John Bloomberg-Rissman: 'In the House of the Hangman' 1731
[NOTE. The text that follows is a further installment from Bloomberg-Rissman’s epic assemblage, Zeitgeist Spam, a work constructed (almost) entirely, he tells us, from words or sounds appropriated from other writers. In the present instance the over-all source is Barbaric Vast & Wild: An Assemblage of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present, which he & I have recently completed as Poems for the Millennium, volume 5, for publication later this year by Black Widow Press. The subsection of Zeitgeist Spam, “In the House of the Hangman,” itself in multiple installments, derives its title from an essay by Theodor Adorno: “In the house of the hangman one should not mention the noose; one might be suspected of harboring resentment.”]
But it is the mystery that taunts us most: what brought them into that darkness, that becomes long, deep; it widens, extends, narrows. It is a constricted place, a narrowed place, one of the hollowed-out places. It forms hollowed-out places. There are roughened places; there are asperous places. The sky is overcast, the stars are darkened, the celestial expanses quiver, the bones of the earth-gods tremble, his ḥmwst are under his feet, his uraei are on the crown of his head, / Efficient for burning (?); / Who eats their entrails (?), / Even of those who come with their bodies full of magic. Then Saul told his servants find me a woman who can speak with ghosts that I can go to can make her sound her shaman bag can speak through her his servants said well yes there is a woman mistress of the shaman bag at Endor [scream] what [scream] how [scream] what in the world is this [scream] strange new [scream]. And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the color of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above. And under the firmament were their meshugga wings, take constant notice of the clarity of things, ZEUS (a white flickering) / life-breathing HERA / And I will tell you this: There is no self-nature in anything mortal nor any finality in death’s deconstruction / There is only the merging, change and exchange / Press these things into the pit of your stomach. I came down from my mountain hut into the streets one day to beg food. I stopped where a leper was feeding himself. With his rotted leper’s hand into my bowl he threw a scrap into my bowl as he threw it one of his fingers broke and also fell I simply leaned against a wall and ate I tell you the world is blazing, blazing / the whole world’s in flames / I tell you it’s flared up / the world is shaken / your worlds are shaken / the whole world’s ablaze & the odds have never been easy. An nou there kythed an unco ferlie in heiven – a wuman cleadit i the sun, an the muin wis aneth her feet, an on her heid wis a croun o twal stairns. She wis boukit, an skirlt out wi the sair pyne o her birth-thraws. Than anither ferlie kythed in heiven – a muckle reid draigon, at hed seiven heids an ten horns, an on ilka heid a croun. His tail soopit a third o the stairns frae the lift an cuist them doun on the yird. The Draigon stood fornenst the Wuman at wis about ae bring furth a bairn, ettlin tae wirrie the bairn, whaniver she buir it. She brocht furth a man-bairn, at is weirdit tae hird the nations wi an airn wand; Judas said to Jesus, “Does the human spirit die?” Jesus said, “This is why God ordered Michael to give the spirits of people to them as a loan, so that they might offer service, but the Great One ordered Gabriel to grant spirits to the great generation with no ruler over it — that is, the spirit and the soul. Therefore, the [rest] of the souls [— one line missing —].” “[…] light [— nearly two lines missing —] around […] let […] Then they will fornicate in my name and slay their children and they will […] and [— about six and a half lines missing —] my name, and he will […] your star over the [thir]teenth aeon.” After that Jesus [laughed]. “Truly […] your last […] become [— about two and a half lines missing —], grieve [— about two lines missing —] the ruler, since he will be destroyed. For you are knowledge and ignorance. You are shameless; you are ashamed. You are senseless and you are wise. Which is what happened: Tarafah shed his life as a punctured goatskin sheds its wine. Hoooh! Dierra, Agada, Ganna, Silla! Hoooh! Fasa! They cast themselves in multitudes, like a ram’s fleece upon the ridges of the Boyne.” This is the sense but not the order of the words as he sang them in his sleep. The day I was to depart, I had a bad headache. I called a doctor, but he couldn’t cure me. Then I met a Buddhist Master named Feng-kan. He smiled and said, O my secret’s secret, you have dwindled so much you’re hidden from the thought of the living, and yet a hidden-manifest of you has appeared in all things for all things. After this I saw a very large, round and shady object. It was like an egg, with the top part narrower, the middle part fuller, and the lower part compressed. On the outer edge of this circular object, there was a bright flame which had a darker layer under it. Inside of the fire and the darker layer