John Bloomberg-Rissman: 'In the House of the Hangman' #1880

[NOTE.  The allure in Bloomberg-Rissman’s work, which has drawn me to it from the start, is his use of appropriative & conceptual techniques toward the exploration of real if unanticipated meaning – the saying, in other words, of that which is crying to be said.  His title comes from Adorno (“In the house of the hangman one should not speak of the noose, otherwise one might seem to harbor resentment”),  & his sources appear beneath the poem & include, in this instance, appropriations from Pierre Joris’s Rothenberg Variations, anther example of a work using appropriative techniques in its composition.  Part of a still larger work-in-progress, Zeitgest Spam, “Hangman,” in Bloomberg-Rissman’s description, is “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) over a period of 2012 days (yes, the ‘Mayan apocalypse’  inspired that).  It is intended to be ‘adequate to the world in which we live’.” What is presented here of course is the 1880th day of composition, an ongoing anthology or assemblage of the world in which we live. (J.R.)]


And while some might say that my comparison of violence in Chile and Chicago is hyperbolic or inaccurate, to understand the discussion more broadly, one need only look at the numbers of people tortured and abused by the Chicago police, the numbers of people killed on the streets each year, the literally hundreds of thousands of poor children left to struggle in impoverished public schools that lack the most basic of resources. I know there are differences, believe me. But I’m sick of comparisons, of playing the which apocalypse is worse game. All the brutal neoliberal policy labs are murder zones. And someone tortured or killed by the Chicago Police is someone just as dead or tortured as someone tortured or killed by the Pinochet regime. Chile and Chicago: we drink each other’s shit. We are each other’s shit. We shit each other’s blood. We kill and die by our dollars. Who will write our obituary? I could go on about Noel’s great book and at some point I will, but what I want to think about for the moment is his use of the phrase “Documentary Death Poetics” in reference to the poem “Puerto Rican Obituary” by Pedro Pietri. The Reverend Pedro Pietri, dressed in black cloaks, embodying what Noel calls a punk aesthetic and a punk spirit articulated through his poems and performances, a Nuyorican anti-poet, anti-genius for whom art and life were inseparable. Noel talks about one of Pietri’s interventions, Platonic Fucking for the 90s, which “features Pietri carrying a cross and handing out condoms through the streets,” an act that Pietri characterizes as “another way for a poem to save a life.” Which leads to the question: what are other ways that poems can save lives? In other words, how do poems fill the infected holes in our body? How do poems make the blood swell and swirl. I digress. I want to think about his “Puerto Rican Obituary,” and to talk about it as a poem that is unflinchingly vomiting out the death culture subsuming working class Nuyoricans and Latinos in the 60s and 70s. A poem shitting out, in ways that are totally unkitsch, in ways that are totally straight-forward, in ways that ask us to reconcile with language as a force that is not abstracting, that is not masking, that is articulating in clear, angry language a stance towards labor, towards labor that leads to death, towards poverty that leads to death, towards immigration that leads to death, towards death that leads to humanity, towards death that leads back to death, towards money that makes us die, towards capital that obliterates the bodies it employs in order to maintain the illusion of its rationality. But who the fuck I am talking to now. Here are the words of Pietri:


They worked
They worked
They worked
and they died
They died broke
They died owing
They died never knowing
what the front entrance
of the first national city bank looks like


All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
passing their bill collectors
on to the next of kin
All died
waiting for the garden of eden
to open up again
under a new management
All died
dreaming about america
waking them up in the middle of the night
screaming: Mira Mira
your name is on the winning lottery ticket
for one hundred thousand dollars
All died
hating the grocery stores
that sold them make-believe steak
and bullet-proof rice and beans
All died waiting dreaming and hating


Dead Puerto Ricans
Who never knew they were Puerto Ricans
Who never took a coffee break
from the ten commandments
the landlords of their cracked skulls
and communicate with their latino souls


