Thursday, June 25, 2009

Men Grow Old

J. Rothenberg


& cry out “shit”
like children

dropping to the bottom of a well,
trained to fish for eels

to come up breathless
on the other side
where mothers reach out arms to hold them

“holy days” the simple man proclaims,
the shapeless wanderer
not simple only, he is open

this allows the world to look
into his eyes, to see
a depth there, like a hole in space

the farthest probe of all they call
“deep image,” galaxies condensing
in the perfect poem

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted on his blog, Poems & Poetics

Fourteen Stations/ Hey Yud Dalet


(A suite of fifteen charcoal drawings)


Drawings by Arie Galles
Poems by Jerome Rothenberg

Under no condition can art express the Holocaust. To withdraw art from confronting this horror, however, is to assign victory to its perpetrators. Each survivor must individually affirm his or her humanity and existence.

I was born before the end of the War in October 1944 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. My parents had been refugees from Poland, and in 1946, after the war, they returned there. Finding their home in Sanok destroyed and the Jewish community annihilated, they moved with me, their youngest and sole surviving child, to Lubawka, a small town in Lower Silesia. In 1951 we moved to Legnica. I grew up among the ruins of World War II, listening to adults who survived the war. I heard accounts of what went on during the war from both Jews and Christians.

Although their tales evoked imagery of a distant monstrous land, survivors' stories of barbed wire crowned concentration camps were local history. I remember my mother speaking of neighbors' and friends' assistance after the Nazi horde overran Poland in 1939: A Ukrainian neighbor in Sanok hung crucifixes in our apartment to deceive the Germans. My parents' friend, Mr. Lachowicz, who lived outside town, risked his family by coming to hide us. And, finally, a Wehrmacht officer helped my mother by bringing food and wood. I also remember hearing of the cruelty, hatred and inhumanity that transpired during the war. The land on which such suffering took place, where my uncle, aunt and cousins became ashes in the slaughterhouse of Belzec, was also the flowered field where my friends and I ran and played.

The genesis for my undertaking the "Fourteen Stations" / "Hey Yud Dalet" project was a chance event. On January 19, 1993, I entered the Holocaust Memorial Room at the local Whippany, NJ, Jewish Community Center. The octagonal space was empty. In the dim light I noticed that the seven bare walls were divided into fourteen sections. In an instant this project crystallized in my mind. I recalled Elie Wiesel's poignant references to the countless Calvaries that took place in the camps. The infamous names swirled in my mind. And, on the spot I sketched the concept for the suite. I returned home and telephoned my friend, a poet, Jerome Rothenberg in San Diego, to suggest a collaborative effort. He accepted at once, proposing Gematria poems based on the Hebrew and Yiddish spellings of the camps.

That night I dreamed I was handed a glass jar labeled “Soil from Auschwitz.” I turned the jar to read the label. The ingredients were listed in mundane order as on a can of soup: Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, Czechs, and on. The list was long. Jews were the first, therefore the main ingredient.

In my subsequent research, over the years, I spent weeks at a time at the Cartographic and Architectural section of the National Archives in College Park, MD. I discovered the negatives which would serve as source images for my drawings, amid countless rolls of Luftwaffe and Allied aerial reconnaissance film. I am grateful to Waclaw Godziemba-Maliszewski, president of The Society for Aero-Historical Research for his help. Thanks are also due to Mrs. Marylyn Beech of the Air Photo Library at Keele University and Cprl. Dean Wilkinson & Sgt. Steven Gregson at JARIC, RAF Brampton in England for helping me locate additional negatives. The suite consists of fifteen 47½" by 75" drawings in charcoal and white Conté. The 15 drawings are accompanied by Jerome Rothenberg's poems hand-lettered on the same paper, 47½" by 15". The drawings and poem/drawing are all framed in hand-forged wrought iron frames.

The images are based on aerial photographs of the camps, taken by Luftwaffe and Allied reconnaissance during the War. Within each drawing is embedded one fourteenth of the Kaddish divided into the natural breaks that occur in its recitation. These Aramaic and Hebrew phrases are interwoven into the pattern and texture of each drawing and become invisible.

13 stations: death camps, built on or near railroad lines; the final stations for six million Jews as well as multitudes of others from across Europe. The 14th station, Babi Yar: a ravine outside Kiev, the final stop for tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews. The 15th drawing, Khurbn Prologue, is a view of Belzec taken by the Luftwaffe on May 26,1940. It is a record of the area before the camp was carved out from the forest. At the onset of the occupation the area which later housed the extermination camp was virgin woods. A damning piece of evidence photographed by the Nazis themselves.

The drawings are to be mounted and numbered from right to left according to the Hebrew Alphabet: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Babi Yar, Buchenwald, Belzec, Bergen-Belsen, Gross-Rosen, Dachau, Chelmno, Treblinka, Mauthausen, Maidanek, Sobibor, Ravensbrück and Stutthof. The full suite completes the Kaddish.

This suite has been the most intense endeavor I have ever undertaken. The act of drawing demands that I concentrate on what things look like, rather than on what they represent. I chose a distancing view from which to contemplate the dichotomy of the intrinsically fascinating aerial views and the horrifying truth. However, the two are not easily separated. When my mind becomes conscious of what these black and white shapes represent, crematoria, freight trains, pits, barracks, barbed wire fences, I am emotionally overwhelmed. The most painful drawing thus far has been that of the death camp at Belzec. The photograph from which I worked was taken by a Luftwaffe plane on a reconnaissance flight, subsequent to the Nazis' eradication of the camp. It shows the camp as a nearly empty lot amid patterned fields along a railway line in eastern Poland.