was a globe of reddish fire which was so great that it lit up the entire inside of the circular object. Above the globe which was inside the circular object, there were three torches which in turn were inside of the fire that was on the outer edge of the circular object. The fourth Wheel is the Chrystaline Pure Corporiety. But there was more: they made me one of them, I sixth among that wisdom company. So we went on as far as the semi-circle light in conversation proper to the place and which now to leave unreported is beautiful. Humans are indeed frightful beings. A large penis is the mark of an idiot. And then the Lama continued: Seek the bird’s, the fish’s path. Lord! A fire is raging without fuel. When the pot falls apart, what do you call it? Numskull! You’ve missed the point. “Language is Delphi.” Mine ears are filled brimful with cries of poor prisoners, Newgate, Ludgate cries (of late) are seldom out of mine ears. Those doleful cries, Bread, bread, bread for the Lord’s sake, pierce mine ears and heart, I can no longer forbear. Wherefore hie you apace to all prisons in the kingdom. Bow before those poor, nasty, lousy, ragged wretches, say to them, your humble servants, sirs (without a compliment), we let you go free and serve you, &c. Do this or (as I live, saith the Lord) thine eyes (at least) shall be bored out, and thou carried captive into a strange land. Loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke. Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the poor that are cast out (both of houses and synagogues) to thy house. Cover the naked: hide not thyself from thine own flesh, from a cripple, a rogue, a beggar, he’s thine own flesh. From a whoremonger, a thief, &c., he’s flesh of thy flesh, and his flesh and whoredom is flesh of thy flesh also, thine own flesh. Thou mayest have ten times more of each within thee than he that acts outwardly in either. Remember, turn not away thine eyes from thine OWN FLESH. I had a golden ring on my hand, and I dropped that ring onto a mirror, which broke into small pieces, Having turned that mirror onto the other side, I found shining glass there also, and likewise a bracelet fell from my hands and broke the other side. In a dream I saw a very old woman, 1500 years old. Her hair was white as snow; she brought me 2 silver belts and a Walachian sausage. We have been dead several thousand years and we have worked a lot, and still we have no peace. We ask you, Send us. We will go on your mission wholeheartedly. I answered them, I have already said that I will make revelation to no man, nor bring any near, nor will I send any on a mission. They asked me, But the signal has already gone out that a great deal of blood will flow in the world, and we want to go and rescue many; only you bless us for the way. I am a prostak, I replied, and cannot make a blessing. They asked me, But you bless your people? I replied, I can say no more than this word: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and this verse: The angel who delivered me & & ... They said to me, We have a book here in which stand blessings. Bless us with that book; we only ask you that you bless us out loud. They gave me the book which was written in large Hebrew letters without dots. They bent their heads and I, after raising my hands above their heads, blessed them. There were beautiful words there, but I do not remember more than two words that were at the end: “One Lord, one and only Four Lord, Sky Lord would have been in chaos, Sky Lord would have been dark when you were born. Who are you, owner of chaos? Who are you, owner of night? You are in chaos, Great Lord of Days, the eye of the sun was plucked out when you were born.” But in the summer I was with the herd and fell asleep in front of the herd. Two came on reindeer, the bedding of their sledges worn from traveling so long. The hooves of the deer were ground down from galloping. I looked at them and my mind got confused, my body weakened and became like water. I was turned from a strong one into a weak one, fond of sleep, hardly walking in daylight. Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog, the toad, the tadpole, / the wall-newt and the water; that in the fury of his heart, when / the foul fiend rages, eats cow-dung for sallets; swallows the old / rat and the ditch-dog; drinks the green mantle of the standing / pool; who is whipped from tithing to tithing, and stock- punished, / and imprisoned; who hath had three suits to his back, six shirts / to his body, horse to ride, and weapon to wear; / But mice and rats, and such small deer, / Have been Tom’s food for seven long year. For the doubling of flowers is the improvement of the gardner’s talent. For there is no Height in which there are not flowers. For flowers have great virtues for all the senses. For the warp and woof of flowers are worked by perpetual moving spirits. For flowers are good both for the living and the dead. For there is a language of flowers. For there is a sound reasoning upon all flowers. For elegant phrases are nothing but flowers. For flowers are musical in ocular harmony. And I felt strength enough in