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, March 9, 2011

Jerome Rothenberg: Memory Number 1, Market Place (a beautiful short story), circa 1947

She take me along. Gar mamma I hear me I cry: where way we are going?
......Ho she is laugh laugh laugh. You now you are to see the world. Gar mamma I say what is world? what (gar mamma) is world?
......She take me along. She me not tell of this thing: world. Are young too young she doubtless are think.
......I were young by lot I guess when she are take me along.
......She are doubtless think that.
......I are run along in back of the head of her. She me not see I are think. Are laughing am I. Ha and ha and ha for long time for I are as before I was. I are now young.
......We are go in bigger than where I are sleep in dark room with bunches of people who are walk in ones and threes all around. Gar. I are see food in benches like they am there sit. Me guess that the eyes of me are pop doubtless out from the head of myself as I are look at this thing. Gar doubtless.
......She take me the hand (my child she say) and me she drag and at what bench she like she buy or this or that or if not she like she spit (pheh) and not she buy.
......Ho and I are laugh laugh laugh. My heart of my body he are so happy he are jump with joy of so happy to be.
......Gar mama I hear me to her I say. Am happy happy ha ha ha. She are say: good.
......We then (in order) we are return to street to sun to sky with white of cloud like pussy tail. Oh I are smell the air of lovely street. The air is smell so lovely.
......I know I are in love though doubtless young. Gar I say I are in love mamma I are in love. Ha ha ha.
......Ho she is laugh laugh laugh. Are you with what in love to be?
......Ha I are smile smile smile. I are in love with sun and sky and also cloud like fluffy pussy tail I are in love. I are in love to smell how good are smell the smell of these I are in love with.
......Gar I are cry Gar oh gar oh gar. I are in love though doubtless young.
......She take my hand of me and hold it strong. I see she are in laughing.
......I think I are laugh also for the mouth of me it are in smile.

[The preceding goes back to first teen-age discovery of language as a vehicle open to change & personal control, something that already existed in my mind as an indication of what poetry was or might come to be. Born & bred in New York I had come into English a little belatedly, but by 1947 I already felt in full possession & free to change the rules of engagement in minor or major ways, however I thought it pleased me. A few years later, William Carlos Williams, visiting City College in New York, told a group of us, most of whom were like him the children of immigrants & the speakers of strange tongues, that language & poetry were ours to deconstruct & then to start anew: Smash it to hell! You have a right to it! I never published what I had written those years before, but I kept it with me & waited for a time when the means of publication were in my hands, to let it fly. In the age of the internet that work would not have been without its timely publication. (J.R.)]


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