The title of my project corresponds to both the "Fourteen Stations of the Cross" and to each of the concentration camps being a railroad station. In addition, "Hey Yud Dalet," the acronym of "Hashem Yinkom Damam" (May God avenge their blood) has been carved into the gravestones of Jewish martyrs throughout the centuries.

By using topography, train tracks and stations, references to both Christian nomenclature and Hebrew acronyms, date of completion of each drawing along side the date of the original source photographs, I codify with documentation what are only marks on paper produced by a stick of charcoal in my hand. I literally draw with ashes. And in these drawings I seek to show that which the universe did not notice, or refused to see.

When I consider the vacuum of malevolent lethargy which expands all around us, I feel the need to create just to keep the rate of its expansion in check. I spend uncounted days looking into a geographic Hades, and through my perception of shapes and tonalities I draw a map for exploration of humanity's darkest undertaking. Among mundane views of occupied Europe are embedded cancers which not only eat up the glorious landscape, but beneath their rational and geometric physical layout they conceal evidence of their rapacious appetite for devouring the lives of my people. These photo images were known to many intelligence analyzers, yet little was done to inform the rest of the world of their meaning.

It is a fact that these death camps were out in plain sight to be photographed by the Luftwaffe, the RAF and the USAAC. The photons that bounced off these camps were seen by the camera lenses and fixed forever in little crystals of photographic emulsion, but somehow their reality went unnoticed by the silent sky and the omnipresent causality of all things and thoughts.

The abstraction of these images and the mechanical competence of the photographic process locks the horror into a calm banality. By the physical act of drawing, by changing the technical reproduction into the product of a human hand, I allow the silent paper to scream with the voices of those turned to ashes.

I am alive to say this Kaddish for them, and I say the Kaddish through my work. It is a prayer for all those who perished who have no one of their families left to say it for them. It is also a Kaddish for those to whom the prayer was a totally foreign expression, but whose lives were extinguished in the same braid of horror and smoke that devoured us. I return to honoring the memory of those who were butchered. I return to presenting these documents and these marks of white and black ashes as a memorial and a warning against the vacuum of forgetting.

The death camps the Nazis maintained, of which these are but a portion, are historical reality. Through visual evidence recorded by their own aerial reconnaissance cameras, the perpetrators of the Holocaust have provided irrefutable confirmation of the extermination camps. This truth is reinforced by the reconnaissance photographs of the Allies. Here is evidence of the massive industrial scale of the Nazis' "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem." Humanity must remain aware that the Holocaust was a calculated, systematic commitment to the eradication of an entire people.

I offer the "Fourteen Stations"/"Hey Yud Dalet" suite of drawings as icons for compassion and remembrance.

Arie A. Galles

The Fourteenth Station


the evil water
in my dream

has emptied out
their cities

like my mouth
a hole

& in the blood
they burn

they turn them
into smoke

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Thirteenth Station


in my name she placed
an offering of dust

an offering of graves
where she lay empty

desolate, lay guilty
for her pleasures

in my name, the lamb

placed the basin
at her neck

throughout your generations

For Rachel, twice:

she turned aside,
I thought,
the wood, the thorns
wounding my thighs

& when they came
& carried her away
he gave them numbers
by the sword

a bell
for those with numbers

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Twelfth Station



as he had spoken
from the wilderness:
be fruitful!

(& they were fruitful)

so he could blind them
with a fist
& cut them --

& she could take from them
the vision of
his cities


a skin
& a boil

according to its words

how blind
& evil
like its skin

your words

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Eleventh Station


a thing
speaks in me

I see
the spoken

a word

& from your face
a curse
is poured out

& a bone
is set in motion

in disgust
to see
the one who speaks it

a foreigner,
you say,
the dew like blood

her city
empty for her sake

has blessed you,
seed of them
I will pursue

& you will say
in blood:
leave me alone

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Tenth Station


your camp
brings me
the war
that bore you,

made you inherit
the plague,
your children
torn from you,

your hands that spawned
the offspring of
the nations,
a stone against them

from my hand,
my hand against them
& a plague
between us

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Ninth Station


the voices, thunders
& the voices
of our kin
that they will bring in
from the top

the kingdoms gathering
to kill us
& you will wave
o Israel
& will submit yourself

& I will set apart
the sum of them
the thunders, voices
& the thunders
I will watch & will take heed

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Eighth Station


A Chorus of Children:

we dreamed
& he changed:
an armed man
but delicate,
someone who touches us,
our thighs,
strips us naked,
to wound us,
a fugitive,
who punishes,
slays us
at evening

A Chorus of Survivors

the word
that you feared
like hail
on the mountain
& feared
what would cause it to shine,
to be seen,
like her belly,
like hooks,
like the wheat
on our altars,
all will be eaten,
will not be
a sacrifice
there with the nations,
but a curse
in her womb

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Seventh Station


& sore

his hands
& heavy

& so he looked,
his glory

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Sixth Station


& naked there among
the swarming things

we saw them
in the dung

bright spots
bright spots

that she did stare at
& would see them burn

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Fifth Station


round about me

I knew
& you know

& she had compassion

a carcass
a carcass

& a dancing

& I will kill
the fat
& the fat ones

the wicked
the he-goats
your mistress

like a coat
& torn off

like the twenty
those you ran over
& numbered

& like those
I will kill

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Fourth Station


of those who had escaped,
the children foremost,
he would take some as witnesses

"leave me to drink
"among the goats
"that you may eat & I be eaten

"when life becomes a terror
"your strength against the children
"& her children blotted out