And I want to tell you about Valerie Martinez’s 2010 book length poem Each and Her. In it, Martinez documents with facts, names, and narratives the deaths of hundreds of young Mexican girls and women along the U.S-Mexico border. Many of these women worked in the maquiladoras; they were murdered, tortured, raped and mutilated. Here is one section:


the number of girls and women
working in the post-NAFTA
maquiladora industry




while they can’t be hired legally
at the age of 16, it is common for these girl-women
to get false documents
start work at 12, 13, 14


And here is another, naming some of them and listing the dates they died, died, which is a euphemism for were murdered, of course:


Jessica Lizalde Leon (3.14.93)
Lorenza Isela Gonzalez (4.25.94)
Erica Garcia Morena (7.16.95)
Sonia Ivette Ramirez (8.10.96)
Juana Iñiguez Mares (10.23.97)
Perla Patricia Sáenz Diaz (2.19.98)
Bertha Luz Briones Palacios (8.2.99)
Amparo Guzman (4.2.00)
Gloría Rivas Martinez (10.28.01)
Lourdes Ivette Lucero Campos (1.19.02)
Miriam Soledad Sáenz Acosta (3.28.03)


To name the names of the dead and to write them as poetry is not to aestheticize them; but rather it’s to force the reader to witness the dead; to carry their names in their mouths, to feel their names on their tongues, to understand their names as carrying meaning and life and rhythm and energy. It is to prevent the dead from disappearing permanently. It is to make us confront them as text, which is as close as most of us can get, and to ask us to consider what it means for our bodies to live knowing that these other bodies have been slaughtered, knowing that our own bodies are complicit in their slaughter, knowing that our own lives are, if we care enough to think about it, intricately connected with their deaths. This poetry function goes back beyond Achilles … Below are the names of the 6 people killed and the 43 you already know about.


6 Murdered in Iguala 
Julio César Mondragón Fontes
Daniel Solís Gallardo
Julio César Ramírez Nava
David Josue García Evangelista
Víctor Manuel Lugo Ortiz

43 Disappeared 
Blanca Montiel Sánchez
Abel García Hernández
Abelardo Vázquez Periten
Adán Abrajan de la Cruz
Alexander Mora Venancio
Antonio Santana Maestro
Benjamín Ascencio Bautista
Bernardo Flores Alcaraz
Carlos Iván Ramírez Villarreal
Carlos Lorenzo Hernández Muñoz
César Manuel González Hernández
Christian Alfonso Rodríguez Telumbre
Christian Tomas Colón Garnica
Cutberto Ortíz Ramos
Dorian González Parral
Emiliano Alen Gaspar de la Cruz
Everardo Rodríguez Bello
Felipe Arnulfo Rosas
Giovanni Galindes Guerrero
Israel Caballero Sánchez
Israel Jacinto Lugardo
Jesús Jovany Rodríguez Tlatempa
Jonas Trujillo González
Jorge Álvarez Nava
Jorge Aníbal Cruz Mendoza
Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño
Jorge Luis González Parral
José Ángel Campos Cantor
José Ángel Navarrete González
José Eduardo Bartolo Tlatempa
José Luís Luna Torres
Joshvani Guerrero de la Cruz
Julio César López Patolzin
Leonel Castro Abarca
Luis Ángel Abarca Carrillo
Luis Ángel Francisco Arzola
Magdaleno Rubén Lauro Villegas
Marcial Pablo Baranda
Marco Antonio Gómez Molina
Martín Getsemany Sánchez García
Mauricio Ortega Valerio
Miguel Ángel Hernández Martínez
Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarías
Saúl Bruno García


I owe tons of the above to Daniel Borzutsky, and his “In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Inferno”: magnifique. And it’s just such perfect Hangman material. For which I can only offer 10,000 bows, 10,000 bows. And now, a brief




When A in the A-gauge glass

becomes level with white line,

make more A as follows:

1. Place WET B in glass bamer.

2. Empty one pack of A into

the wet B.

