Jerome Rothenberg: Three Poems from “The Disasters of War” after Goya

He is a real man
when he murders,

is he not?




Sad presentiments
of what must come
to pass   a rage
of shredded clothes 

the darkness

through which images

rain down

a ruined world


of bricks & walls

erased   or crumbled                      

shattered*                                         * splattered

on the broken ground


made present

by an unseen hand

like mine

the lines concealing


men & women
trees & gardens
grass gates gravestones 

shrines & temples
class rooms
radios & books
old dresses 

fifes & fiddles


clocks & watches
street signs
works of art 

the man’s face

shows it

chest & forearms



stumps for legs

the cry of blood

so fierce

it stops his heart


his eyes see only

lines like knives


blood or rain


the word is misery

that binds him*                               *blinds him

where the waters rush

& rage






with reason
or without
the fate of real men
facing off
guns at the quick
or lances 


the cries rise up

between clenched lips

the itch & thrill

of suffocation

driving them on


for which the mind

is never still

but races screaming

somewhere beyond

the zone

where real men go


theirs is the dream

of children

& old mothers

huddled masses

at their feet

the dream of where we go


& where the bayonet

enters the sad flesh

the dark device

explodes behind us

ready like them

to make its mark


the blood is like

a ribbon

where it leaves

his mouth

the knife his hand holds

hot to strike


the mind of Goya

falters   sightless

writing in a room

without a light

he feels the thrust

much like his own


the speed of thought

where thought ends

the rest is flights

of spirits

dibbiks who will never

find a home


how heavy

we have all become

trying to free our hands

to etch our names

still mindful that the dead

will never sleep






the same thing

from the ax

as from the sword

the fury*                                *vengeance 

of the dead

against the quick



those who survive


knives like lights

cutting through time

& leaving us

minus a hole to hide



swept into death

the boots

the men wear

when the feet

stop moving

stick out of the ground



beyond our sight

the earth

will swallow them

no hand upraised

to hold it back

or free us




if my hand

would thrust a knife

like yours

the blow would sever

head from throat

spreading the blood




down mirrors

it will flow

& when they cry

for sunlight


will answer


but the deadman’s