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Third Station


deliver me
from them

your cattle

your assembly
lords of fat

deliver me
from color

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Second Station


he was angry
& smelled
like the righteous

the clean & pure,
ran over them

& they went down
before us

& streaked,
the bars
along the way

increased & multiplied
before our eyes
their place

spread far & wide,
was like my spirit
& my sword

that made you see

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The First Station


for Arie Galles

The full series of fourteen poems was written to accompany Arie Galles's monumental charcoal drawings derived from World War II aerial views of the principal Nazi extermination camps -- each with an attendant railroad station -- known even then to have been the sites of holocaust. As Galles worked from documentary photographs to establish some pretense at distance (= objectivity), I decided to objectify by turning again to gematria (traditional Hebrew numerology) as a way to determine the words and phrases that would come into the poems. The counts were made off the Hebrew and/or Yiddish spellings of the camp names, then keyed to the numerical values of words and word combinations in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. It is my hope that this small degree of objective chance will not so much mask feeling or meaning as allow it to emerge.


now the serpent:

I will bring back
their taskmasters
crazy &

will meet them
deep in the valley
& be subdued

separated in life
uncircumcised, needy
shoes stowed away

how naked they come
my fathers
my fathers

angry & trembling,
the serpents
you have destroyed

their faces remembered
small in your eyes,
shut down, soiled

see a light
take shape in the pit,
someone killed

torn in pieces
a terror, a god,
go down deeper

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage



Yes, folks, this is the day for
my departure;
off to the roads,
to the byways and highways, motels
and greasy spoons of America's Southwest,
hotter than the hobbs of hell,
lying in wait for Miss M 'n Me.

I shall miss our morning ritual,
our misbegotten moments together watching
the sun burst from behind
the fire mountain, and spread
its colors across the surface
of American lake like a
mothernature porno, like
a CGI wet dream.

I will be without poetry
not, for a poet is never
without his/her filters
and senses, sucking up
the environment,
every dew drop,
every sprig of sage,
every beetle and
slithering early bird,
every blossom,
every branch, watching the sun
play jacks on the fat
yellow line, hopscotching
over the empty spaces,
wondering what kind of
morse code the lines are
up to, dit dit da, da dit
da dit, da da.
Fodder for poems of the
future, icons for the
collage, the kalidescope
that churns in my visual
pathways, overturning,
overriding the mundane,
making every moment some
kind of drama, tragedy,
farce, fallacy, or

Hell, my new glasses
are settling in, my visual
cortex has begun to stop
its vibrating, the windows
are no longer revolving, the
floor is leveling out, the
Camry is gassed up, the car
refrigerator is loaded with
diet Coke and apple juice,
the trail mix is bagged,
the maps are folded, the
Garmin GPS is cranked up
and sassy, the hand sanitizer
is plentiful, the artificial
tears are ready for action,
the air conditioner is fully
charged--oh mama, looks
like it is road trip
party time.

Glenn Buttkus June 2009

Doing The Ton

Doing the Ton

"The Ton" was a name for the useless
"upper" classes of Victorian and Edwardian times
who did nothing but impose their ridiculous
fantasies on the sweating hoards (Tu et Moi).
Spent their time going from place to place
trying to impress each other in the absurdity

Refer to P.G. Wodehouse's work
involving Bertie and Jeeves.
Total airheads.
They have been replaced by the "jet set"
and such.
These are the people who just recently
screwed you out of your pension funds.
They are oft seen running certain
social rackets like...oh Symphony orchestras.

But, that's not what it means to me.

What it means to me is in the phrase
"doing the ton at Goodwood" which means
lapping the aforementioned race track
at 100 miles per hour or more.

Whether it actually ever meant that
is irrelevant.

Closely related to the phrase
"going whole hog".

What it means here is that yesterday
I managed to ride 100 miles up and down
and around and in and out
by the shining waters of Lake Washington.

My butt is an aching mass of eroded flesh!!!

Doug Palmer June 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Prologomenia To a Poetics


for Michael McClure
. . . . . . .

Poet man walks between dreams
He is alive, he is breathing freely
thru a soft tube like a hookah.
Ashes fall around him as he walks
singing above them.
Oh how green
the sun is where it marks
the ocean.
Feathers drift atop the hills
down which the poet man
keeps walking, walking
a step ahead of what he fears,
of what he loves.

. . . . . . .

Why has the poet failed us?
Why have we waited, waited for the word
to come again?
Why did we remember what the name means
only to now forget it?
If the poet's name is god how dark the day is
how heavy the burden is he carries with him.
All poets are jews, said Tsvetayeva.
The god of the jews is jewish, said a jew.
It was white around him & his voice
was heavy,
like a poet's voice in winter,
old & heavy,
remembering frozen oceans in a summer clime,
how contrary he felt
how harsh the suffering was in him,
let it go!
The poet is dreaming about a poet
& calls out.
Soon he will have forgotten who he is.

. . . . . . .

Speak to the poet's mother,
she is dead now.
So many years ago she left her father's clime.
His father too.
The tale of wandering is still untold,
untrue. The tale of who you are,
the tale of where the poem can take us,
of where it stops
& where the voice stops.
The poem is an argument with death.
The poem is priceless.
Those who are brought into the poem can
never leave it.
In a silver tux the poet in the poem by Lorca
walks down the hall to greet the poet's bride.
The poet sees her breasts shine in the mirror.
Apples as white as boobs,
says Lorca.
He is fed the milk of paradise,
the dream of every poet man
of every poet bride.
The band plays up
the day unstops & rushes out to greet
another night.

. . . . . . .

