John Bloomberg-Rissman

from 'With the Noose Around My Neck,' 139, a poem and multivocal collage in progress

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a further installment of John Bloomberg-Rissman’s ongoing collage epic, composed, as with much of his writing, (almost) entirely from words or sounds appropriated from other writers. An extension of the anthologizing impulse, which is what brought him close to me in the first place, he describes his sources further as “written / composed / constructed in real time, daily, out of the materials presented by that day (whether via RSS feed, Facebook, books received in the mail, emails, tv, conversation, or anything else the day brings).” And this new work, pursued day by day, he tells us, “will last as long as Trump and his aftermath.” (J.R.)]


This energy must contain a property and force infinitely superior to anything we know. We can conceive of a being which, just by raising its hand, can produce light, draw energy to it, push it away, and organise it. It is possible. If the elephant can live for 260 years, it is because the organisation of matter, in this form, allows for it. But why can we not imagine living as long, in a different form to the elephant? Without a trunk … why not? Mayakovsky was a lover of animals, and yet the photographs that exist of him fondly cuddling his pet dogs are rarely reproduced. Meanwhile, the brooding series of photographs taken by Rodchenko one afternoon in 1925, which show a smouldering and, uncharacteristically, shaven-headed Mayakovsky have become iconic representations of the poet. In other words, we do not know if beings exist in other systems or galaxies, nor how they are constituted. What about the boneless bears in the valley? Their smell belying their beauty, their eyes knowing us from when we are beasts also. You telling me that is why it is fatal to look them in the eye. Giant birds also are nesting out there bigger than cows. The term “a body of water” is apt, for here was a mysterious body thirty feet long, eight feet tall at the far end. So he has another shot of akvavit from the bottle on his desk, giggles, gives the figure a nice curly beard. A Theory of Birds, then, opens with phrases stitched with commas that are both light and startling: a grammar-flux that produces the effect of something falling out of or off the page. ‘I entered through the empty cage, hips first.’ ‘Can the map eat?’ The questions that follow invert their cardinal nouns, reverting to zero each time the next one is asked. Alsous proposes a ‘collaboration with the dead’ but also a paradise of solar pathways and outcomes. A ‘previously’ as much as an ‘almost.’ A jar in France, a blonde hair in Fez: fragments in the shape of an ibis, a harp, a broken lantern, pinning them on a sky-red space, which also shakes — shakes so hard that letters lose their place. Or, as García Márquez put it, Columbus’s Diario, ‘a book that speaks of fabulous plants and mythological lands,’ was the first example of quote, unquote magical realism in what became known as the Americas. Ergo, as Alsous notes, ‘While invading the [quote, unquote] New World, Columbus writes of sirens in / his notebooks, evoking the half-women, half-birds of Jason’s / Argonauts. Every time I look for women, I become more bird.’ I …


            I didn’t know and nobody told me and what

            could I do or say, anyway?


            Sure, Yemeni hospitals have been bombed, in 2015,

            and 2016, and 2016, and 2018. In war’s heightened fog

            mistakes are bound to happen.

            Sure, one million people have contracted cholera,         the same illness that appears

            in 10 cases a year in the U.S.                      Sure, international agencies have written

            famine and crisis in spirals and one report briefly mentions mothers

            unable to summon enough milk to fill the mouths of newborns.


            Another describes the fate of a mother,

            who used to sell boiled eggs in the morning,       now

            a ceiling of charred blood turned black,

            and how do I know the sky I look to at night is not also     a ceiling

            of charred blood turned black,

            and what could I do or say to the memory of this mother,

            or the echo of neighbors     who shared eggs       in the streets of Sana’a?


            In American college they taught me to use it’s complicated,

            as a sign of intelligence …


            [etc, etc]


            until no one remembers what you were talking about

            to begin with.                       


            Surrounded by bone, surrounded by cells,

            by rings, by rings of hell, by hair, surrounded by

            air-is-a-thing, surrounded by silhouette, by honey-wet bees, yet

            by skeletons of trees, surrounded by actual, yes, for practical

            purposes, people, surrounded by surreal



in other words, modern seismographs withhold all flourish. They are, appropriately, a measure of the force required to keep a mass still. Through a negative feedback loop a pendulum is held steady, and electronically, the results are presented to the user revealing exactly how much effort was expended to ensure that nothing changed in the confines of the device, that all remained still. We watch the price of calm bob and dip without logic, and tick away the expenditures.


            That’s where we are

            and why we buy our groceries

            a day at a time


            do you like the word crisis?


He only speaks in shrill modem tones now, or when mad, in a deep infrasound made into a perfect sine wave when it hits his gums.


