John Bloomberg-Rissman

'The future started yesterday': A postlude and collage for 'A Book of Americas'

The future started yesterday, in the cave of the hands, a multitude of hands in the twilight, a cloud of palms, it is a constricted place, a narrowed place, one of the hollowed-out places, analogous to the Library of Alexandria, a narrow-eyed figurine carved of green jadeite with incised glyphs, length, 1,254 feet; average width, 20 feet; height, 4 or 5 feet, a gate built of the word orororororo, because there is no longer


                                                                        a way to see the light from beside the sea

                                                                                 the story of our shadows,


it was night for five days,

rocks banged against each other,

the dazzling red bird

sang a beautiful chant,


between the hills the water rushed and rushed, dashing through and through, destroying much, I did not see the snake’s head, since it faced away, I could not fix it being vipera or serpente, they were then so overpowered with sleep that they could not keep awake, and all fell into a heavy slumber from which they were awakened by the sound of a cry uttered above them; and the words of the cry were these: I offer flowers, I sow flower seeds, I plant flowers, I assemble flowers, I pick flowers, I pick different flowers, I remove flowers, I seek flowers, I offer flowers, I arrange flowers, I thread a flower, I string flowers, I make flowers, already the blood has curdled


       in your veins,

and under your eyelids your sight

       has withered,

your glance is hiding in the brilliance

       of some star,


the water has turned bitter,

our food is bitter,

these are the acts of the Giver of Life,


and when it’s day they […]

and when it’s night they […]


blue-green Sickness,

dark Sickness:

wherever you go,


                                                and all their clubs now strike against the others’ swords

and they reduce the human bodies into chunks of meat

chop off some heads            pour out some entrails    

beating still   chests legs    arms   hewed

and where some die     others rise up from the dead 


of this sort there be millions, which are great devourers of the Indian corne as soon as it appeares out of the ground; unto this sort of Birds, especially, may the mysticall Fowles, the Divells be well resembled (and so it pleaseth the Lord Jesus himselfe to observe, Matt. 13. which mysticall Fowle follow the sowing of the Word, and picke it up from loose and carelesse hearers, as these Black-birds follow the materiall seed, the Angel doth not come in as a mere Clown, no, but as soon as he is entered, he doth as it were move his hat and bow his body and say how do you,


and the stomach,

that most provident caterer

and alchemist,

proscribes the quantities of chyle

distilled by the foods incessant heat,

to every natural quadrant

— this mediator

between heat and phlegmatic humor,

interposed its innocent substance,

justly paying for that

which out of piety

or foolish arrogance

introduced it into

foreign wars,


pregnant cloud




thermal panjandrum,


tajo, tajo tajo, O lawd, O, tajo, tajo, tajo


I’ll please my

                        I’ll jig to               

                        I’ll sweet my


at that, a stream of blood gushed from the young man’s mouth and nostrils and, spreading out, poured down on either side of the table, wince all this is undeniable, since one impossibility cannot be greater than another, and since, thus, one cannot be preferred to another, build, therefore, your own world,


O how can it be that the ground itself does not sicken,

how can you be alive you growths of spring, how can you furnish health you blood of herbs,          roots, orchards, grain,

Are they not continually putting distemperd corpses within you?


                                    Brother, who are you?


                                    Sister, who are you?


and then, singing loudly, a person journeyed by,

he sang to earth and sky and used an Aztec song

to praise the gods and curse all wars as being wrong,



            mmmmmmmmmm mm mmmm,


THEY COME / stories come that look deformed

Attached to the skin with pins




The taste of pure lead

Stories come like births / They come

With an aroma of sour placenta

They keep coming from the North / The pirates loot

Riches from coffee / sugar / cacao

gold / silver / nickel / bauxite,


until the disgusting moment of the kavernous pollution arrives, and we can no longer be a people of leaves, living in the air, our foliage heavy with blooms and crackling or humming, crish, crash! there goes the jib-stay! vlang-whang! jjmmini, what a squall! shirr! shirr! I accept, I accept it all,


I’ll tell you about the shark’s feast

I’ll tell you of the arrival and the scent of green lemon

on my raw wounds

I’ll tell you about the red diarrhea




dage neg itisega

boe bab

belabela olo

uarguen guilenay

aturimska ibloged

banegine gurgina


bubadi baabak

arbaedse narmayeke



Abya Yala,


and some years later, Turpana, when reading my transcription, told me, smiling, the meaning of my Kuna song:


tomorrow eight intelligences

through the ocean

with their bodies

are going to travail,


on it is traveling

someone who has no body,


and I say no more, because no one will find the key that no one has lost, I don’t know what else the voice says. I hold onto my father’s legs to leave the circus as soon as possible, I feel like the tiger is coming for me, I raise my face to ask him to carry me, but I suddenly lose him in the crowd, in his place, I see my abuela Victoria practically in front of me, speaking with an extreme sweetness: — Sentites kualo dijeron? Estamos moertos, nadien te va a matar, sos moerta i tu / Did you hear what they said? We are dead, no one will kill you, you are dead too, this Hades is fluid, almist, no roof, no floor, redhaired, color in sunshut eyes, stirred in endotempest, whirlpools, waves, and boiling. In its clots n foam dismultitumans float passivao, disparkle, sloao I find myselfe in a slight kelestal sky, its disposition is afternoon summeri, cloudii, plants zigzag one by one biomove and hum, ther color lovaries from garnet to rosy, they r over floatislope of da same denser air, undspersing, here juxtaflyboids like speck eggs, not with wings, but with many ribbons,


it is only in isolate flecks that


is given off

no one

to witness

and adjust, no one to drive the car,


each day passed as in a mirror  of echoes, telephones, wires, once I took a boat out on a lake, I’ve never seen myself in my own reflection, Inhambu is the name of a bird, I’ll see you later, at this very moment, someone is having a garage sale,


what difference it make
what difference does it make


the map must be of sand and can’t be read by ordinary light,



the road isnt the road


[to be continued]




I have collaged together bits of text from the first 150 pages or so of the massive anthology-in-progress, A Book of Americas, coedited by Jerome Rothenberg and Javier Taboada, on which I’ve been participating for several years as a kind of active associate editor. From that book I’ve taken the texts and commentaries in the order in which they appear. I was curious to see what the book was telling me; of course, on another day, it will sing me a different song.


This piece is related to work I’ve been doing for the past twenty-something years, in which there are “no sounds of my own making” (to quote my brother quoting John Cage). During much of that time, I have tried to balance between creating a seamless text in which much of the material used retains traces of its own origins.


Why do I work this way? I abandoned my own voice because, well, to quote Ian Hamilton Finlay (quoting has become a habit):


When I have talked for an hour I feel lousy —

Not so when I have danced for an hour:

The dancers inherit the party

While the talkers wear themselves out and

                        sit in corners alone, and glower.


I’m a terrible dancer, but I do all right as a DJ.


(j.b.r., September 6, 2022)