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, September 22, 2017

Jerome Rothenberg: “A Book of Dreams,” a pastiche for Robert Kelly’s 82nd birthday


The way her knee swells
& she feels it
swelling & it turns into
a babe’s head.
No one has a countenance
more rich
& no one has a mouth
that opens wider,
lets a sound like
dreaming come into
the room in which
they wait.

In the night
men go fishing for stars,
not a god but a babe
wields the trident.
Cables lie covered with
smut.  Light erupts
on a screen.  What you see
is your face    & the face
that you see, old
& blind,
is a face from
your dreams.

Better for the mind
to empty out
in dreams,
the way a body
falls, thrown
from a passing train,
They hold a plate
between them, on its rim
a graven message:
God Is Pain.

The air has grown destructive,
finds a way
to bind you,
dark & swollen,
an old angel with
flayed wings
The searchers in the night
drift past you.
You will walk among them,
will give them solace,
only in your dreams.

The room in which the man
is sleeping
splinters     halfway
through his dream
he feels a flow
of images escaping
from his eyes
imploding coating
bed & floor
with colors like a show
of lights
in space, a spectrum
half unseen,

Gardens blossom where a hand
digs deep     the rows
of laborers,
small men forgotten
like the names of towns,
bend with the wind.
Bright words like bella
grace their dreams,
their days degraded by
inane lavoro.
Theirs are forbidden thoughts.

Hand in hand
the dead walk in a line,
hoping against hope,
like children.
It is enough.  It
is enough.
It doesn’t last.
The false commanders
lead the charge.
The story, started
in a dream,
is winding down.

French dolls like ghosts
step forth at midday.
Everyone is sportif
geared for speed
never to turn a shoulder,
to name a game for love.
Their aim is circular,
it follows where you lead them,
down a secret path,
into a basement
shadowed by
your childhood dream,
a lurking hole,
then up the backstairs
lost to sleep.

In the dark dance,
they are tearing at a bone,
their jaws like bears’
jaws     cavernous
their fingers dripping
porridge, clawing
at each other’s nipples,
keepers of a dream.
The blind man sees
no flame or smoke
but knows it all
by tasting.

The cavern of the universe
widens each morning.
My head fills up with dew,
the father writes,
having no home but where
his shadow leads him.
In greasy shirtsleeves, heavy
lids, blotched faces,
the men pursue
a trail of tears,
unbuttoned    captive
to a dream,
a starless galaxy,
the deeper sky
a field of images
measureless & mindless,
absent their god.

The man with a hole
in his eye
sees anew.  A sphinx
fingers a sphincter,
she extrudes
false colors.  The night
once was pink,
it is now
black & white.
Nerval in a corner
spitting his death out,
a substance
first dreamed,
then stuck under
his tongue.
The war goes on forever.

“Release me.”
“Feed me.”
Whose design this is
they do not know,
but cling to cyberspace
as if it held
a clue    the outline
of a village
filled with snow
or circumstance.
The wise man runs from it,
like poetry
or dreams.

Love, like intelligence,
opens a door,
to let us in
still blind
& searching,
taking as a sign
the names of God
engraved in
amethyst    a counterfeit
not letting time
pretend to halt
the darker flux,
impediment to where
we set our sights.
Here is a place to hang
a flag, and there a hat
to pull a flag from.
All your little men
are watching,
waking from a dream.
There is no predicting
but it always comes.

Those who are masters
needn’t talk,
but signal with a secret
nod or wink,
concealed assassins
brought into the mix.
Involuntary tears,
a dream of executions,                      (C. Baudelaire)
rises between our teeth.
The ones who loved us
die     not one by one
but now en masse,
the presence of the dead
in every corner.

Inside the house,
its walls down,
ground into a dust
that only the dream
sustains, those
who were once alive
do not arise,
but one by one
by snakes                                           (T.L. Beddoes)
their limbs are swallowed.
Almost enough
to make you
suffocate, to lodge
like mercury
under your tongue.

Our dreams were of suns,
of vermilion dragons
spangled with gold
from Sumeria,
pronouncements & omens
concealed, to take death
as a tribute,
a slave plunged
in water
& drowning,
becoming a wife
to their god,
a scorpion,
then a chimera.


          O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself 
       a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

No world more clear
than what we see
in dreams
nor more amazing,
numbers bursting into
stars    & stars
enriching what we learn
when dreaming.

It is no more than this,
to sleep & be
the master of the universe,
not to be bound to earth
but gathering a trillion
other worlds,
to count myself
a little king
stepping aside for time.

Nothing is measured
that the mind can fathom
waking.  In the way
her body beckons
when you turn to touch her
coming from a black hole
deep in space
& time.  We learn to count
the deeper images
& those still deeper,
gods & angels
dancing on a pin. *                   * a chip

Before the dream
turns bad
in which a pin* holds             * a chip
all we know
& all we fear
I stretch out flat
to the Horizon.
I arch above you
like a lid.
I vanish & return.
My name is Death.

The word extermination
resonates    nothing
escapes.  The world
itself ends in a time
beyond all time
where time ends
leaving a residue behind
of mindless space
& still more mindless
images    the nightmares
that the mind conceals.*       * reveals

To run from time
isn’t a choice,
the stars we see
are overwhelming
& block the view
or bring up images
of light & dark,
a flickering
across the map
of time,
the flow of sand
in dreams.


[16 excerpts from A Book of Concealments plus a coda newly written]

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