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A New Book of Shimmering Poems
by Jerome Rothenberg

A Book of Witness: Spells & Gris-Gris by Jerome Rothenberg

59
I AM NOT A NATIVE OF THIS PLACE

I am not a native of this palce.(Yosimasu G.)
nor yet a stranger.
With the rst of you
I hunt for shade
my boots half off
to let the air through.
My head is on my shoulders
& is real.
I plant cucumbers
twice a year
& count the bounty.
Often I read
the papers
standing.
I am clean & pure.
I carry buckets
from the pond
more than my arms can bear.
Under a full moon
fish appear
like flies in amber.
The words of foreigners
invade my thoughts.
The hungry hordes
surround me
wailing through their beards.
My fingers tingle
feigning speech.
I havea a feeling
that my tongue
speaks words
because my throat
keeps burning.

63
I WILL NOT EAT MY POEM

I kill for pleasure
not for gain.
A man much more
than you   my hands
find knives
& flash them.
I am guilty
in my works
while in their eyes
I seek redemption.
I find myself
forgotten
angry at the thought
of bread. I will not
eat my poem(A. Artaud)
much less be raped
by it. I have a home
but sit with others
shirtless, waiting
for the moon to rise.
I am a warrior
grown old.
The number on my ticket
tells the time.
I seldom wash
& wear a string
around my throat
until it crumbles.
See yourself for love
the fool advises
& the wise man murmurs
Spill it now!
Your glass is never
empty!
I see your arm
the color of
wild lilacs.
It is not too late
for memory.
Days together are
like days apart.

76
A MISSAL LIKE A BONE

Link by link
I can disown
no link.(R. Duncan)
I search the passage
someone sends
& find a missal
like a bone.
My hands are white with sweat.
I lay my burden down
the ground below me
shrinking.
The more my fingers ply
these keys   the more
words daunt me.
I am what a haunt
averts, what you who once
spoke from my dream
no longer tell.
The book is paradise.
An odor is a clue
to what was lost.
I seek & speak
son of a father
with no home or heart.
I bantereed with a friend
that there are speeds
beyond the speed
of light.
I spun around.
the calculus of two
plus two,
the mystery of
false attachments,
still persists.
I settled for
a lesser light   a circumstance
found that my words
rang true.

82
I VENT MY WRATH ON ANIMALS

I came alive
when things went
crazy.
I pulled the plug on
the reports of
sturm & drang
When someone
signaled I
left open
what I
could not close.
I broke a
covenant that
was more fierce
than murder.
I vent my wrath
on animals
pretending they will turn
divine.
I open up
rare certainties
that test free will.
I take from animals
a place in which
the taste of death
pours from their mouths
& drowns them.
I support a
lesser surface.
I draw comfort from
the knowledge
of their
being.

85
FECKLESS WITH DISGUST

All erasure of pain
is like the contrary of
dust that weighs
dark in my lungs
when I am
feckless with disgust.
I stroke & poke
my loins before
they tighten.
My feet stomp
fields of color
reminding me of
something I once knew.
Dying frees
the spirit
from the mind.
We plod along
regardless of
the pain.
Soon we grow
big & fat.
We stop
forgetting, far off
from whatever
binds us
mindlessly
to empty space.
Beginning here
we reignite
desire.
We will surrender
what is far from us
& call it love.

96
I EXCEED MY LIMITS

I have tried an altenstil
& dropped it.
My skin is blazing,
blazing too
the way I see your faces
in the glass.
With the circle of the sun
behind me
I exceed my limits.
My garments are
from the beginning
& my dwelling place
is in my self(J. Dee)
It makes me want
to fly   the stars
below   the paradise of poets
lost in space.
I am the father of a lie
unspoken.
I can make my mind
go blank
then paw at you
my fingers in
your mouth.
I think of God
when fucking.
Is it wrong to pray
without a hat
to reject the call
to grace? I long to flatter
presidents & kings.
I long for manna.
I will be the first
to sail for home
the last to flaunt
my longings.
I will undo my garments
& stand before you
naked. In winter
I will curse their god
& die.

 


Jerome Rothenberg A Book of Witness: Spells & Gris-Gris is Jerome Rothenberg's passage from one century -- one millennium -- to another. Of the one hundred poems that comprise the book, the first half were written in 1999, the second in the two years that followed. But far more than a marker of era-shifting, it is a collection that reestablishes the primacy of the poetic "I," not in the sense of a confessional, personal voice, but of the grammatical first person as both a singular witness and conduit for others--a kind of prophecy. Often incantatory, the poems in A Book of Witness are a reaffirmation of self in the face of history's darknesses, a shout for life against an indifferent universe.

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