Jerome Rothenberg


[1] A Long Annulment


The cliffs of architecture

like palisades     at night

the stars in windows,

You in Tennessee

or in the heart

of Texas , someone

waiting for her train

to start, a pistol hidden

in her purse,

A Life Apart

will be the title of

your book    for which

a sinister beginning

& no end.

The curtains pull aside,

the fingers bend.

Friends make a final pitch.

To be a stranger

in a strange land

takes her breath away.

The neighborhood is somewhere

they have never lived,

therefore the streets are

vacant, strewn

with obstacles to memory,

a skewed perspective.

Better for the mind

to empty out

in dreams,

the way a body

falls, thrown

from a passing train,


They hold a plate

between them, on its rim

a graven message:

God Is Pain.

There is a long annulment,

waiting for the light

to gather.

Then it breaks.




2] Marrano Nights


Marrano nights,

the Jew beside the Moor

in distant Spain .

The prince

at war with God

prays to a stone.

The scripture is a faded page.

It is the small face

staring back at him

in anger:

a book he burns

& reads

deep in its ashes


gone from his memory

of words.

Or is it Spinoza's

rage    the lie of God

lodged in his craw

engorging the world with

its grandeur?

A man not liked but loved,

he thinks the beautiful

is beautiful,

the facts of rotting life

kept far from him.

He beats his breast.

He bites his fingers.

He has lived too much

in the sun

and when it brings him down

the friends surround

his corpse,

they move him out of view,

the weight of gravity

too great to bear.




[3] Their Common Fate


Little cars

in motion

where the table

slants, the wheels

leave marks

too rapid for your eye

to register.

It is their common

fate, by which

the human

& divine

fall in a single heap.



The neighbors cross the boulevard

in pairs. 

The door adjacent to

our thoughts     shut also.

Therefore they shift

their legs between

short bursts,

the cadence of a march,

old world, old

fashioned melodies

unheard.  A single hand

can sweep the board. 

A single eye can glimpse

a shadow of the cosmos

through a pin hole.

Men & horses

dive into the sea

from which a friend

emerges    dead & cold

no more to wrest his portion,

rhymes & measures,

from your heart.

No more to shore you up.