Jerome Rothenberg: A Round of Solipsisms

for my 86th birthday

“He takes a book down from his shelf & scribbles across a page of text: I am the final one. This means the world will end when he does.” (from A Paradise of Poets)



the lie of consciousness

assails me    waking

in the early hours


shorn of dreams

the world reduced to what

cannot be told


& scarce remembered

I am walking



toward a patch of forest

then a tunnel

where a train runs


from my sight

heading for a depot

I will never reach 




what is a dream

& where is it located?


when it ends

a blackness

fills the place called mind


unseen   unheard

there is no world then

& no mind to tell us


searching for a name

the word is solipsism


what the man

almost a corpse

knows, dying


that the world will end

when he does



the real a lie

as well

(the man thinks)



to hold on

& falling back


he grabs for it

fearing as he does

its vanishing


the world without him

is no world

the stars no stars


the plot of land

under his foot

has no solidity


the water leaves

no water

& the air no air


when the imagination

fades    the fancy

takes its place


when all are gone

the mind shuts down

with scarce a trace




for David Antin


you have died

& still

the world goes on


the strangeness

felt by us

without you


where I train

my thoughts

on all I know


& knowing

that for you

the world has fled


as it will flee

for me & all

the others


when the mind shuts

& the world



shuts with it



the bloom of life

assaults me

when I fall

under its spell



happy to play

time’s fool

like other men

before me


wisdom is a lie

only the dead

can see through

& reject


the present

never there

the past

a trick of mind


how many worlds

we hold inside us

something to be shared

until it ends




inside the only

world I know

the power rests

with me


the flow of light

opens in images

& ends

in darkness


I try to find you

& the others

hearing my name re-echo

in another tongue


no one can know

or wrest from me

something I carry

until the fire starts


its hidden name


intended for me




An Exhortation –

for the Survivors


“how can there be

a world

without you?”


lightly asked

& wanting

nothing less


the years once lived

stay in the mind

only in bits


predict an image

not yet real

the hope of juncture


a contingency

foretold & closed

shutting us off


but different

when we come together

in your eyes


distant like mine

& knowing

that the end will come


to me

to you

the greater world


gone in a wink

& done

absent all care