Jerome Rothenberg: From 'Further Autovariations,' three poems, 2016

Reminders of a Vanished Earth



the poem as landscape


the definition

of a place

is more than

what was seen

or what was

felt before    

when dreaming

of the dead

the way

a conflagration

wrapped itself

around his world

leaving in his mind

a trace of dunes

the fallout from

a ring of mountains


of a vanished earth

the landscape

marked with rising tufts

the hardness of

clay tiles

that press against

our feet like bricks

the soil concealed

beneath its coverings

through which a weave

of twisted wires

crisscross the empty

field as markers

to commemorate

the hapless dead

the ones who fly

around like ghosts

bereft of either

home or tomb

in what would once

have been their world

the count fades out

beyond 10,000

leaves them to be swept

down endless ages

fused together

or else set apart

lost nomads

on the road

to desolation

a field on mars

they wait to share

with others 

dead at last



a deep romantic chasm


Head facing downward

I descend the chasm

little caring

about space or time

my face caught halfway

between dark & light

a mix of random chance

& kindred circumstances,

before I reach the bottom

& a narrow street

alongside which I spot

a darkly churning stream

& follow it

until I reach its source.


Here is a world

outside of time & season*                     *rhyme & reason

only broken by the sound

of ghostly birds

that blast us till we find

that we’ve arrived

nearby a field behind

a battered wooden fence,

the specters in that world

stare out at us,

move back & forth

until they cover the horizon, come

forward, forward

rising in their legions.


All they have to offer

is a turn, a word,

a sound that we can hear

& answer in return,

what has long been known

but left unspoken,

words from inner space

the tongue turns off,

the dead will learn

to speak again, the universe

is theirs & covers them

until they flee at morning,

leave us in a dream still,

faces awash with dew.


This will be the final book

the poet dreams or writes,

whose home is in his mind

or maybe elsewhere,

follows it around the world

to where it leads him,

a space forever dark

an air so heavy

that he cannot push through it

or recognize the faces

waiting for him as before

too distant to pursue,

the world once full of smiles

now dark with tears.


I am not he,

the wanderer, the captive,

the one who lives his life

as in a dream,

the messages that reach him

from a dying galaxy

fall on deaf ears,

echoes of an empty sky

the final world bereft

of sounds & images,

returned to what it was,

adrift & mindless,

the grim memento

of its absent god.



Larger Than Life


He is  left

without a word

but nailed

onto his bed

like someone


he starts to dream

of Europe

in a countryside

where angels

run half-blinded

feel the power waning

from a dying sun,

long shadows form

a wall of snakes

each one a shape

that dangles

ghostlike, clambers up

a single tree

each with a face     

much like a babe’s

the light escaping

from their eyes

the eyelids


& cast aside

days beyond days

how many lost

while dreaming, playing

murmuring the songs

their fathers sang,

still in their minds

no time for solace

nor a moment’s rest

the man locked in

the prison of his bed

from which a foot

breaks free, a hand

frantic & fierce

escapes from his,

the punishment

for angry words

let loose

no longer muted

calling forth a shudder

or a sigh

to mark the end of

space & time

nowhere to turn or hide

before the ending

when the dead

bury the dead

the road to nowhere

opens, no one

riding it but smacking up

against a wall

to die in pieces

like the image of

the battered body

of their god

hidden beneath

a bed of leaves

the ground around him

carrying the stain

that pain delivers   

as a harbinger

the victory of death

against all life.