--for my friend on the occasion of his cremation
They removed the day from my foot
They removed the hair from my hair
Drinks were served in my former house
in the sunlight where I hid
They removed the pain from my feeling
They removed the eye from my hand
Now wherever I look is gone
in a shadow cut of shadows
How could they lift me out of my bed?
How could they drop me into the fire?
How could they kiss me on the dry lip
with my forehead in forever?
On that morning, a yellow bird sailed
with its tiny beak of flame
The arrow lost its tip
It is only motion now
I have entered you again
with your blonde cigarette in the mouth of poetry
with your fragrant bed, with your sweat ocean
the seaweed climbing through the floor.
I have entered you again
my night inside your pillow, my hair inside your mouth
the long slow digestion of the juicy peach
the owl that no one knows, the crow in his dock
testify against human words
Now and forever I will be the hand on your hand
the mouth on your neck the eye in your skin
here and tomorrow night
here and history
So long as I can hear you
I will swim with your name in my mouth
I will marry you again and again
Rodger Kamenetz is a homeless name,
a name of feathers. Wind blows through it,
letters shake, men rattle against its.
Who had the dream of a mighty Rodger
with an English spear? Who dug Kamenetz,
a new potato out of the Ukraine loam?
Oh we shatter, shatter in the street
our hearts too brittle, our skin flakes.
Rodger, you weary mouth, Kamenetz you bent horn.
How much shouting comes through your pores,
how much static crackles your nerves?
Anyone could see in your eyes' flat soda
that you have not been touched by God's hand.
Your soul is still thirsty, your eyes run to corners.
Immigrant with no destination, dandruff.
If I have hope for you, blank pilgrim,
it's in your sadness, your crazed glass.
How you stare abjectly at the moon
while silver pours into your lap. You don't
get half the jokes. You still talk through the show.
Your pain is so obvious you leave it behind,
but it drenches you like fertilizer. Still you pray
Still you mumble your broken name. Rodger in the sink
and tumult, Kamenetz in the cracks.
An old explosion of the sun
The tired work of hydrogen.
Sigh of helium. The simple elements
grow heavy in the sun.
We were asked to enter, love,
where the door is all burning.
Every inch of skin, tiny hairs
lit up and freed.
For whoever joins the helium
will find how heaven burns.
The god of light and fire.
I caught your eye, I signed
to you with my burnt hand.
It vanished in the gesture
like the memory of a dream.
I saw you move in deeper, your eyes.
How your seeing made a darkness
like two tunnels through the light.
The immense fire that burns
the heart of everywhere
did not spare your memory,
or memory's ice.
And if I traveled through the darkness
you sent to guide me,
would you know me where the burning
makes new light like the sun?
And if I go through the door
will I be forgiven?
You will be forgiven.
Will I be forgiven the imprint
I made on my child
when she was softer than butter
and I was blacker than iron?
You will be forgiven.
Will I be forgiven the black mark
I made on her soul
with the black mark on mine?
Yes, go through the door.
The people are naked there
I caught a glimpse of them
as the door swung open.
They appear naked in your eyes
in the dark corridor.
They seem indistinct and fleshy
rose hued. I thought of the men and women
lined up for the gas chambers.
So you see them with your broken eyes.
Should I go through the door then?
It is not a matter of should.
You must decide and no one can decide for you
which part of yourself has the lead.
The black part you mean, or the soft part?
There are other names.
And if I stand outside wondering?
You will stand outside wondering
neither born nor unborn.
And does my dead grandfather live there?
Evidently, as he pushed open the door.
Yes, I saw him go in and then he disappeared.
Here is a hint for you: was he wearing clothes?
Yes before he went through the door.
Then he vanished into that glimpse of bodies
of naked men and women.
And were you afraid then?
Yes. Very afraid.
And what are you afraid of?
Being naked in the light.
Then you are still waiting to open the door.
Yes, but for how long?
How long is your fear?
