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Archive for November, 2007

Ewe (Ghana)

The bird that saw sings
Tseutse’s child is dead
She should eat, they say
I don’t want to eat, she says
God himself greeted them
And said, she should eat
But Tseutse refused and said:
I’ll never eat

Then earth greeted them
and said she should eat
But Tseutse said never will I eat
Foufou she desired
but said to eat she doesn’t want
the mush was her desire
but said to eat wouldn’t want
And yet stole the ripe fruit and ate them

-translated to French by Tristan Tzara; translated to English by Pierre Joris
4X1: Works by Tristan Tzara, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean-Pierre Duprey, and Habib Tengour

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Orpheus

Orpheus can never look back at the real woman trailing behind him out of hell, the woman that anybody could see with ordinary eyes. Orpheus must keep his eyes firmly fixed on the imaginal Eurydice before him, towards whom he has struggled all his life. She is not imaginary, not at all, but realer than any mere apparency, than any momentary act of seeing. He must move always towards that perfect image of his wife, and so sustain himself and his song. If ever he turns back, that is, regresses into seeing his wife as an ordinary woman, she is lost. And he is lost.

-Robert Kelly

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Journey into the Interior

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
— Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.

-Theodore Roethke

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Sally’s Hair

It’s like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass.

I took the train back from Poughkeepsie to New York
And in the Port Authority, there at the Suburban Transit window,
She asked, “Is this the bus to Princeton?”—which it was.
“Do you know Geoffrey Love?” I said I did. She had the blondest hair,

Which fell across her shoulders, and a dress of almost phosphorescent blue.
She liked Ayn Rand. We went down to the Village for a drink,
Where I contrived to miss the last bus to New Jersey, and at 3 a.m. we
Walked around and found a cheap hotel I hadn’t enough money for

And fooled around on its dilapidated couch. An early morning bus
(She’d come to see her brother), dinner plans and missed connections
And a message on his door about the Jersey shore. Next day
A summer dormitory room, my roommates gone: “Are you,” she asked,

“A hedonist?” I guessed so. Then she had to catch her plane.
Sally—Sally Roche. She called that night from Florida,
And then I never heard from her again. I wonder where she is now,
Who she is now. That was thirty-seven years ago.

And I’m too old to be surprised again. The days are open,
Life conceals no depths, no mysteries, the sky is everywhere,
The leaves are all ablaze with light, the blond light
Of a summer afternoon that made me think again of Sally’s hair.

-John Koethe

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A Robe of White Roses

The red window open upon her beauty,
Do I conceive love thus?
Crimes of tears at the blood-painted stones,
Olive trees, in a horrible old age, become younger.

And my weapons are the color of marble
Which, by the length of a whole world,
Overtakes the forgotten street
Where my steps do and undo regrets.

Round about I want myself faithful,
In the white bewilderment, dragging behind my fairies
And let the seasons come to me
To weep and die my bodies and my bodies undone.

-Jean-Pierre Duprey, from 4X1: Works by Tristan Tzara, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean-Pierre Duprey, and Habib Tengour

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Kaddish, Part I

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on

the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.

downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I’ve been up all night, talking,

talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues

shout blind on the phonograph

the rhythm the rhythm–and your memory in my head three years after–

And read Adonais’ last triumphant stanzas aloud–wept, realizing

how we suffer–

And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember,

prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of An-

swers–and my own imagination of a withered leaf–at dawn–

Dreaming back thru life, Your time–and mine accelerating toward Apoca-

lypse,

the final moment–the flower burning in the Day–and what comes after,

looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city

a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and a phantom

Russia, or a crumpled bed that never existed–

like a poem in the dark–escaped back to Oblivion–

No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the Dream,

trapped in its disappearance,

sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom, worship-

ping each other,

worshipping the God included in it all–longing or inevitability?–while it

lasts, a Vision–anything more?

