Big Bridge #10

An Open Letter to America


Jerome Rothenberg


A Poem in Progress

                                                                  for Jean Pierre Faye

. . . . . . .

blessèd terror
issues from his mouth
as words,
like poems from yours:
it is a pinnacle
the true sum of our days
of the earth on which we’ve walked,
where men & animals
lie broken,
a century of flames & ashes
that a mad man stokes,
bad poet mixing
art & life,
sad witnesses in whom his words
cohere, their flesh
as the universe will also be,
no god in sight

                                      that death could fall from heaven on so many,
                                      right in the middle of rushed life

                                                                                              Picasso, 1967

the sky has failed us waking crazed
to hear death falling in a space outside
he center where we watch the crowds
push down the road the statue
in the harbor sparkling in the sun
our teeth still caked from last night’s
catch a thunder felt beneath the earth
& in the mind’s eye cities rocked &
swollen birds eclipsed by ashes & by
light shadowed the wires once again
the way the cough stuck in my throat
he fish bones clattered carp & thread
fish devil-fish & milk-fish little fish
with deep eyes sunk into their skulls
the vendors on canal street offering
to sell us what we crave mementos of
the death of thousands a millennium
of deaths of nothing left of us but
smoke of children of the sun of stars
of entropy distributed throughout
the universe inside the collar of a dog
he irons every man & woman wears that
shackles them to life or death
(to life and death) who
ome at us with open hands with sores
with words
that tell us that the hungry dead are here
he wanderers who fill our streets now
moving between squads of soldiers
north of where the bodies burn
no longer bodies but the furnace
that is god appears again the same force
now unleashed that burnt the children
out of all existence turned their bodies
into shadows shades the hungry dead
ungrateful unforgiving where the watchers
saw the bodies launched into the air &
hanging dangling in the void qué sacrificio
the fury in the god’s name at the god’s
behest again they know no simple
pleasures they are once again the men
in love with death like those who led
our cousins down a road made awful by
the ice against their bare feet not to be
forgiven but the act to be repeated
with each century that passes ice
& flames that leave their mark deep
in the consciousness of what was once
called man this little blip in time
the twice forgotten the unresurrected made
into a game a sight for distant visitors with
memories of fires & of images your mind
can’t unerase but wait in terror knowing
that the dead are never gone
but in the night in dreams we see them
moving joining with the nameless others
from the place where consciousness
was murdered never to be reborn

September 2001 – February 2002
New York and San Diego


death fell from the sky
& finally
it found us
where we lived,
huddled like children,
only to feel the air
the weight of centuries
too great to bear,
the days of shock & awe
unpunctuated, drifting
from death to death,
the killer who inscribes
a call to war,
who puts his tools in place,
confronts the glass,
his eyes stare at his eyes,
fingers reach out to fingers,
concealment as a crime,
the more we search for it
the less we find,
no end to war
or terror,
but the few who live,
the sad survivors,
walk among the stones
& do not know
the fateful elegies
too terrible to tell,
dark angels, strangers
sharing our common
fate, their eyes
turned inside out,
forever in a state of siege,
of madmen facing
other madmen,
pursuing them through
ancient towns,
new cities,
preparing for the final war
to bring it home

February 2003