3. Draw off two full measures

of hot boiling C and pour

them over the dry A in the B

(using circular motion).

4. Draw off one FULL measure

of A and repour it into B.

5. Close B between pours.

6. Never make more of A if the

A in A-gauge glass is above

white line.


 If the balloons popped the sound wouldn’t be able to carry since everything would be too far above the correct floor.


 Think of, imagine, devise, a pulse, any you choose, of any design.

 Wrap a live microphone with a very large                                                                                  

sheet of paper. Make a large bundle.                                                                                             

Keep the microphone live for another five minutes.


 The piano bench is tilted on its base and brought to rest against a part of the piano.






           The world becomes the world goes on

the wind crickets                                                                                                                         

knew you                                                                                                                                  

a spider grew out of                                                                                                                      

air moon          blood                                                                                                                

granite movement flowers                                                                                                         eyelash                                                                                                                                  candlestick                                                                                                                              

like daytime stone with grass words                                                                                   motors                                                                                                                                            

to sing lights and numbers                                                                                                             

a hard summons                                                                                                                     

ice hooks                                                                                                                            

meat hooks                                                                                                                               

a living place                                                                                                                                

skin window                                                                                                                            

just feathers across                                                                                                                     

what a high hairy frailty chaos                                                                                                 

“why” is                                                                                                                                     

a large thumb                                                                                                                                  


all sang/wept               underscored by the words of the Goblin Page, “lost, lost, lost” and “found, found, found.” Need I add “the ghosts / whip up with furiousness? Above their holes / they dance and taunt – I planted those beans myself and the tomatoes I ordered the seeds / off the internet and planted them and – ‘We are making some fine universe’, my five-year-old said. ‘Out of what we have. With will.’” “At night, we watch TV together.” “O sorry-ass fish. O melancholy amoeba. / O despondent mold.” Yesterday I consulted a dictionary wanting to know the height of the atmosphere. The column of air that we support weighs no less than seventeen tons. Not far from the word atmosphere, I stopped on Atlixco, a town in Mexico, in the state of Pueblo, at the foot of Popocatepetl. I suddenly imagined myself in the middle of a little town that I thought similar to those of southern Andalusia. In some oblivion, forgotten by the rest of the world, does it persist in itself? Now it persists, the little girls, the poor women, and perhaps in a cluttered room, a sobbing boy, sweating … O world today everywhere twisted with sobs, naively vomiting blood (like someone with TB): on the plains of Poland? I dreamt of summer tanagers last night, and little hippos one foot high in a lake perched in a crater bowl in the mountains where an octopus watched over them. 3 biopsies later, I’m thinking, on the sidelines, about the specific idiomatic practice of given practitioners, as (say) vibraphonist Walt Dickerson of Philadelphia, whose peculiar touch and tone, the velocity and ‘bounce’ he’d get hammering on the bars, he credited in part to his soaking the heads of his mallets in a special solution before approaching the instrument. The animist, though, feels herself to be part of a whispering, bending, whistling, barking universe – meanwhile, back in Manchester, Dr. Drew-Baker was studying laver, nori’s Welsh equivalent. In 1949, she published a paper in Nature outlining her discovery that a tiny algae known as Conchocelis was actually a baby nori or laver, rather than an entirely separate species, as had previously been thought. After reading her research, Japanese scientists quickly developed methods to artificially seed these tiny spores onto strings, and they rebuilt the entire nori industry along the lines under which it still operates today. Although she’s almost unknown in the U.K., Dr. Drew-Baker is known as the “Mother of the Sea” in Japan, and a special “Drew” festival is still held in her honor in Osaka every April 14. This action marked the culmination of a monumental effort that officially began with the Committee’s decision to initiate the Study in March 2009, but which had its roots in an investigation into the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of CIA detainee interrogations that began in December 2007. The full Committee Study, which totals more than 6,700 pages, remains classified but is now an official Senate report. The full report has been provided to the White House, the CIA, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the hopes that it will prevent future coercive interrogation practices and inform the management of other covert action programs. In other words, no more pureed hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisin enemas! All these things happened before 2 pm and after 8 pm. I lay on the wooden benches outside the hot springs, next to the two Korean women who had a similar style of 5 minutes of intense bathing in the hottest pool at the back of the cave then 30 minutes of deep rest. Outside, the crispy ice above the creek melted and froze in the same moment. Walt Whitman took the waters in these caves. Melissa Buzzeo wrote a part of WHAT BEGAN US in these caves. Christine Wertheim ate french fries with extra salt before bathing here. I wish there was a bitter chocolate drink made from beer foam, like a tonic. That I might enjoy. I could eat it from a spoon, from a saucer. The animals were [are] different; some grey and bright bighorn sheep tumbled down a path next to my car. I could see into their twelve eyes. In ways that have concentrated over time, like an environmental toxin. Pink and silver. Will I die in Paris on a Thursday evening when it is raining? No. Or not again.