Is the black poet
And is the creation of his hands & throat
a black creation?
Yes, says the poet man
who wears three rings,
the poet man who seeks the precious light,
passes the day beside a broken door
no one can enter. Hold it shut,
the god cries & the jew rolls over
in his endless sleep.
Gods like little wheels glide past him
down the mountain road where cats live
in a cemetery guarded by his father's star,
a poet & a bride entangled in the grass,
his hands are black
his eyes the whitest white
& rimmed with scarlet.
Hear the drumbeat,
The blacks have landed on the western shore
the long lost past of poetry revives.

. . . . . . .

Our fingers fail us.

Then tear them off! the poet cries
not for the first time.
The dead are too often seen
filling our streets,
who hasn't seen them?
A tremor across the lower body,
always the image of a horse's head
& sandflies.
A woman's breast & honey.
She in whose mouth the murderers stuffed gravel
who will no longer speak.
The poet is the only witness to that death,
writes every line
as though the only witness.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

Twentieth Century Unlimited


as the twentieth century winds down
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

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

Three Paris Elegies


Jerome Rothenberg

from A Paradise of Poets (New Directions, 1999)

into my own dark sunday light aproaches like
the moon through feathers that's no sooner
seen than sunk by blindness & the thought
that everyone is dead around a city that's
bout to vanish as it has before sucked down
an empty pocket oversized & with a smell
of earth the bright adventurers of 1910
whose streets these were sharing a common grave
with those who followed reaching even
to the place where you and I are waiting
with the friends who drop out one by one
like cybermonkeys flying into mindless space

above a gorge we hung
& swayed
the mountains were alive to every side
stone witnesses
the air was still with only a distant puff
of wind
we sat suspended by an iron wire
no one to talk to in the world
but you & me
a silence between earth & sky
that revelation
I think I prize its emptiness the most
so even now arrived in paris
I sit alone
& feel it bursting from my chest
rush of footsteps down an empty street

why does a well-dressed man come up to me
& ask me for a handout?
(this is a dream, I think, it can't be real)
why does a smiling mother dressed for church
reach out a hand to touch me shadows all around
her sitting on the ground
why does she ask for help
& why do I keep walking walking past her
where there is no street or sun
even in paris on this hottest day in summer
what is the sound that comes at us around
a corner sound of a wave suspended in the air
of hives of bees of hands applauding in the dark

who is the man who wears a flower in his ear
a shirt with many folds a vest a beard
the buttons glowing like electric sparks
the more I search his features I can see
his lips are gone his tongue is heavy hanging
to one side & forming words that never
reach me that the darkness covers
all the people on this street sit flat
against a wall some open-eyed some sunk
in a deep sleep
all are dressed up
the men wear business suits & blazers a cardogan
a double breasted jacket a tuxedo tie & tails
but have no coats or hats
their shoes are simple always a dark brown
or black with marks of sand from garden walks
in paris laces open sometimes without socks
& the women well dressed too although the hair
of one is hanging limply with another's there
are open spots that show her skull
a third one has the traces of a beard
a large wet stain under one armpit
just look at them & they begin to talk
the way that birds talk
feathers that the wind is blowing swirl
across the square
we sit in paradise & pass a ball between us
papers at our feet
then when it's time to leave we walk around
a corner climb the little flight of stairs
& hear them following
the rush of music from a distant time
a woman's voice becoming regular
the words emerging low & high relentless
openings processions
& it's picasso in the lead a little man
with hairy shoulders he has stripped down
to his running shorts like frank o'hara
both of them now stars for minneola prep
both now declare their love of evil
with apollinaire here too his head
no bigger than a thumbnail flanked by
gertrude stein eyes like a crazy doll's
& someone looking like my father max jacob
wrapped in a monk's brown cloak down
which his body disappears
here in a world where there are only
little people phantoms where the sky is not
a sky the earth is shrinking daily under
silver plastic disappearing slipping
through my hands like balls in a pachinko
parlor eyes revolving like red lights
to end here in la ripublique with all
the other dead the hungry ghosts under
our windows a soup kitchen for the dead
the ones who run the ones who squat
now on the grass
they speak our frailty the doom built
into life decomposition chaos anarchy
confusion worse confounded helter skelter
out of whack & out of order out of kilter
out of money out of time & out of place
& out of breath & out of work & out of hope
& out of power
because the men who come to us though dead
are just like us & stare at us like fallen
we welcome you to death they say
their looks dividing us in two
the numbers dance again behind our eyes
the circles break
the man holding a clock up to his ear
will count the silence
every day is summer
what was once alive is gone
& what has yet to be alive
is also gone

Jerome Rothenberg
Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

I Can't Say Who I Am

I Can’t Say Who I Am

I can’t say who I am (A. Baraka)
but go for it
& speak
as if I knew it.
Time is half the story
so is death.
I run from shadows
to avoid old people
maddened by God.
I follow animals
whose eyes at night
mirror my face.
Seeing myself asleep
I touch my arm.
I celebrate
new forms of sex.
I am frantic
knowing that nobody
has a way out
or a face
more marked than
I was not
born live. (J. Holzer)
The case for memory
grows weaker
day by day.
The more I know myself
the less I am.
I hold on to a name
because it suits me
but the voice behind it
never was my own.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

A Town Called Meter

Painting by Richard Gagnon

A Town Called Meter

There is a town called meter
north of Spain.
In it the dead still live
& I have seen them,
who am hungrier than them
not angrier.
I stand among them
with my forged
credentials, calling
on the rest to follow
suit. A bunch of drifters
rubs against me
men with iron spoons
gouging my heart.
I stumble after them
into a town square
sunk below sea level
hard & dry.
A gay parade
files past me
inching up the steps.
I stop a while
my feet in broken flight
over the stones.
The night flows from my eye
the day holds back.
I learn to mimic birds
caught in the brambles.
I have a stark
letting my heart keep time,
my throat in rapture
crying out to you:
the mask! the mask!
in perfect rhythm.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

I Prefer a Poem With Spaces

I Prefer a Poem with Spaces

I like to crack my words

between my teeth.

