from FURTHER AUTOVARIATIONS – two poems by Jerome Rothenberg

Reminders of a Vanished Earth


the poem as landscape

The definition
of a place
is more than
what was seen
or what was
felt before
when dreaming
of the dead
the way
a conflagration
wrapped itself
around his world
leaving in his mind
a trace of dunes
the fallout from
a ring of mountains
of a vanished earth
the landscape
marked with rising tufts
the hardness of
clay tiles
that press against
our feet like bricks
the soil concealed
beneath its coverings
through which a weave
of twisted wires
crisscross the empty
field as markers
to commemorate
the hapless dead
the ones who fly
around like ghosts
bereft of either
home or tomb
in what would once
have been their world.
The count fades out
beyond 10,000
leaves them to be swept
down endless ages
fused together
or else set apart
lost nomads
on the road
to desolation
a field on mars
they wait to share
with others
dead at last.


never done counting

Enclosed by matter
all my thoughts
scream for prophecy.
When I wake up on Mondays
the night sky is hanging
above me…..galaxies
shedding their images
fading unknown
in the half light
a light that confounds me.
Nothing we know is unreal
& nothing is real.
There is only the face
of a woman
blind in the sun
& a voice that cries out
in a language like French.
When she raises her arms
they look distant & lame,
something there
that won’t work but falls flat
against me.  I will follow her
up to the moon, will watch her
paint herself red
with no sense
of the distances
still to be traveled,
no plot to adjust to
but numbers
that show me
the little I know,
the way one
vanishing universe
shrinks till it swallows
There are worlds here
hidden from sight
whose ends are like
their beginnings,
the world in daylight
turns dark
the blaze of noon
caught in their mirrors,
as the sun slips
through our fingers
never done counting
where the globe
has dropped
out of sight.


You’ll find much about Jerome Rothenberg and his enormous contribution to the world of poetry at: