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



                        “I was on the terrace, wrestling with the Moon

                                    — F. G. Lorca




a knife falls

in the water

grows a second knife


& over each knife

looms an eye —

my second eye trails off






life has spirit, death

has only chalk


with chalk a word

is written


but not by you






end it here,

the man says

as he puts his thumb on it


the thumb is raw,


the man is even now alone






easy sleep

easy rest


easier to be an animal

than not





after Nerval


like inserting two pictures

in a single viewer


(he writes)


then moving my hand as if

sketching my signature








rub this side of the chain

against that side


how many years before

the chain rubs out?






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






someone slips below the sod


the grass grows over him


as if someone has died,

but no one stops to ask







a future poetics


with inspiration vanished

respiration took its place


is expiration next?






there is something

we like to hide


if not our tongues,

our eyes


if not our immortal souls,

our daily vices






easy sleep

easy rest


easier to be an animal

than not






go inside

look around you

come back out again






a rabbit sneezes with the desperation of a man

a knife drops inward with the sound of water






everything is possible

meaning nothing


and if nothing is possible

everything is too      





clap hands together


never forget

the lessons taught you


the value of a song






the place of resistance

has moved away from us


so that we’re running to keep up

& stumble






as many people

will be murdered this year


as were murdered

the year before






there is a constant

at the heart of things


that serves to keep

the universe in motion






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







the spirit of the dead

means nothing



[To Be Continued]