I tie my hair back

in a knot

& little care

how well it suits me.

The unearthing of a coin

under the streets

leaves us all shrieking.

I can pretend to think all thoughts

at once.

Seldom for me

is frequent

for my friends.

I prefer a poem with spaces

to a block of prose.

I do not mention roses. (G. Stein)

The thrill of climbing

makes me wring my hands

in glee.

You see me

& you

look away.

You ask me to be cautious.

I can reply to you

if time allows

if not I can stand still.

A poor girl reaches out her hand

but I have nothing left

for her not rhyme

nor reason.

We are all feckless

when it comes to love --

still more to justice.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

The Fire Deep Inside

The Fire Deep Inside

My penis in the shape
of my own heart
rests on the pillows. (F. Picabia)
I taste a liquor never brewed
out of your lips.
The generals are gathering.
They stare into each other’s eyes
through mirrors.
With a display of wounds
we signal them
& turn away. I am the last
because the fire
deep inside
burns till it’s morning.
Poetry is made in bed
for some for me
the call of life is stronger.
I walk & see my shadow
hanging upside down
with yours. The way
your mouth says I
is just like mine.
I multiply
the little portion
that your fingers
I cannot comprehend
the way men kill
or laugh. I will not
vouch for them.
There is a space to burrow in
under the covers.
The way he wants to kiss
while vomiting
is part of life. The way
he calls on death
trumpets his own.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

A Cruel Nirvana

Painting by Constantine Brumidi 1865

A Cruel Nirvana

Half dead
is still alive
& half alive is too.
So keep it rolling
I declare.
The others mingle in a room
atop the city
where a fire burns.
They sing.
I sing among them.
Then I push my way through
with my thumbs.
I eke a living
from a stone.
Hard knocks are bound to follow.
I can hear
a water song
close by my ear
& track it
where it leads me.
It is summer
but the trees
are dead.
They vanish with
our fallen friends.
The eye in torment
brings them down
each mind a little world
a cruel nirvana.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

I Am Mad by Turns

I Am Mad by Turns

When I close my eyes
I see them.
Never more & never clearer
than they were
before your heart broke.
I am mad by turns.
Those who lead me to the trough
can never
make me drink.
The time shines like a signal
from my wrist.
Every pattern you observe
will disappear
even those the stars make
in their long sleep.
Is that enough to please us?
I am moved to say it
moved too that Blackburn died so young
& Armand now.
I am waiting for everyone
to die.
For this the just man
spews but holds
his ground.
His strength too distant
to return his hands
two pools of sweat.
He must resemble someone
I saw walking backwards
once & up a flight of stairs
a tray of food
in gentle balance
letting go
& hurtling
to his death among
the thorns.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

There Is Never Enough Time

There Is Never Enough Time

Above the clouds
is nothing
but a leprous
single star. (B. Brecht)
The more I look at it
the less I feel.
I try to recollect. I shake
a distant hand
& pay for laughter.
The odds are heavily
against me.
There is never enough time.
When I place a foot
in the hot water
someone declares me lost.
I smile into a mirror
& my face
glares back.
A father holds his babe
up to the light.
Where will it lead us?
Heaven is no place for fools.
I run my fingers
through your hair
& feel the universe
shut down.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

A Real Man

A Real Man

Mangled fingers
push the stones aside.
The scars run deep.
Hate suits
the human face
far better
than a mask
The price of happiness
is wisdom.
Stones that interfere
with speech
will interfere with sleep
no longer.
Soon he wipes away
the stain.
The motor seems outrageous.
Back & forth
he walks.
I watch the fathers
throwing caution to the winds.
My body hovers
in an air
the man can hold forever
in his sights.
I do not trust his way
of dealing.
He & I
are brothers
for this moment
Watch his fingers closing.
He is a real man
when he murders
is he not?

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

I Have Paid the Price & Lost

Painting by Scott Cahaly

I Have Paid the Price & Lost

God of the universe
you issue from my mouth.
I watch you dying.
Muscles like flowers gather
at your throat.
You shake a wrist at me.
Your watchband comes apart
& freezes.
I can see you with a babe
propped on your lap
or else a lamb.
Old man with blisters
working against time
you plunge a knife
into my book.
The babe limp as a doll
tilts forward
A man in chains
on a woman’s breast.
Feet walk
without a body.
I have paid the price & lost.
And you?
Have you watched them play
the game of tribute?
And have you failed to pay
& won?

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

Where God Is Light

Where God Is Light

The lost in hell
among the rat-faced
I am with them.
Standing at the tunnel’s mouth
the water underneath
I see the figures floating
raised in air
then pitched into the vortex.
Here where god is light
a brown globe
hangs above
a burning hell.
Eyes turn right.
Hieronymus (my namesake)
let me lift this picture
from your hands.
I cherish walking in your circles.
Do you think the light is wet?
Forget it little father
& go home.
Return the keys to management.
When someone asks
if you believe in god
turn cautious.
There are now angels everywhere.
Never look back.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg Blogsite

The Burning House

The Burning House

It was always dark.
The red hole’s
wetness threatened
the lost sheep.
Sharp exchanges
were not clearly heard.
Rivers did
not flow.
You did not defend
your brother.
We ascend
toward progress.
I scratch fire &
remove it from your throat.
I run out of
distant shadows
now that no one
tries to stop
the passage from a city
that is drowning.
You must dodge
the summer fire
to free your soul.
You cannot stand
back of the burning
house from which
strangers emerge
like wolves
to run you down.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg Blogsite

Down Home With "W"

Down Home With "W"

I do so enjoy reading this blog site,
while sitting here so lonely on my ranch.
No one visits me now.
No one tells me what to do.
So I just count my money and drink Lone Star
and daydream that I am still
the most powerful man on the planet.

