from 25 Caprichos, After Goya
Jerome Rothenberg

The Man without a Face

The man without a face
is still a man.
The words repeat themselves,
red in his throat,
the pressure of the woman's arm
against his back,
her body sagging,
legs upheld by someone
like a goblin,
sheeted, cavernous.
No mask remains.
No mouth.
No lips.
No particle of skin.
No price to pay.
No cash.
The holiday has reached
its peak.
The two who carry her away
are bundled - plunderers
engaged with time & space.
Her head is hanging
free. Between
her teeth a scream.
is taking shape.
Her hair comes loose
& floats
down to the ground.
There is no place for her
to stand, no door
to hide behind.
The sky inside the frame
is painted black,
on which she casts her eyes
but fails to see.

A Single Glass, A Monocle

Poor caballero,
how will you tell the world
in which the woman
dwells, her ringed hand
covering her breast,
her other bringing forth an object,
hidden, that you squint at
through a single glass,
a monocle,
while from behind
the lady with the fan
sits on a chair
& watches where you go about
the nightly work.
Too late, too lost,
somebody's boy peeks out
between your haunches.
He is the last to know
or care - pay him no mind
but pull your hat back
with your free hand,
knowing that outside the frame
the beggars lie in wait,
who steal the clothes off
any body that they find.
Love conquers all.
A wink is like a waggle.
Day is night.
The secret lies inside
your pocket,
& DIE.


There is a pyramid
deep in his dream
the happy fat ones
run from.
They have left the stage
forever, seen the lights
go crazy,
& can't sleep.
The man who holds a woman
on his lap, unhinged,
starts weeping.
God is on his mind
his eyes are blank
& fixed
on nothing.
He is no different from
the ones who die
for love.
His name is Tantalus
but now the tongue
is dead inside
his mouth. The stranger
must be bleeding
but they do not see
the blood, the woman's
arm obscures it.
Love & death
are foreign words.
Their mouths fall open,
partners to each other's
cravings. Take
this liquor from
its thimble.
Suck it till your lips
turn raw.
It will never
slake your thirst
& you
will slowly learn
to die from what
it leaves you.

The Company Of Men

Those who are real men
stroke their knives & wait
under the rocks, their guns
at ready. Mindless
their eyes are, like the eyes
of reptiles, tight
the flesh over the bone,
the blood like snow
dyed pink. It is
the company of men
that shapes the world,
some who are friends
& others
in it for the sport.
They chew & pick their teeth.
The end of strife
unmans them. Life is death
& death
is what is lost,
& lost again.
Men who are real men
rub their skin
with death, a paste
of fat & ash.
They marvel at
the splintered tree
behind them,
the papers strewn about,
wine spilled,
the sky a blister.
They will go to war
& you, because
your time is drawing nigh,
will wait in wonder,
trembling to be born.

To Speak As Who You Are

To speak as who you are,
say "I"
then streak across
the tiled floor,
little naked birds
your feathers stripped from you.
Lost, without wings
you feel the heaviness
of time, like those
who stalk you,
those who strike the air
with brooms
& banners,
to your days on earth.
Old women sneer,
young women snicker,
the door that opened onto China
fills with light,
the stubs of feathers
sting you,
in the air above them
shadow of a hawk
without a head
is looming - waiting
for the kill,
the carcass to be cast aside,
like paper,
like a poem in a dream
unread but endless.
You are the last of Goya's
birds - the fatal product
of his will,
a face without a name.