Jerome Rothenberg

Two sets of variations, for Cecilia Vicuña and Gloria Gervitz


for Cecilia Vicuña



a body hanging

by a thread

cries emptiness


along with other words

a union of threads

& feelings



in a single word

a metaphor

connecting word & thread


a language spoken

one word at a time

signals a fullness



words woven

into structures

signifying what?


a thread conjoining with

another thread

a double threading



from her interior & out

the thread precedes

the word


the space around

left for its poets

to fill with sound



a tongue so delicate

it senses

words & memory


threads summon

other threads

threads foremost



the threads are lines

fashioning forms

that crack the silence


every fiber

becomes a word

however mean



passing thru the center

where words are threads

lines made of words


across an open plane

that separates the weaver

from her hand




is the final word

words make


a double thread

fibers as palpable & tense

as words




for Gloria Gervitz



the silence of the legs

                        she wraps around us  

            more thrilling still

than words

                        that shower down

            louder than rain

to dazzle us

                        like pollen

            or the cries                                                                                                            

of shofars

                        words & photographs

            in cages

dishes shattered

                        where the night

            brings visions

neither you nor I

                        immune from it

            a luscious madness

grinds the bougainvilleas

                        into dust or froth

            the steam of rivers

seeping through

                        our kitchens

            fever    ecstasy

the more she masturbates

                        the more a whiteness

            echoes through the water

beckoning a sexual kol nidre

                        a recklessness of clouds

            green waters

the vertigos of rosh hashana

                        a background marked

            by absences

as much as not

                        daylight erupting

            in the east

the season too

                        when violets

            bring madness

their voluptuousness

                        like yours or mine

            our porches heavy

with their swelling

                        vagrant like acacias        

            in our dreams 

of death & dying

                        verandas plastered over

            syrups splashing             

into empty washbasins

                        the delights of silence

            of prayers with scents & colors

signal a break

                        a gulf insomnia exposes              

            a rosary lost in a synagogue

that raises questions

                        like a shattered faucet

            air that snaps a willow

death that brings all willows down    

                        like red fruit

            turning brown

like fermentations bringing perfumes

                        to your fingers

            less than nothing

like the wings of seagulls flapping

                        like saliva oozing

            years a grandmother might count

reading the Zohar in a bathtub

                        whimsical & mad

            like forced migrations

on a summer day


[N.B. Based on nouns drawn by systematic chance from poems by Gloria Gervitz and Cecilia Vicuña and freely recomposed here by Jerome Rothenberg. The original poems to appear next year in Rothenberg and Taboada, A Book of Americas.]