hide


swept into death
the boots
the men wear
when the feet
stop moving
stick out of the ground


beyond our sight
the earth
will swallow them
no hand upraised
to hold it back
or free us


if my hand
would thrust a knife
like yours
the blow would sever
head from throat
spreading the blood


down mirrors
it will flow
& when they cry
for sunlight
will answer

but the deadman’s

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