Five new poems from a work in progress: 'America/2017'

Jerome Rothenberg


The President of Desolation


that farce

replaces tragedy


even to think it


& yet to come

into another age

& find it

proven true


this is the price of

growing old

the progress truly

of a state


of mind


the center



of mind

the gap

& mindless





not farce but madness

from the start

the roots of tragedy


in the barely human

ready to bring us down


to which he leads us

in a dream

almost as deadly

as a tunnel

the mind winds through

seeing the sky ahead


but kept from it

by stumbling

tumbling where the face

of someone like

a swollen clown

steps forth


whose fat cheeks grow

enormous while his body

shrinks    until he stands

before us like a tiny

naked man who neither

thinks nor dreams


when in the morning sun

his face escapes him

in the empty mirror

he must ask the sky

to bring it back to him

hapless to find his way


the rage inside him

slides into his mouth

from which he vomits

words & empty sounds

his name the only

meme he knows


he is the cockeyed boss

the president of desolation

chin thrust forward

arms akimbo

legs astride

the world his crucible


a body without shape

that shrinks

& drives his mind out

through his eyes

whose teeth still clatter

syllables cut free


with this the world

will end & time

return to endless space

not to be counted

past what the fabled

start was


& the end to come




while down to earth

a fool sits

on the throne

a king

by his own counting

wrapped in gold


the ground beneath him

also gold

the buckle on his belt

even the belt itself

the buttons on his shirt

all gold


gold is his heart

the rumble in his gut

gold’s essence

blowing golden farts

& on his golden briefs

a stain of gold


for which all women

flock to him

all men bow down

his ring is gold

& held against your cheek

leaves gold behind


not truly gold

but close enough

to make his suitors pause

his dross

turned golden

in their sight


how loyal

little men become

losing all thought

of sacrifice

& ardor

for the common good




in acts of


the past

comes back

to life


never more true

than when

he wages

war against

the sky


the door to heaven

opens   closes

at his touch

fat angels

crowd around him


some adhering

to his flesh

the burning babes

in fancy dreams of

god & power


with an eye

that turns

from those below

his notice

or regard


the world

his mirror

fragile hands

hiding his face

& eyes


too safely blind

he will not

see you now

or me

outside his dreams


he stalks

his shadow &

his only love

the voice returning

when he dies



deeper down

the hole

he digs for us

by digging *                           * dealing


pit where pity

drops away

letting the dead

stay dead


or raising


too cruel

by far


the scorn

a frail man


into the air


until the world

around him

bursts with voices

calling back



endlessly the words

he shows them



finding the hidden

hole his fingers

fat & swollen

open in his mouth


then raises

one frail arm

in feigned