Jerome Rothenberg and Arie Galles

For some time now I’ve been working with Arie Galles on Graffite, a three-part series of graphite drawings with poem accompaniments: MoonFields, CloudPoems, and PepperTree, in that order.  Here, with the exception of MoonFields (abstract circles and lines), Galles’s images begin as black and white photographs that he then translates, as with his monumental 14 Stations, into three sets of twenty graphite drawings each, to which are added twenty poems of mine as linkages. My own procedures, after the fact, are largely improvisational, speaking to his images while maintaining a sense of distance and independence. To borrow from the medieval Japanese, the principle here is not one of direct comment or illustration but of something like juxtaposition and/or collage “wherein it does not matter that the upper and lower part are put together in a seemingly unnatural and arbitrary way so long as they cohere in the mind.” In the dance between us, to be presented in three installments, it is he who leads and I who follow, hopefully always in synch. (J.R.)

 

Part One

 

TWENTY MOON FIELDS

                        “I was on the terrace, wrestling with the Moon

                                    — F. G. Lorca

1

 

 

a knife falls

in the water

grows a second knife

 

& over each knife

looms an eye —

my second eye trails off

 

 

2

 

 

life has spirit, death

has only chalk

 

with chalk a word

is written

 

but not by you

 

 

3

  

 

end it here,

the man says

as he puts his thumb on it

 

the thumb is raw,

behold,

the man is even now alone

 

 

4

  

 

easy sleep

easy rest

 

easier to be an animal

than not

 

 

5

 

after Nerval

 

like inserting two pictures

in a single viewer

 

(he writes)

 

then moving my hand as if

sketching my signature

 

 

6

 

 

directions

 

rub this side of the chain

against that side

 

how many years before

the chain rubs out?

 

 

7

 

 

death has a taste

after we hear of it

 

a man’s taste

or a woman’s

 

a child’s taste

or a cat’s

 

 

8

 

 

someone slips below the sod

 

the grass grows over him

 

as if someone has died,

but no one stops to ask

 

 

9

 

 

 

a future poetics

 

with inspiration vanished

respiration took its place

 

is expiration next?

 

 

10

 

 

there is something

we like to hide

 

if not our tongues,

our eyes

 

if not our immortal souls,

our daily vices

 

 

11

 

 

easy sleep

easy rest

 

easier to be an animal

than not

 

 

12

 

 

go inside

look around you

come back out again

 

 

13

 

 

a rabbit sneezes with the desperation of a man

a knife drops inward with the sound of water

 

 

14

 

 

everything is possible

meaning nothing

 

and if nothing is possible

everything is too      

 

 

15

 

clap hands together

 

never forget

the lessons taught you

 

the value of a song

 

 

16

 

 

the place of resistance

has moved away from us

 

so that we’re running to keep up

& stumble

 

 

17

 

 

as many people

will be murdered this year

 

as were murdered

the year before

 

 

18

 

 

there is a constant

at the heart of things

 

that serves to keep

the universe in motion

 

 

19

 

 

the resistance is all the moon that’s left to us

 

 

20

 

 

 

the spirit of the dead

means nothing

 

 

[To Be Continued]