me, as though I could crush the world to atoms. I walked up and down the room, and shook the whole house; for I was not myself. I could not stop my fury; words flew too fast to utter against the power of darkness: and I felt in myself power, that I thought, if he was present, that I could tear him to pieces; and should not have feared, had there been ten thousand men and devils before me. So I remain’d with him, sitting in the twisted root of an oak; he was suspended in a fungus, which hung with the head downward into the deep. By degrees we beheld the infinite Abyss, fiery as the smoke of a burning city; beneath us at an immense distance, was the sun, black but shining; round it were fiery tracks on which revolv’d vast spiders, crawling after their prey; which flew, or rather swum, in the infinite deep, in the most terrific shapes of animals sprung from corruption; & the air was full of them, & seem’d composed of them: these are Devils, and are called Powers of the air. I now asked my companion which was my eternal lot? he said, ‘between the black & white spiders.’ (THE SNAKE.) See on the ground, / and motes of dust / With the blooming / And deep shadows (of) the woods, and it rises / By the figtree / ( ) (From) To the rooftops the smoke, (at) near the ancient crown / Achilles died to me / Signifying wherever it lie, (glea) / (gleams) / Not all the Snows could make it white – / Not all the Summers – Green – / You’ve seen the Color – maybe – / It is a mere prejudice that I am a human being. Yet I have often enough dwelled among human beings and I know the things human beings experience, from the lowest to the highest. Among the Hindus I was Buddha, in Greece Dionysus – Alexander and Caesar were incarnations of me, as well as the poet of Shakespeare, Lord Bacon. Most recently I was Voltaire and Napoleon, perhaps also Richard Wagner. … However, I now come as Dionysus victorious, who will prepare a great festival on Earth. … Not as though I had much time. … Ah! The rotting rags; the bread soaked with rain, the drunkenness – Sometimes I see limitless beaches in the sky covered by white nations full of joy. A great golden vessel, above me, waves its multicolored flags in the morning breeze. I’ve created all the feasts, all the triumphs, all the dramas. I’ve tried to invent new flowers; new stars, new flesh, new languages. I believed I’d gained supernatural powers. Ah well! I must bury my imagination and my memories! Sweet glory as an artist and story-teller swept away! Well, I shall ask forgiveness for nourishing myself with lies. Let’s go. G’ganggali ging g’gang, g’gung g’gung! Giigara-Lina Wiiy Rosina. G’ganggali ging g’gang, g’gung g’gung! Then the God Orpheus, the greatest and most powerful of the Spirits, said, Let there be a Star on which we might all find a shelter and an asylum and, as he ordained it, so it was. A planeet named Eearth: a Desert, formless and void: and so far as they could see it was dark: And all the Spirits moved over the water. And then, they arrived on firm ground. Then, God Orpheus said, Let there be light: and there was light. Far above them, a splendid sun sent out its glowing rays vertically down to the earth to them: And before several hours had passed, this last, on a second divine and All-Powerful Word, descended on the horizon and, a gigantic number of brightly shining Staars, brilliant and scintillating, along with the Moon, comets and shadows, stood, or circled around on the blue firmament. And, again on a majestic and All-Powerful Word of the Last, The southern half of all the gigantic and majjestic Creation is my … property. Not only the millions and billions of stars. No!! 500 myriads and one star. … I have traveled through all of them in the year 1868. And now, appalling Ca-tas-tro-phe before God the Holy-Spirit, I am swinging on the hideous rope of the gallows, in cell number 3 of the 5th wing of men. The living Lantern of Ouchy Opera / Cleopatra weds in a palanquin / Fountainebleau / The Quirinal mermaid / The pink pearl of India / Sketch of bank-note / The flowery earth and its work by / The great Victoria saves the rich exiles in Switzerland / Printers of bank-notes / Kaiser Wilhelm II’s love story / The extreme point of mysticism, / I hold it now in the real and in my body, / like a toilet broom. / For me, living man, I am a city besieged by the army of the dead, / Take that, take that, / you didn’t get me out of there yet, / I’m always there no matter what you try to do, / you haven’t defeated me and I have that: / caca, the cream of your … / it is me who gobbles up the cake you made crumb by crumb, / hmm hmm hmm / hmm hmm hmm / hmm hmm hmm / hmm hmm hmm / hmm hmm hmm / so so so si / hmm hmm hmm / hmm hmm hmm / Cayetano García / [He answers “Yes …” She says, “Isn’t that how?” He responds: “Yes, that's it.” She says: “Isn’t that it? Like this. Listen.”] / so so so / so so so / so so so / [“That’s it. Work, work,” exclaims the man.] / hmm hmm hmm / hmm hmm hmm / so so so / hmm hmm hmm / so so so / so so so / si si si / si si si / si si si / so sa sa / si si si / so sa sa sa / hmm hmm hmm / hmm hmm hmm / hmm hmm hmm.
Poems and poetics