.......George W. Bush, Jr.

I painted you last week, there in Texas,
bent over nude, riding a wild pig,
with a dildoo shoved up your rectum,
with your mom riding an armadillo,
and your dad riding your wife,
with very tall elephants in the back ground,
one of them carrying Osama Bin Laden,
with berka-wearing topless women running backwards,
and several clock faces weeping,
with oil wells spouting blood,
with a blizzard of green backs whipping up
from the great fence in the south,
with a rattlesnake wearing a Stetson
dangling from your right hand,
and a severed gas pump handle
dangling from your left hand,
you wearing a fez with golden tassels,
and three one-legged Iraq veterans chasing after
your caravan of shame, with an alligator holding
your flight suit in its mouth,
and a knot of fire ants waving small American flags.
I call it "Fun With the Bush's".

.........Salvador Dali

Glenn Buttkus June 2009

C.L. Bledsoe's Response

From: "Cortney Bledsoe"

Dear Mr. Buttkus,

I just discovered your blog.
Thank you for posting so many of my poems.
I'm honored.



Thank you for being so gracious with your poetry.
For a youngster ( I am in my 60's), you have
published like a whirling dervish, and must
be a devoted workhorse when it comes to
your writing. Have you really written
thousands of poems? I set up my blog
to showcase my own poetry, but early on
it became a showcase for all the poets
I admire and want to share with others.
I am grateful for your generosity and
openness. Poetry is for the masses;
at least it should be.

Glenn Buttkus

Hey Glenn,

Thanks for doing the blog. I admire your verve. It's a great concept.

Yes, in my teens and early twenties I wrote voraciously, or rather I counted voraciously. I stopped counting somewhere in there, but I wrote a couple thousand poems before losing track. I know this because I organized them into "collections" of 50. Actually, I would write and write and write, then pull out the best 5 or 6 or whatever (out of 50, say) and then throw the rest away and start over on the "collection". So probably more than a couple thousand. But most of those weren't very good. I was kind of writing to be writing, back then. I've published a handful of those poems, some of the formal ones. It was a good way to kind of clear out the pipes and get rid of all the self-absorbed ideas like 'no one understands me because I'm so different (even though I'm really not that different)' that kind of stuff.

As I've gotten older, I've slowed down with my writing. Lately, I don't have the time to write/publish as much as I used to, and I've been freelance writing--I review for several journals (The Hollins Critic, The Arkansas Review, The Pedestal Magazine, occasionally, etc.) and I write articles and all kinds of crap. I even took a turn at writing slogans for a novelty button manufacturer. And, of course, I teach high school English. I write poems when I can. I try to do it every day. I have two collections published, _____(Want/Need) and Anthem, and a third coming out this fall called Riceland. I have 2 or 3 more put together, looking for publishers. I published a couple hundred poems then stopped counting. I've always been prolific, though. I don't know why. I'm just wired that way. I write songs, stories, stage and screenplays, novels, poems, etc. I publish what I can. I have a lot of stuff online, but I honestly try to publish my best work in print, so a lot more of my writing isn't available online. It takes so much energy to publish in a meaningful way--energy that could be spent writing. My 'newest' collection, Anthem, for example--that was accepted 4 years ago. I wrote it, who knows, maybe 5 years ago. It came out in May of this year. If I wrote romance novels, I'd be rich. But I write poems and little stories about people talking about having a beer.

Anyway, sorry to ramble. Thanks for the interest. I do love your blog, regardless of whether you talk about me or not. I blog at, but I honestly don't update that often.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Case For Memory

Deviant Art by Michael92

The Case for Memory

I was amok & fearless
twice deceived
for which I sought out
in a tree. Too carelessly
I reached for love
& beaten down
I found you
in a froth or frenzy
spent my days around
the pan yards.
I would ask no help from those
whose trust is weak
but I would buy the latest
& the least.
I live for something practical
— the case for memory —
I set one foot into the space
the others leave abandoned.
Not your lord or slave
I meet you
in an equal clash of wills
& face you down.
I only touch the ground
on Sundays

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on Rothenberg's Homepage

Drunk In the Bathroom

Drunk in the Bathroom

Oh, sweet Delia, she was a Chiquita
banana of a woman, small yellow teeth with
a musk like sweet wine that had sat in
the sun for seven days, then risen like
the bile in old Job’s throat.
If I could make Costa Rica forget
all the wrong I’ve done, I would only do more.
Tell me your name, I said, she said, “Que?”
With a slight lisp, so that it sounded
like ‘gay.’ I won’t say I’d had too much
to drink, there is not enough Delia
for me to ever drink myself full,
though after several draughts I had to go
to the bathroom. I was back in bed
wondering where my sweet Delia
had run off to before I realized
Costa Rica had no bathrooms, no women,
and no sheets to rival my sweet,
sweet Delia.

CL Bledsoe

Posted over on 2 River View

Window Shopping

Window Shopping

CL Bledsoe

Pale, white, and ugly
as a newborn bullet
wound before it bleeds, he hides
in the cookie aisle
behind a bag of macaroons.
Something in his eyes
is lapping at the stock girl's face
like a dog at a bowl of water.

