Jerome Rothenberg: Complete Airplane Poems 1980/1983/1992/1994/2008

Wing Two by Allen D'Arcangelo (1982)
Wing Two by Allen D'Arcangelo (1982)

AIRPLANE POEMS

1980

 

1

circles on the earth

– somewhere in Kansas –

what do they mean?

I take the circular form to mark

the coming of Messiah

day by day

 

– but not in Kansas! –

 

2

Farmers plow in circles

 

Is it true?

I can’t believe it!

 

From the air I honor

their circles on the earth

 

A poet:

the instincts of a little god

 

3

the earth of Kansas

is America’s

enduring work of art

 

 

AIRPLANE SONGS

1983

                                                                     (first set)

1

I am so crazy for you

Captain Star

Your talk is like my radio

you listen

badly

Walk under the lightning

Captain

& strike it

rich & crazy

This song will bring you to the top

 

2

He struggles with a song

he can’t dislodge

– or can he? –

“I was alive & stupid

“like your eyes

“Sweet angel

“rock my boat

“this is the long road to

“satisfaction

 

3

The top of the Hit Parade

once was exciting

like riding on an airplane’s back

I wish it was that exciting again

(it won’t be!)

 

4

The plane rocks

back & forth

& up & down

the city is a little city

– was it once big? –

& the people gone from you

Their dust is only

the edge of paradise

in back of the magellanic clouds

 

                                                                        (second set)

 

1 A HASID FROM BELZ

with whom I speak

high in the DC-10

& waiting at the door of

Men’s Room

– you from Brooklyn

– yeah

– how many Jews in San Diego

I dunno

can’t count them

lots of Jews

 

2

He pulls the words from me:

my grandfather

a hasid at the court in Radzymin

not Rizhyn

& he knows

the smile acknowledges the fact

– the fact is senseless –

o Belz of Kafka

Belz of Jiri Langer

golden nights

 

3

now the plane is over Iowa

it blurs

the oranges of California

like the stars of Belz

 

 

AIRPLANE POEMS

1992

 

collar into knot,

knot into back of throat

& up through eye,

 

by which to tie you into portions

killing what was left

& what was left of you

 

ATTENTION: do not move the zone

from here to there!

 

2

each time we strike the cloud

the cloud strikes back

 

we do the tumble down

& feel our stomachs sliding

 

softly, into our throats

 

 

O'HARE FIELD / CHICAGO

3/18/94

 

trucks move past planes

& planes past trucks

 

men stand in orange jackets

stare off into space

 

inside the cabin

rows of sailor hats & coats

 

another journey home

to san diego

 

 

ACROSS THE AISLE

Airplane Voices

 

1

they stopped us

irridem

in spanish

"we're not tourists:

"we're not here to get drunk"

we stayed in mexico

things happened

it was mexican territory

yours or mine

 

2

they speak more german than us

they speak german with everybody

he doesn't speak at all

he mixes all languages

he speaks german with the kids

so many languages

BE CAREFUL!

 

 

TRAVEL NOTES, 2008, INTO AN UNKNOWN CITY

 

into an unknown city where we take a bus with high sides and drive through highways suburbs & the city center in search of an elusive airport

 

An elusive airport – if it appears, then it does, and if it doesn’t, what is ventured? what is lost or gained?

 

A stranger in the seat across from me (where everyone’s a stranger) opens a box of almond sweets and keeps on eating.

 

The other one, who sits beside me, throws back his head and sleeps.

 

Everyone is old, I think, but I am older.

 

In my sack I carry very little – mostly words on paper, scraps of clothing.

 

If I were lost now I would die of hunger, die of being too much lost.

 

There are so many people here and everywhere – people I can’t ever know – and yet the call for brotherhood (fraternité) burns in my brain.

 

Is someone watching me as I watch them?

 

[NOTE. The preceding poems are among numerous sketches written en route or as part of the process of traveling, some of them previously published but never brought together. As with many of us there are voices and other impressions that accompany the movement through space and time, some in the air and others traveling by car or train or bus on unfamiliar paths, the start of poems that often form the basis for more developed works. For myself at least they retain a kind of dream-like quality, while maintaining a grip, however tenuous, on the shifting, phenomenal world around us. (J.R.)]