Jerome Rothenberg: Six Likht Variations, with Snakes & Stones (a poem in progress)

[Written in the process of reading Mikhl Likht’s Protsesiye/Processions along with the translation from Yiddish by Ariel Resnikoff & Stephen Ross, while following the procedures set earlier in The Lorca Variations.  A tribute both to Likht & to his language.]

 

                        Wandering in the wasteland
                        I saw the snakes smile
                        their dusty skins
                        in convulsions
                        of laughter.
                                    (M.L., “Legend”)

1/ 

the weak reproach

of someone’s membranes

painted yellow

 

dust kicked up

by snakes

whose pale eyes

match your own

 

what schemes

we live with

face to face

 

the mould

of years

the blood

of tyrants

 

& the fire

cleansing them

of doubts

 

Pan plays for them

brutes that the sun

rains down on

that the time allows

 

they slide

& slither

from the bottom up

 

2 /

 

snake

skins

 

that the dust

entombs

 

the wasteland

covers

 

legends

grow apace

 

convulsions

rise

 

& laughter

matters

 

3/

 

atop a mountain

stones

are hammered down

stone after stone

 

the sun

ignites the air

a carnival

atop a mountain

 

in a show

with wagging

tongues

stones touching stones

 

& casting shadows

stones in heaps

the luck of brothers

binding brothers

 

fire in the sky

a heap of stones

& how a hammer

raised aloft

 

can signal

joy

 

4/

 

are sorrows

carmine colored

like a kiss

squeezed tight

with tongs

a kiss or something

hot inside

our mouths

a ritual of blood

driving all creatures

mad –

even you

 

5/

 

her breast

comes open

spilling dust

& rust

around her

 

skinny virgin

whom a genie

fills with love

the gods

with hate –

 

their salutations

stiffen her

leaving her prey

to what they aim at her

down to the basest

offal

 

6/

 

delight

in blueness

or in scum

that flows

from hollows

 

there is magic

in the place

where blades glint

hopes still live

deep in the vortex

 

the long stretches

air so thick within

it loses

any rhythm

in the season’s calm

 

a yellowness

of air

we cut through

with a pair

of hatchets

 

somnambulism

guides us

lethargy returns

a zephyr floating

overhead

 

something to envy

skulls that time

has left behind

chameleons

with diamonds

on their bellies

 

yiddish symphonies

up from the depths

its waters

bursting

from a stone

 

they practice

immobility

grass covers earth

like scales

or wings

 

one thought

a thousand

movements

forced vibrations

in the sea

 

a hatchet

clatters down

dispersing points

of dust

& sand

 

a plane

above us

diving

down

& out

 

16.i.14