She bends to stock a box of crackers.
He stares at the rounded curve
of her jeans, stretched
over scrawny skin, door locked, phone
unplugged just in case anyone calls;
the ring might slap him awake,
jiggly and crying
into the sunset of the world.

Posted over on Writing From Scars



CL Bledsoe

If that had been a knocking at my door
and not kids tossing firecrackers at
the cracking upholstery
of the street
I would rise like steam waft
to the door open and smile and have
something terribly clever
to say
about the nature of time the way it
bunches like curtains
in the hand
of an agoraphobic god perhaps something
about sorrow
the empty aching bucket a soul becomes
through lack of use or too much
like a discarded light bulb broken at one end
and letting water seep in
like an empty womb of light

Maybe it will be a her and I can tell her
about the dream of popcorn I just had
whole potential lives exploding outward
into something like fuzzy paper
segue it into asking her if she’d like
to see a movie
and afterwards though I don’t know how
to dance
we could go dancing
like in old movies romantic flying
over the floor
like a steam cleaner
though to be honest
I’ve never seen any of those movies
just clips moments before I realized
what they were
and changed the channel

CL Bledsoe

Posted over on Writing From Scars

3 Fragments


CL Bledsoe

People chatter like birds also similarly
leave pamphlets about redemption
on my windshield
from a distance they appear to be
parking tickets
so that whenever I see anything religious
I’m instantly angry

Someone tell me why the wind tastes like
burger king why the rain plops splatters
gives the dirt cellulite We are so stupid
we believe what we tell us we deserve
what’s coming to us They
deserve worse Eat till your heart’s content
if it ever is send me the recipe

It isn’t so much the smell of traffic
as the taste of asphalt under our tongues
when we jump
I’ve noticed no one corrects me when
I mention
that all we need is rev
olving doors (no fibber’s going to get me)

Eat everything on your plate whether hungry
or simply out of greed otherwise
we eliminate the disparagement
between the classes I noticed in my
university days
the dynamic of students’ standing around
in front of each building
determined the major
represented by that building for example
the English building was surrounded
by smoking professors students sucking
up to them boredly discussing cultural

the business building was full of people
standing in the halls talking If there
were only two people they’d be arranged
so as to obstruct as much traffic flow
as possible I’m not saying this
was on purpose it’s more meaningful
as a coincidence

CL Bledsoe

Posted over on Writing From Scars

The Baby

The Baby

CL Bledsoe

We killed the baby with our teeth.
We killed it with questions about God.
We killed the baby and sold its unused
diapers to transients. We killed the baby
so we could sleep. The baby wasn't ours.
We killed someone else's baby.
The baby's real parents paid us to kill it.
The baby wasn't real. We were real, though.
We had a cashier's check to prove it.
We kept it in her purse until we could
make it to the bank.
We buried the baby under our porch.
We planted bushes around our porch.
The bushes died.
We killed the bushes by not fertilizing
them properly. Babies don't make good
fertilizer. This was our lesson.
This was what we learned.

Posted over on elimae

A Poem For the Edification of Lit Cogs

A Poem for the Edification of Lit Cogs

Intellectually I sharpen from constant
collision with the established-order—its
myriad components and ubiquitous legions
of abnegating proponents.

“I agree with much of what you're saying,”
wrote one such editor,* who then
proceeded to argue that what I was saying
was actually “rant” and “sour grapes.”

But how could an intelligent person agree
with that, I wondered, bringing it to
his attention, though in vain;
besides, why should the literary agora
be open only to sweet grapes?

“But if your tone is anything like your
tone here, I wouldn't be interested in it,”
he stated with regards another critical
proposal of mine.

Thus, my approach was off, my tone wrong,
and of course my taste not in good taste
at all.
But was Villon’s verse written in
the right tone or
Solzhenitsyn’s prose or Bukowski’s or
how about Thomas Paine’s?
Was his written in good taste?

But to that, the constituent simply
closed the debate
with a curt “good luck
with the browbeating.”

The logic dies, as all too often it



G. Tod Slone

*C.L. Bledsoe, editor of Ghoti Magazine

Posted over on The American Dissident




Use your eyes like shovels, dig through the smog, the muck
in your head and see the mountains beyond the skyscrapers.

Something is rising like bread within you, but the slightest noise...

Get to high ground, ford the rivers of traffic and if your feet should get wet,
just remove your socks before the ice joins your skin
and you lose all feeling for walking or balance.

There is a type of tree they say cries. There is a frog freezes solid
in winter. There is a bird mimics the sound of cell phones. Even you
can recognize this. Let that bit inside you that grows trail out
of your eyeholes. Dribble it down in front of you, and follow it
to something more than made.

Use your eyes like shovels,
dig through the smog, the muck
in your head and see the mountains beyond
the skyscrapers.

Something is rising like bread within you,
but the slightest noise...

Get to high ground, ford the rivers
of traffic and if your feet should
get wet, just remove your socks
before the ice joins your skin and you
lose all feeling for walking or balance.

There is a type of tree they say cries.
There is a frog freezes solid in winter.
There is a bird mimics the sound
of cell phones. Even you
can recognize this. Let that bit inside you
that grows trail out

of your eyeholes. Dribble it down in front
of you, and follow it
to something more than made.

