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

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Jerome Rothenberg: “The Mysteries of Mind Laid Bare in Talking,” for David Antin (1932-2016)

Photograph by Charles Bernstein


I would also say it
speaking    would like to hear it
catapulting from my mouth

not like a flow of words
but a barrage of pulses
one athwart the other

mindful how some spirit
wracked you
who were singular in speech

the mysteries of mind
laid bare in talking
discovered first, then lost

the way all times
are lost   when no one
counts them off

a dream expresses it
still harder to remember
pressured to write it down

they wait a new device
a camera to record
the images in dreams

the images in memory
of days in New York
or of walks in Paris

linked in talk
& warm embraces
on the other coast

is where we come
to die    at last
the more we wander

conversant with the dead
companions all
stiff necked & lonely

when you ask me for
a discourse
still more satisfying

that our cheating hearts
hold back
then let it fly

the memories
of being young
your black hair
in the wind

later to be lost
like something
keys hair someone
a contingency

my noble forehead
that you saw
or claimed to
in the loss of yours

the stream of language
hard to fix
or to deflect
once lost

first meetings
faces also lost
like words on paper
that we shared

carried over time
the thoughts
of sickness
shared with all

like dying
thrice denied
the distance between
now & now

I do not see you
any longer
but know the voice
full in my mind

so much like mine
someone had said
imagination all
that makes it sound

timed to my heart
that keeps the beat
flesh sundered
turned to ash

can it be fair
to write

a love song
to a friend

from friend to friend
the voice comes
& the answer
that a stranger overhears
robs him of speech

the guest is half
nowhere he turns
or runs   caught
in a web

or caught between
two open doors
is right for him
the way out west
leads back to asia

asia leads him
into wilderness
a bitter landscape
where no friend

no gaze or touch
so tender
those who fight
for love
once living

know it as a taste
sweet in the mouth
though distant
at length   at last
the friend is double

in your sight
but turns from you
the time to come
draws nigh
then shatters
& does the poem exist
when there is no one there
to hear it?

who does not dream
dreams deeper
by not dreaming

until the door
swings open
draws you to
sleep within

what forms
assailing us
the scattered dreamers

curtains closing
on our eyes
in frantic bursts
lights streaming

take the shape
of birds & stars

move across the sky
the eye in love
with tentacles
in mauve & amber

the new year
without you

then the rest
is dream
whether the images
arise or not

the screen goes blank
foretold by you
the dreamer

here is the death
we feared
infinite space
to every side

absent all light

After Wang Wei
O my friends! there is no friend.

at Weiching
            morning rain
                        the fine dust damped
a guest house
            green among
                        green willows
urge a friend
to drink a final
glass of wine
west of Yang Pass
            there is
                        no friend

except the memory
the loss   a dream
that will not stick
but comes & goes
as if we hadn’t
dreamed it

for which I name you
poet of the dream
in whose denial
dreams come forth
the word “desire”

pleasures first
a place as large
as Prospect Park
where others
feast & bathe
some sleeping

& the dreamer
kicks his shoes off
wades into a pool
the north branch of
an old estate
its master far away

then goes from room
to room in search
of shoes   as prelude
to a silent movie
buried like his life
too deep for tears

for which the word
the woman
throws at him
is hog (he says)
not out of shame
or fecklessness

but turning
subject into object
echoing the master’s
words   the world
is everything
that is the case

waking & dreaming
much the same


[N.B. The dream covered lightly in the final section, above, is from David Antin’s “On Narrative: The Beggar and the King,” published previously (2010) in Poems and Poetics (Jacket2).  The present posting coincides with what would have been his 85th birthday.]

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