[Note: Sources: And while some … Saúl Bruno García: Daniel Borzutsky, Pedro Pietri, “Puerto Rican Obituary,” Valerie Martinez, Each and Her, quoted in Borzutzky’s “In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Inferno”, at Harriet, 8 Dec 014; When A … white line: Cornelius Cardew, “Making A”, in Word Events: Perspectives on Verbal Notation (eds. John Lely and James Saunders); If the balloons … correct floor: JD Bransford and MK Johnson, “Considerations of Some Problems of Comprehension”, in Lely and Saunders; Think of, imagine … any design: Christian Wolff, “Looking North”, in Lely and Saunders; wrap a live … five minutes: Takehisa Kosugi, Micro 1”, in Lely and Saunders; The piano bench … part of the piano: George Brecht, “Incidental Music”, in Lely and Saunders; earth … world goes on: John Wieners, “from A BOOK OF PROPHECIES”, quoted in Mark So, “The world becomes the world goes on”, in Lely and Saunders; the wind crickets … , found, found”: JBR, variation on Pierre Joris, “The Rothenberg Variations”, in Joris’ Barzakh (Joris: “The poems are composed following a detournée +7 method: each poem is fbased on word material (each 7th word) of the first 15 poems in JR’s first and latest books.” Joris created 15 variations; I simply took bits from each one, in order, adding only an “a”, a set of quotation marks, and a bit by David Hill Radcliffe at the end re: Walter Scott’s The Lay of the Last Minstrel (from Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry 1579-1830) which echoed in my head because of Joris’ single word “found”. A little homage to PJ and JR); Need I add: JBR; “the ghosts … despondent mold”: Sandra Simonds, “In Reverse Chronological Order, the World Is Formed”, “Come Back!”, “Lincoln Logs”, “Ode to Marriage”, “Young Woman, Prehistoric Mammals Are Not Dinosaurs”, in The Sonnets; Yesterday I consulted … plains of Poland?: Georges Bataille, Guilty (tr. Stuart Kendall); I dreamt of summer … watched over them: Tom Marshall, email rec’d 9 Dec 014 approx 8:48 AM PST; 3 biopsies later: JBR; I’m thinking, on the sidelines … approaching the instrument: Steve Dickison, “Written 1976–2013 by P. Inman”, at Galatea Resurrects 23; The animist … barking universe –: Angela Roothaan, “Anim(al)ism”, —angelaroothaan, 6 Dec 014; meanwhile, back in Manchester … Osaka every April 14: Nicola Twilley, “Gastropod: Kale of the Sea”, at Edible Geography, 9 Dec 014; This action … covert action programs: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program: Executive Summary, at; In other words … enemas!: JBR (I can not make this shit up); All these things … Or not again: Bhanu Kapil, “What can I say?”, at Was Jack Kerouac a Punjabi?, 7 Dec 014]


9 December 2014