C.L. Bledsoe

Posted over on Pebble Lake Review
1. Cortney's prose poem.
2. Line breaks by Glenn Buttkus



We were tired of strawberries that tasted
like water, genetically engineered to be
as boring as politics,
tired of even the organic foods store
selling things that smelled like strawberries,
were shaped like strawberries,
tasted like tart water.
So we grew our own from an heirloom strain
in the backyard of our first duplex,
until the neighbor kids ate them,
knocking on our door,
asking for sugar please to dip them in.

CL Bledsoe

Posted over on A Little Poetry

The Woods

The Woods

The girl with the bloody shirt stretched
almost to breaking over her chest was crying
in the corner provocatively
when I got to the hospital.
"We didn't know," she said,

spitting the words out like confetti while
I tried to remember why I'd ever taken
this job, and how I could've thought it
would matter.
It had been a hard week, and the commander

was coming down on me like a piano.
I was 6 days from retirement, and I was
getting real nervous.
"It was spring break," she sobbed,
which is difficult to do

while speaking, so I immediately respected
her resolve. "We went for a class trip;
just the senior modeling school class.
And we were all wearing high heels
and wet tee-shirts.

We found some old Indian burial ground,
and Harold was telling Maude about this guy
who'd escaped from an insane asylum
and killed a bunch of girls
cause their implants

jiggled so loud he couldn't sleep.
Then Harold and Maude went off to have sex
in the woods, and they never came back.
We were too busy taking showers together
to notice.

Then in the morning we found Harold's
foot stuffed in Maude's mouth—"
"That's not funny," I interrupted.
Then for good measure, I slapped her
hard, on the behind, which was covered
with blood. It got on my hand

but I didn't notice until later when
I was halfway through a bag of Cheetos,
and realized that my fingers were pink,
instead of the customary orange.

Blood has a way of doing that.
That's another thing

I won't miss. It was the usual story:
overbearing mother reproduces psychopathic
killer with definite latent heterosexual
tendencies, psychopathic killer spies
unsuspecting troop of overenthusiastic

scantily clad models, psychopathic killer
enacts a twisted sort of population control
on said models by killing all of the ones
who slow down enough to have sex.
One model lucks into some incredibly simple
yet ridiculous method of dispatching

said psychopathic killer,
killer is dispatched; model survives,
and dollars to donuts, when I try to dig
that psychopathic killer's
moldy corpse up from the bottom
of whatever river

she left it in, he'll be gone.
Just as I was stepping out of the donut shop
with a fresh bag of crullers
a van swerved around an angry insert
minority group man who was running

towards me with a sword, and ran over
my toe, while various prostitutes
struck kung fu poses all over
the sidewalk. 6 more days
and I'll move somewhere peaceful,
like Detroit or Cincinnati.

CL Bledsoe

Posted over on A Little Poetry



You wrapped the night around you
like a shawl and said that I never
I watched your lips dance through the words
and didn’t hear a thing.

The wind brushed thin strands of hay
colored hair across your shoulders.
You turned away
saying something about the way the lake
captured the light of the moon and held it.
I watched your nipples poke
at the cloth of your shirt

as you said, "Love is like the moon
and the lake, two things forever separate
that sink into each other at night."
I nodded slowly.

You said, “love is the greatest teacher
in life, we learn not to share,
that's economics, we learn that the lesser
of two evils is still evil, that's politics.”

You said, “all the evils of the world
have been caused by unrealized expectation.”
And I tried to think of something clever,
but all that came to mind
was the time in the back of Stephen’s car
when you asked me to spank you.

I put my arm around your shoulder
and considered my chances of getting oral.
Then you said, “She isn’t even pretty, really.”
"What do you mean," I started to say,
but you cut me off.
“I could have you to myself, if I wanted,
but its too late for that.
When it comes to women
you’re like a cat playing with a mouse,
and not letting it die.”

"It's not like that," I said.
"Let me explain."
But you leaned in close
and slipped something in my pocket with a,
“Happy anniversary.” I stood dumb
as you drew the moonlight
into your eyes like a breath
and said that I never remember.

CL Bledsoe

Posted over on A Little Poetry

Portrait of My Mother as a House

Painting by Margo Cavis

Portrait of My Mother as a House

by C. L. Bledsoe

The body is a house of many windows:
there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying
on the passers-by to come and love us.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

Say the clouds are miseries, drifting

across the blue void of the sky’s mind
above me, older than they seem.

Say the winds are memories, pushing
clouds, the fluff of despair that manages
to come between the sun and the ground
and therefore darken life.

Say the birds are wants, their wings flapping
out wind, generating paths no one
remembers they’ve built.

Say the power lines are needs, supporting
the birds, but thinking the birds are keeping
them up.

Say the ground is habit, holding
the power lines up,
because it doesn’t know anything else to do.

Say these windows are eyes, looking
lest their light fade, darken
and crack, so that all who pass
are driven to misery, shed their flesh
and jump into the sky to drift.

Posted over on The Aurora Review

9 Down

9 Down

by CL Bledsoe

Snow falls onto the shoulders
of the world,
where it's too high to see anything
but everything;
it piles on us all.
This is why you can't stand.

Posted over on Ken*Again

7 Across

7 Across

by CL Bledsoe

A shaky light reminiscent of a streetlight
blown by snowy winds.
Ground blanketed with snow frozen
hard like white mud.
A breath.
A thudding just under the wind
that may be an alarm, somewhere
beyond the highway, or a tree branch
whipping in the wind. The smell of perfume,
just under the sharp cold.
You remember the brand.
It's something you haven't smelled in years.
A face you can't recall.

Posted over on Ken*Again

1 Across

1 Across

by CL Bledsoe

dirty window blue gravel
no one driving

dark green blood pine trees
blocks all

gravel hardens to asphalt

a line of ants barking

Posted over on Ken*Again