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

Friday, February 19, 2016

Jerome Rothenberg: from “Further Autovariations,” Three Poems, 2016

Reminders of a Vanished Earth

the poem as landscape

the definition
of a place
is more than
what was seen
or what was
felt before    
when dreaming
of the dead
the way
a conflagration
wrapped itself
around his world
leaving in his mind
a trace of dunes
the fallout from
a ring of mountains
of a vanished earth
the landscape
marked with rising tufts
the hardness of
clay tiles
that press against
our feet like bricks
the soil concealed
beneath its coverings
through which a weave
of twisted wires
crisscross the empty
field as markers
to commemorate
the hapless dead
the ones who fly
around like ghosts
bereft of either
home or tomb
in what would once
have been their world
the count fades out
beyond 10,000
leaves them to be swept
down endless ages
fused together
or else set apart
lost nomads
on the road
to desolation
a field on mars
they wait to share
with others 
dead at last

a deep romantic chasm

Head facing downward
I descend the chasm
little caring
about space or time
my face caught halfway
between dark & light
a mix of random chance
& kindred circumstances,
before I reach the bottom
& a narrow street
alongside which I spot
a darkly churning stream
& follow it
until I reach its source.

Here is a world
outside of time & season*                  *rhyme & reason
only broken by the sound
of ghostly birds
that blast us till we find
that we’ve arrived
nearby a field behind
a battered wooden fence,
the specters in that world
stare out at us,
move back & forth
until they cover the horizon, come
forward, forward
rising in their legions.

All they have to offer
is a turn, a word,
a sound that we can hear
& answer in return,
what has long been known
but left unspoken,
words from inner space
the tongue turns off,
the dead will learn
to speak again, the universe
is theirs & covers them
until they flee at morning,
leave us in a dream still,
faces awash with dew.

This will be the final book
the poet dreams or writes,
whose home is in his mind
or maybe elsewhere,
follows it around the world
to where it leads him,
a space forever dark
an air so heavy
that he cannot push through it
or recognize the faces
waiting for him as before
too distant to pursue,
the world once full of smiles
now dark with tears.

I am not he,
the wanderer, the captive,
the one who lives his life
as in a dream,
the messages that reach him
from a dying galaxy
fall on deaf ears,
echoes of an empty sky
the final world bereft
of sounds & images,
returned to what it was,
adrift & mindless,
the grim memento
of its absent god.

Larger Than Life

He is  left
without a word
but nailed
onto his bed
like someone
he starts to dream
of Europe
in a countryside
where angels
run half-blinded
feel the power waning
from a dying sun,
long shadows form
a wall of snakes
each one a shape
that dangles
ghostlike, clambers up
a single tree
each with a face     
much like a babe’s
the light escaping
from their eyes
the eyelids
& cast aside
days beyond days
how many lost
while dreaming, playing
murmuring the songs
their fathers sang,
still in their minds
no time for solace
nor a moment’s rest
the man locked in
the prison of his bed
from which a foot
breaks free, a hand
frantic & fierce
escapes from his,
the punishment
for angry words
let loose
no longer muted
calling forth a shudder
or a sigh
to mark the end of
space & time
nowhere to turn or hide
before the ending
when the dead
bury the dead
the road to nowhere
opens, no one
riding it but smacking up
against a wall
to die in pieces
like the image of
the battered body
of their god
hidden beneath
a bed of leaves
the ground around him
carrying the stain
that pain delivers   
as a harbinger
the victory of death
against all life.

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