Jerome Rothenberg and Arie Galles

'GRAFFITE,' three suites after images by Arie Galles, Part Two

[Continued from previous posting and commentary on Poems and Poetics.]


                                                  Part Two                                                 



But none of them paused,
none of them wanted to be a cloud
— F. G. Lorca


cloud poem (1)


among the clouds

one face appears


a world of babes

& shadows                   


wrapped in its caul



cloud poem (2)


stretched out in coils

the bodies of the lost

lie dormant


babes as fair

as paradise

who sleep their dreams


so hard to lend an eye to

& to look inside

to see the earth below


more like the sky

when turning softly over

the blue above


goes grey


cloud poem (3)


inside the grey world

black eyes open


black lips

lie in wait


ready to suck down

the lights


the white

an opening more real


than morning

a limpid hole



cloud poem (4)


the dead return


the nearly dead

lie sleeping


keeping a line

between them


hungry, mutilated

faces lost


ghosts wrapped

in gauze


& set in rows

like sleepers



cloud poem (5)


land breaking through

at last    at sunset


at the breaking down

& folding up


of borrowed




cloud poem (6)


to be a cloud

face up

against the other

brighter cloud


more like an animal

a life gone by

who would not

rather be?



cloud poem (7)



where the winds rush

lifting bodies

like false clouds


from darkness

into light

& back

to darkness



cloud poem (8)


a god is easy



easy body

of a man

or woman


easy dreams

of power


from the side

where light

fades out


the face of night

is lurking



cloud poem (9)



in flying

& the fear

of flying


stars pop up

then hide

their brilliance


in the shadow

little lives

fly by


& vanish



cloud poem (10)


a wound first

or a slit

in time, in sex


a pool or lake


an island

flying past


a smaller body

& a larger


open jaws



cloud poem (11)


look down

& see


to the eye

are only



the earth below



in the mind

is only




cloud poem (12)


lost habitat

through which

a fish


or snake

breaks loose

a vestige


blown across

the sea

& sky


the wish for life


unmans him


before he dies



cloud poem (13)


the lines

across the earth

escape us


at the center

where the clouds accrue

a white Dot


calld a Center                       (W. Blake)



cloud poem (14)



a fracture

like a mouth


a gash

in space & time





mouth on mouth



cloud poem (15)



to drift away

a cloud

no longer


lighting up

the sky

in triplicates


they vanish

where the night



a smearage

smeared by hand

& darkened



cloud poem (16)


to drown

& to be gone




by the tufts

of smoke


a hateful


half alive


I do not want it



cloud poem (17)


beauty so great

the fear awakens

& breaks through


the lights

that should bring joy

bring terror



bumps in time

& space


all that they write

turns back on them




cloud poem (18)


now dark

the fingers of

one hand

glow past their time


an alphabet of sound

before all sound

goes black   condensing

colorless & cold


the ships leave harbor

in a flight

so bountiful

the night drifts by



cloud poem (19)


peninsulas like clouds

& clouds

like phantom fingers


freed from touch

the lines dissolve again

& now again


the gaps appear

like holes in time

ever anew



cloud poem (20)


the cloud as metaphor

makes me recoil

gliding above them


fearing a ledge

that will not hold

but succors me


only for now

this tender moment



a paradise of clouds

that shrouds

the hell within*                                 *the life within



[N.B. As part of a longer series of suites, Galles’s images here 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, it is he who leads and I who follow, hopefully always in sync.]