BREATHING …. our perennial COMEDY OF MISTAKES
with JEROME ROTHENBERG and CHARLIE MORROW, ROSANNA ALBERTINI and CHARLES-LOUIS de MONTESQUIEU
RA missing eternity and perfection, we rely on counting, measuring and forgetting
JR There are worlds here / hidden from sight / whose ends are like / their beginnings
RA and yet we move on changing confident that time will do the right job and memory will be a safe
JR that farce replaces tragedy / obscene even to think it / & yet to come into another age / & find it proven true
MONTESQUIEU I’m not a poet, but I know it, the becoming is universal soul, almost a wind, a life-giving breathing: a “principle” produced by an infinite chain of causes interwoven through centuries, until they tune the spirit of one age. Once the tone is given, it is the only governing force, it dominates until the total destruction. If the tone is corrupt, humans can only forget themselves.
RA I’m not good at counting. Please Jerry, tell me it is not true we must be reminded of a vanishing earth
JR some will proclaim the word / against all odds / others can only wait / & wonder
Rothenberg’s house, Saturday, August 24 — Videos by Peter Kirby
Charlie Morrow playing various instruments, Jerry Rothenberg reading
Jerome Rothenberg, NEVER DONE COUNTING, 2019
Enclosed by matter /all my thoughts / scream for prophecy. / When I wake up on Mondays / the night is still 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 and 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 / another. / 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.*
Jerome Rothenberg, THE POEM AS LANDSCAPE, 2019
the definition of 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 / reminders / 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 / fields 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 apart / lost nomads / on the road / to desolation / a field on mars / they wait to share / with others / dead at last**
The mystery is all contained in speaking
then the little silences
surround my words like poetry
I breathe them in & out***
Whiteness grows around Charlie Morrow’s images and words, around which we should imagine a space expanding, with no edges. Each verbal suggestion is the core of a sound event. Our mind can hear.
B o o k of B r e a t h
Life birth breathing in
two hearts two years early on
Whisteling in and out
Breath and Bells
Birth of the Eagle Voice
Breath of Love
la petite mort
Death breathing out
On the assent of the fragile
As for me, I hold my breath.
I hold my breath trying to keep it in me as long as I can, facing the last edge. That’s the way my life moved, from an edge to another, suddenly immersed in spaces where everything was new: faces, language, smells, temperature, colors. I was I because my dog recognized me? Not even that. My dog had been killed by cigarette smugglers near the house of my birth. I was moved to the city. My dialect, the freshness of leaves in the wind, and the small white, soft flowers climbing the bushes, careless of spines, were replaced by the odor of soup mixed with vapors of bleach at the entrance of my apartment building. The fog sucked me in, licking my adolescence out of me. Later the lagoon cuddled me every day on my way to work on the boat, the bus, the train, the boat again, shaking my more mature energy out of my body. Life was breathing, not me. And I was not more than one of the many particles she digests, like the ogre of fairy tales. One story after another, waves of living pealed the years off, bringing me in front of the unknown, one more time. What’s after the last breath? I am so curious I can’t express it. I am so happy. The desert where I am now erases all fears: it’s a blooming of nothingness, for the nothing we are.
Now I see what my grandfather painted when he placed me sitting on the edge of a landscape, looking at the void. The painting was made in his studio, a fantasy about my future, probably. He also placed himself in the scene. He is the tree behind me, as I felt him all my life long. We are wrapped in light, and mad with love for this life that annihilates us.
*Jerome Rothenberg, The President of Desolation & Other Poems, Further Autovariations Reminders of a Vanished Earth, Arrangement and edition © 2019 Black Widow Press
**Jerome Rothenberg, The President of Desolation & Other Poems, 2019, Further Autovariations Reminders of a Vanished Earth, Arrangement and Edition © 2019 Black Widow Press
***Jerome Rothenberg, from The Mystery of False Attachments, Word Palace Press, @ 2019
Charles-Louis de Montesquieu, Storia vera, with translation and postface by Rosanna Albertini, Palermo, Sellerio Editore, 1983