Jerome Rothenberg and Arie Galles

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

[Continued from previous postings on Poems and Poetics, here and here.]


Part Three



                         They are gone, the pepper trees

                                               — F.G. Lorca





the more a man’s arms


to reach the woman’s


& the branches

can no longer bear

their weight






moss is foremost

if the mind will entertain

matters of fact


a tactile splendor






ferns & rind

the black a distance

deeper than a star






heavy as a heave

the layered cork & wood

cry out to you


or is it only

something furtive



in your heart?






at the side a shadow

like a child

beside the fallen bodies


the last chance

for sleep








a limb athwart

coiled branches


forest dreams

& shiny shadows






is there a black hole

here on earth?


a place so deep

that even leaves

turn black






spiny dust

over the swollen



the hairy wood

is like a man’s flesh

or a woman’s






a memory of where

we lived & swung —

our place in nature






to seat yourself

inside it

ache of trees

& ache of majesty


he who falls

recovers grace

only a little






the ferns take over

& the question

rattles our minds


where have the bodies

gone    where

in the world is love






plain in our sight

the black hole

carved into the center

limbs askew


more what the woman gives

a field of light

below her


down where the world

takes root






they dance together

taut arms rising

from dark trunk


in front of which

the dancer

leaves her shadow*                          * her meadow


eager to draw him back






that which is lost

leaves only a wound



the mystery of light

more than the mystery

of something lost


the memory of where

we were

guarded by snow


a scar that will not heal






between an island

& the main

blind spring arrives


the strange allure

of black on white


drives color from the brain

refraction from the eye






is every image that we see

seen from a height


& every block of wood

as stiff as stone*                               *as bone


receivers & believers

we let the shadows go






counting by threes

is learnt by rote

nohow forgotten


more as a number known

by comrades

than by a bride & groom


the tallest tree of all

no taller than

those that surround him


the way that every count

leaves space & air







brought back to earth

the sadness

of mute nature


waiting for the dead

to rise & shine






like stony ridges

schist & caulk*                                  * chalk

no sign of verdure


but the layers

stacked   each one

atop the next


offers a broken wall

a perch for demons






eggs dropped

along the way

or hanging from

the rotted bark


a bed laid bare

the rank turd

lies within

firm in its nest


eggs & turds

the rest is barely

bark & sunlight


traces of a life

long gone                                                                                                                        


[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.]