It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder,

Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shoul-

dering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant–and

the sky above–an old blue place.

or down the Avenue to the south, to–as I walk toward the Lower East Side

–where you walked 50 years ago, little girl–from Russia, eating the

first poisonous tomatoes of America frightened on the dock

then struggling in the crowds of Orchard Street toward what?–toward

Newark–

toward candy store, first home-made sodas of the century, hand-churned ice

cream in backroom on musty brownfloor boards–

Toward education marriage nervous breakdown, operation, teaching school,

and learning to be mad, in a dream–what is this life?

Toward the Key in the window–and the great Key lays its head of light

on top of Manhattan, and over the floor, and lays down on the

sidewalk–in a single vast beam, moving, as I walk down First toward

the Yiddish Theater–and the place of poverty

you knew, and I know, but without caring now–Strange to have moved

thru Paterson, and the West, and Europe and here again,

with the cries of Spaniards now in the doorstops doors and dark boys on

the street, firs escapes old as you

–Tho you’re not old now, that’s left here with me–

Myself, anyhow, maybe as old as the universe–and I guess that dies with

us–enough to cancel all that comes–What came is gone forever

every time–

That’s good! That leaves it open for no regret–no fear radiators, lacklove,

torture even toothache in the end–

Though while it comes it is a lion that eats the soul–and the lamb, the soul,

in us, alas, offering itself in sacrifice to change’s fierce hunger–hair

and teeth–and the roar of bonepain, skull bare, break rib, rot-skin,

braintricked Implacability.

Ai! ai! we do worse! We are in a fix! And you’re out, Death let you out,

Death had the Mercy, you’re done with your century, done with

God, done with the path thru it–Done with yourself at last–Pure

–Back to the Babe dark before your Father, before us all–before the

world–

There, rest. No more suffering for you. I know where you’ve gone, it’s good.

No more flowers in the summer fields of New York, no joy now, no more

fear of Louis,

and no more of his sweetness and glasses, his high school decades, debts,

loves, frightened telephone calls, conception beds, relatives, hands–

No more of sister Elanor,–she gone before you–we kept it secret you

killed her–or she killed herself to bear with you–an arthritic heart

–But Death’s killed you both–No matter–

Nor your memory of your mother, 1915 tears in silent movies weeks and

weeks–forgetting, agrieve watching Marie Dressler address human-

ity, Chaplin dance in youth,

or Boris Godunov, Chaliapin’s at the Met, halling his voice of a weeping Czar

–by standing room with Elanor & Max–watching also the Capital

ists take seats in Orchestra, white furs, diamonds,

with the YPSL’s hitch-hiking thru Pennsylvania, in black baggy gym skirts

pants, photograph of 4 girls holding each other round the waste, and

laughing eye, too coy, virginal solitude of 1920

all girls grown old, or dead now, and that long hair in the grave–lucky to

have husbands later–

You made it–I came too–Eugene my brother before (still grieving now and

will gream on to his last stiff hand, as he goes thru his cancer–or kill

–later perhaps–soon he will think–)

And it’s the last moment I remember, which I see them all, thru myself, now

–tho not you

I didn’t foresee what you felt–what more hideous gape of bad mouth came

first–to you–and were you prepared?

To go where? In that Dark–that–in that God? a radiance? A Lord in the

Void? Like an eye in the black cloud in a dream? Adonoi at last, with

you?

Beyond my remembrance! Incapable to guess! Not merely the yellow skull

in the grave, or a box of worm dust, and a stained ribbon–Deaths-

head with Halo? can you believe it?

Is it only the sun that shines once for the mind, only the flash of existence,

than none ever was?

Nothing beyond what we have–what you had–that so pitiful–yet Tri-

umph,

to have been here, and changed, like a tree, broken, or flower–fed to the

ground–but made, with its petals, colored, thinking Great Universe,

shaken, cut in the head, leaf stript, hid in an egg crate hospital, cloth

wrapped, sore–freaked in the moon brain, Naughtless.

No flower like that flower, which knew itself in the garden, and fought the

knife–lost

Cut down by an idiot Snowman’s icy–even in the Spring–strange ghost

thought some–Death–Sharp icicle in his hand–crowned with old

roses–a dog for his eyes–cock of a sweatshop–heart of electric

irons.

