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 29, 2008

16 Poems for the Pound Project

for Francesco Conz

Swollen-eyed, rested,
lids sinking, darkness unconscious
And before hell mouth; dry plain
and two mountains


head down,
screwed into the swill

I am led into a home
where no one
– not a dog or cat –
drops by.

The body of a
tortured child
sticks out
& spooks me.

Warriors & creatures
blind my eyes.


A lady asks me.
I speak in season.

With my old
suburban voice
my prejudice
grows ripe.

I am not empty
but without a taste
for differences
I atrophy.

The dance gets harder
as the mud gets high.


I mate with my free kind
upon the crags.

I neither wait for you
nor need you,
feel the pressure of your tongue
that calls me down.

I know extremis
better than than the cackling
of my fellows,
gaunt & green with pain.

In my hand a flower
blosssoms, does it not?


I let down the crystal curtain
& watch the moon.

Men & animals surround me,
I am led by these
into a hole, brown-colored
like my arm.

I wait for words the night
once brought me,
luminous, the sky a changing
field of light.

While here below,
their sightless eyes
confound me.


Nor can I shift my pains
to other.

Much less my words – like yours
that face me down
high on my wall – an afterthought
to careless speech.

We teach forgiveness
to the idle only.
For the rest the suffering
leaves its own mark.

I back away from yours,
old face like mine.


I am the help of the aged;
I pay men to talk peace.

With my hands I raise
a sagging body. I am keen
& run before you,
meaning to escape.

I pay a price for
bounty. Deaf
I hear a call
to war.

Somewhere within me
armies clash.


singing: O sweet and lovely
o Lady be good

the song is traveling
from my time into yours,
like Ella’s song, is

hear me sing it see me
dance on water
I coast down the street
the while my eyes

like everyman’s eyes
fill with blood of apparitions
a dead bullock


Blown around the feet of
the God,

the landscape hides from us,
the little castle
shows its face at night
and shamans walk the streets

communing with the dead
the terror of the folk
in agony the cries
of those who fled to open water

gathered into caves
who took their lives.

Okinawa 1945/2000


Where the dead walked
And the living were made of cardboard

their shadows disappeared.

I lost track of eternity
that makes things new.

Nothing here improves
while time is lost.

Clean as any whistle
I come forth.

But still I can't shake off
the memory of mud.

In meiner heimat.


"I am noman,
my name is noman"

I wait where road
crosses road,
where hunters fly from
their quarry.

Not me but those
that I point to!
Not those but the dead
fed with blood!

Their hands rise in fury.
They hammer us down.


I have weathered the storm,
I have beaten out my exile.

I have made a pact with someone
& have botched it. Freed from time
my fingers have grown frail,
my pen lies helpless on the floor.

I have desires that my flesh
still harbors. Little help or gratitude
will come from those
my turnings have betrayed.

I watch the dead file by
& feel a stirring.


The yidd is a stimulant
and the goyim are cattle

and the words once written
stay writ all his words
bounding back to the speaker
laying him flat.

What a downfall I had
& what havens I reached for
too late. None remained
to embrace me, but

jews, real jews, not shades
in my mind but avengers.


First must thou go
the road to hell

must see the millions
thou hast smitten
with thy thoughts must cry
the cry of killers

if thy hands are clean
as mine are
why then the swelling in thy throat
the smells of vomit

blinded as the dead are blind
the kings of hell


Time is the evil.

Is what is always lost,
what takes me by the throat
& leaves me, shrunken
begging with the other thieves

then drops me in the pit
called bolgia, where a silly
rhyme I can’t erase
repeats forever.

For others other pits
shadow their lives.


the soil living pus, full of vermin,
dead maggots begetting live maggots

fascists at banquets,
pandars to authority,
& skinheads with iron teeth

sucking hard at our flesh,
shoving old men
like books in their fires,
images of shit

too raw for feeling, where the flux
inside the corpse
changes to stone


And I am not a demigod,
I cannot make it cohere.

Nor bring it, at a dare,
into my focus,
where the sunlight even now
turns ashen,

heavy with burnt matter,
stinking, where the century
has turned a corner,
like a swollen foetus

it has pulled you down,
old vanity
has pulled you down.

[Commissioned by Francesco Conz in cooperation with Mary Rachewiltz & the Pound estate at Castle Brunneburg in the Italian Tyrol, these 16 poems were part of a larger project in commemoration of Ezra Pound's life & work. My original was printed on colored stock & pasted onto 16 paper boards beneath a xeroxed & degraded photograph of Pound. In an attempt to fuse (or to con-fuse) our two voices, alive & dead, each numbered section begins with two lines of his, & what follows lies ambiguously in the void between us. -- JR]

1 comment:

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