            Maybe that’s where it all washes up

            Maybe that’s what’s stuck in my throat:


            “I’m so happy to see you” — she says to the second, the minute and the hour


            It’s seconds 4–8 we’re after.


             Her brother was an extra in a film.

            The Gangs of New York.

            They asked him — can you speak English?

            So what if he said sí?

            They gave him “Angry Irish Laborer #12”


            For ten takes they rioted.

            For ten takes anonymous hands

            cleaned and replaced the scenery.


            I mean.


            I Have HAD it With the World

            I don’t know about you but I have HAD it with the world.

            huatvaeti hnagdc r iot wp oitbhl civairocnin — ogenicg round water burning

            I haveh ad it withu rchinb … isguised as

            illegal U-tums at the GW Bridge

            holdmgu p the commuteJ jkef ilterings teel planktont hrough a whale’s gill,

            bgruollosm cihrcalnet dolb ep1 ic1kly atc yluotbhu rru resmtst aoiwnsa

            swings past your skull,

            I havef uckingH ADi t


            0 0

            1 I





            better h.v m. g throuo c e O •

            t I see nyoosom. tly wrong not e


            . E Iuuon . al 1

            . 11 s who pa

            Irwm Catu u thi. day

            to 5 h one


The area of right triangle AOB is equal to the area of lune AB, isn’t it? The lune is bounded by segments E and F, where E is a segment of a circle whose midpoint is D — also the hypotenuse of right triangle AOB — and where F is a segment of the primary circle whose midpoint is O. If the circle is the foremost mythological figure known to humankind, then the lune is evidence of the circle's work. I mean, 9 is 3 times 3 and the final digit of the single progress between one and zero. 9 is never quite enough. Forty-five on the clock, 9 requests a quarter. It goes Sun | Earth | Moon. The order is entirely rearrangeable, the different sequences are identified as northern & southern eclipses, lunar and solar, as well as empty (sun earth moon). So yes, it is useful to consider the leaf as possessing a centripetal syllable, as in 5-1-5 (eye eee, ten with one in the middle). Between fives, the middled six in a sequence of eleven is the stem, a pivot where something shoots and holds or tumbles. When walking through the forest — field, alley, coalmine, supermarket aisle, etc. — count syllables by tapping your fingers against your thigh. There are many other valuable ways of counting to eleven. Do so how you feel comfortable doing so. Kathy tells me that women in Texas these days are having plastic surgery to make them look like Ivanka Trump.


[NOTE: Sources: “This energy … why not?”: J. Posadas, Flying saucers, the process of matter and energy, science, the revolutionary and working-class struggle and the socialist future of mankind (trans. David Broder); “Mayakovsky … poet”: Rosie Carrigan, Mayakovsky (University of Sussex PhD thesis); In other words: JBR; “we do not know … constituted”: J Posadas, Flying saucers, the process of matter and energy, science, the revolutionary and working-class struggle and the socialist future of mankind (trans. David Broder); “What about … cows”: Toni Morrison (RIP), A Mercy; “The term … end”: Rebecca Solnit, “One Story House”, at Jackie Wang’s tumblr Giulia Tofana the Apothecary, 14 Oct 017; “So:” JBR; “he has another … top”: Anselm Hollo, The Danish Cartoonist; A Theory ... bird’: Bhanu Kapil, Zaina Alsous, Raquel Salas Rivera, blurbs for Alsous’s A Theory of Birds, Zaina Alsous; “I …”: JBR; “I didn’t know … capable of it”: Zaina Alsous, “Apologies to All the People in Yemen (after June Jordan)”, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, 2 Aug 018, and “Violence”, quoted in “riots and/or poetics [8/2019]”, BLACKOUT ((poetry & politics)), Aug 019; “Surrounded … popcorn”: Jack Collom, “Ecology”, Poetry Foundation; in other words: JBR; “modern … scenery”: Matthew Whitley, various, in Do You Like the Word Crisis?, Commune Editions; “I mean”: JBR; “I Have HAD … fluid”: Steve Hirsch, “I Have HAD It With The World,” Anselm Hollo, “from Guests of Space,” Evan Hundhausen, untitled, in {EMPTY SET} Summer Writing Program Journal Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics Naropa University 2000; “The area … one”: Robert Kelly, Jack Collom, Alan Mudd, Joseph Braun, and Marielle Grenade-Willis, anon, “Various Moons,” The Lune; “Kathy … Trump”: JBR. (NOTE: I think I’ve covered all the sources, apologies to anyone I left out.)]


August 10–17, 2019