All the accumulations of life, that wear us out–clocks, bodies, consciousness,

shoes, breasts–begotten sons–your Communism–‘Paranoia’ into

hospitals.

You once kicked Elanor in the leg, she died of heart failure later. You of

stroke. Asleep? within a year, the two of you, sisters in death. Is

Elanor happy?

Max grieves alive in an office on Lower Broadway, lone large mustache over

midnight Accountings, not sure. His life passes–as he sees–and

what does he doubt now? Still dream of making money, or that might

have made money, hired nurse, had children, found even your Im-

mortality, Naomi?

I’ll see him soon. Now I’ve got to cut through to talk to you as I didn’t

when you had a mouth.

Forever. And we’re bound for that, Forever like Emily Dickinson’s horses

–headed to the End.

They know the way–These Steeds–run faster than we think–it’s our own

life they cross–and take with them.

Magnificent, mourned no more, marred of heart, mind behind, mar-

ried dreamed, mortal changed–Ass and face done with murder.

In the world, given, flower maddened, made no Utopia, shut under

pine, almed in Earth, blamed in Lone, Jehovah, accept.

Nameless, One Faced, Forever beyond me, beginningless, endless,

Father in death. Tho I am not there for this Prophecy, I am unmarried, I’m

hymnless, I’m Heavenless, headless in blisshood I would still adore

Thee, Heaven, after Death, only One blessed in Nothingness, not

light or darkness, Dayless Eternity–

Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some

of my Time, now given to Nothing–to praise Thee–But Death

This is the end, the redemption from Wilderness, way for the Won-

derer, House sought for All, black handkerchief washed clean by weeping

–page beyond Psalm–Last change of mine and Naomi–to God’s perfect

Darkness–Death, stay thy phantoms!

II

Over and over–refrain–of the Hospitals–still haven’t written your

history–leave it abstract–a few images

run thru the mind–like the saxophone chorus of houses and years–

remembrance of electrical shocks.

By long nites as a child in Paterson apartment, watching over your

nervousness–you were fat–your next move–

By that afternoon I stayed home from school to take care of you–

once and for all–when I vowed forever that once man disagreed with my

opinion of the cosmos, I was lost–

By my later burden–vow to illuminate mankind–this is release of

particulars–(mad as you)–(sanity a trick of agreement)–

But you stared out the window on the Broadway Church corner, and

spied a mystical assassin from Newark,

So phoned the Doctor–‘OK go way for a rest’–so I put on my coat

and walked you downstreet–On the way a grammarschool boy screamed,

unaccountably–‘Where you goin Lady to Death’? I shuddered–

and you covered your nose with motheaten fur collar, gas mask

against poison sneaked into downtown atmosphere, sprayed by Grandma–

And was the driver of the cheesebox Public Service bus a member of

the gang? You shuddered at his face, I could hardly get you on–to New

York, very Times Square, to grab another Greyhound–

-Allen Ginsberg

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Come Up From the Fields Father

Come up from the fields father, here’s a letter from our Pete,

And come to the front door mother, here’s a letter from thy

dear son.

Lo, ’tis autumn,

Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,

Cool and sweeten Ohio’s villages with leaves fluttering in the

moderate wind,

Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the

trellis’d vines,

(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?

Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately

buzzing?)

Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain,

and with wondrous clouds,

Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm

prospers well.

Down in the fields all prospers well,

But now from the fields come father, come at the daughter’s

call,

And come to the entry mother, to the front door come right

away.

Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps

trembling,

She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap.

Open the envelope quickly,

O this is not our son’s writing, yet his name is sign’d,

O a strange hand writes for our dear son, 0 stricken

mother’s soul!

All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the

main words only,

Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry

skirmish, taken to hospital,

At present low, but will soon be better.

Ah now the single figure to me,

Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and

farms,

Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,

By the jamb of a door leans.

Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks

through her sobs,

The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay’d,)

See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.

Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to

be better, that brave and simple soul,)

While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,

The only son is dead.

But the mother needs to be better,

She with thin form presently drest in black,

By day her meals untouch’d, then at night fitfully sleeping,

often waking,

In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep

longing,

O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape

and withdraw,

To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.

-Walt Whitman

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