The first time I laid myself out open to an outside physician
There was an appointment book in hell
All the devils were laid out like smoke
Thousands of them seething like foam on the gums
When I heard my name called it was a syllable not a word
The harmony of my adventure was a thread of color
Something like red, something like the promises that were never to be broken
The arguments about the diagnosis raged in a black cloud
The devil himself had a mustache of red fire
He smiled delightfully, his teeth were frost and gold
I rued all my lost rhythms, my body left me in a whiff
No more were my memories mine, they were bits of foreign paper
They were foreign animals hitched to a rolling iron cage
The famous devil with his laser scalpel
Tore into my eyes’ delicate gelatin
The anguish poured out of them in tears of glazed piety
I wept on the long black board they laid me out on
Splinters dug into my scalp
For 100 hours or days they thought of a name to call me
The old names were no good in the transformations of history
They decided wisely but I couldn’t hear it
My ears were already lead and the freezing was extending down
When it reached my heart, the common element was an alloy of lead and ice
This was called normal and a normal life
Now Profess your new religion they said and I recited gibberish and Greek
Tie your knot to heaven and I tied an elaborate bow
Marry your obloquy they said and I married my diseased mind
Turn three times around and you’ll be cured
I turned once and twice and heard their laughter in my teeth
I was on my own, I was getting along already
The dead baby speaks
Who are you? I am the ancient part
of your life. Hence the youngest.
But you appear to be dead?
That is in your eye, like breathing
through a pinched nostril. The immense
sunlight congratulates but you don't
even know it, peering through a fence slat.
Where are you? I live with all you look
away from, all you've forgotten.
I feed on that black milk. I speak
through the holes in your listening,
the vowels that haven't been invented yet.
But they wake in your throat.
Some day you will sing through them
all the way to your face. On that day,
the sun will burn your tongue.
Love and Pity
I flew away, the angels broken by the back of a dictionary.
I asked for Pity with her abstract hands, flesh turns cold at her touch.
If you love me love me in a minute,
love me now with your tongue not your words
Love me with the grit in the river, with the green thorns that stick your ankles.
Love me because the pain is enormous and it’s lonely inside and out,
Love me because turning back now would hurt too much, would anodize your brain..
Love me in the lightning, don’t pity me, don’t digest my name,
Don’t find me in the dictionary, that old wilderness of fallen words.
Here I am with broken pieces of my saying,,
if you love me love me as much as I am damaged.
Then the sky sat on my speech and crushed it down to a peanut butter
scraped across the sidewalk, to an anecdote, a motto.
It looked into my eye and said: Nice speech. Are you sad enough yet to love?
But I was standing on a rock and the water was rising under my heels
I was going to float away into the sun but I heard love's voice in back of me
it didn’t even have a body, there was no pity in it
it was empty of everything, it was ready to cradle me
like a boat in the ocean, like a boat on a violent sea.
A brick as fragile as a dream
This would be coffee. This would be tea.
The right hand wounded. The left hand with no arm.
In the fire, a fireplace. In the eye, a flame.
And a hammer. And a hammer.
With so much building going on, there's dust in the eyelids
in the sponge of the lung. The attic's finished
before the basement's exposed. That's being lofty.
But now the foundation must be ripped out
and a new one dug. And the hollow earth has teeth.
It's no place to go barefoot, it's raw.
Blood colored clay. If you find one old bone
be sure it's not dog before you call the police.
Working in the dark means you might as well work at night.
Without a plan. Without even the semblance of order.
Form & content, what's that? Digging and sifting
even tasting the dirt, is more like it. The gods of
the Chevrolet and of the Volkswagen agree:
This would be coffee, this would be tea.
Here is a hammer and here the fireplace.
Here the hand without a finger. Here the cruel fire
that burns in stone.
Jerusalem Bus -- 8/20/03
....They are serving man, ass, wood, knife and nothing else. Auerbach, Mimesis
So much darkness allows the bandages to be undone without being seen,
allows the wound to smoke in the open air, allows the wheels of the bus
to touch the ruptured road, allows the tires to burn into the sky,
allows the smells to penetrate, the smell of burnt hair, the smell of blood,
the smell of tongues moist inside closed mouths, the smell of it all.
So much darkness and none of it has any light, there's no life in the dark,
there are no stars in the imagined sky, the town is dark, the deaths
have used up the air, there is nothing but the nothing
My accident is your opportunity said the death to the life
and life did not answer, life was mute as a scar.
Did anyone turn towards the sun and pray?
He would be stolen by the next breath.
Did a baby actually lay there with his eye to the ground?
Did his mother who had held him in his lap
leave a tear near the milk? These questions are cruel.
Tomorrow will be another day entirely but this day will always be burnt.