Stefan Hyner & Jerome Rothenberg: Vienna & the German tidiness, an exchange & an endnote

Baldur von Schirach, Gauleiter of Vienna, at right, saluting
Baldur von Schirach, Gauleiter of Vienna, at right, saluting

Stefan Hyner

Too hard to get to, they say
10000 mountains made of tears
life is suffering, so easily said
when all possible hands are needed
to calm the memory down

Jerome Rothenberg

Is something left to say
for those who say it
who come into a kind of stillness
in which a scream breaks forth at intervals
& then recedes
leaving a trail of shattered bones
in back of ear
                             & tongue
                                                    & eye
awake forever
in the pain of who we are

Stefan Hyner

Mr. Schirach, Gauleiter of Vienna
-- perl of the 3. Reich --, alone
had 60000 sent
                            to the extermination camps
                            dirt under the carpet, ground
into imperial oak floors

His mother had taught him
how to keep the house clean, but at night
he smelt the tears in the Danube
               drying out his soul
                                        a hairless broom remained
so we take an iron shovel to hell
to extinguish the fire

after Hyner and Picasso
Jerome Rothenberg

“the eye in erection”
knows fear
               a closed door
between him & the devil
not me
              & that cry in extremis
a black fire burning us
night after night
              “I am bagged” says the uncle
who is there in my dream
but escapes me
                                        & sleeping
I only can run down the stairs
at the back of his house
can relive his dream without hope
with the dead always present
the wonder of “someone is here”
“he is calling your name”
“he will kill you”

Stefan Hyner

every word wrangled from
         the eye of Uranus
                  every sound of the world perceived

“We are grown ups,” he sez
“cuz we hurt constantly.”

A fire extinguisher, a pill
to end the pain
                          it’s                      over now
               we had it

                     with        ALL        present at
                      for                                 to behold
                                                            called & callin’

                                        today their voices
                                            were in the thunder

                                                then it calmed

Jerome Rothenberg

the gauleiter & the rabbit
form another segment
of the dream…..their motion thrusts them forward
until he drives his teeth into the other’s neck
purveyor of a custom so within the norm
the world will hardly recognize it
but will say of him as it has always done
the passion of this man to kill he reads as justice
& such justice is the province of the powerful
& pure
              where purity is one with power
& no rabbit will escape the hunter’s trap
now that a gauleiter has spoken
because the murderers are there in every generation
& the spray that cleans the flesh out of his teeth
will still keep running as the rabbits will
will leave the country bare without a trace
until the other gauleiters come riding in
to stoke his fires
it will be the way we saw him once & froze
a man of an uncertain size
dimensions hidden colder than a stone
his shadow flattened out against a wall
the children in his dream
fused to a single child
a rabbit running backwards
with his finger on the spring he brings them down

Stefan Hyner

Another segment of the dream
holds him by the neck
                there is nothing for this world
to recognize, as it has always done
(behind closed eyes
pure & just
                       all shadows fuse
                      into bare landscapes, while
the murderers clean
each others teeth
                                & step over
                                the bloody bag of progress
                                to dream up another world

A Lesson
Jerome Rothenberg

to leave this world & not to know it
more than we did at birth to know
the mystery of murder not a mystery
with us forever
                                         where the wall
enclosing us begins to burn
the eye spins in its socket
men with hammers change the faces
of those we love        they drag them
slithering & pale behind their wheels
they make a vortex for the restless dead
a tide of blood to wade through
where the sleeper says: it is too cold
he says: my hand is looking for a hand
he says: the paper has erased its words
& fallen dumb
he says: I do not know my name
he says: my name is no name
when we ask about the lesson of his death
he says: a lesson learned by rote
is not a lesson

NOTE. Stefan Hyner is a poet of remarkable means, living where he grew up – in Brühl-Rohrhof, near Heidelberg – with connections & interconnections far beyond his original home. I first met him sometime in the middle 1990s & felt an immediate friendship & a wide range of shared concerns. Some of these concerns involved poets & friends we had in common, largely those around the poet & artist Franco Beltrametti, many of whom Stefan was then publishing in his largely English-language magazine Gate. I was as much taken by his English poetry & his Buddhist practice & Chinese scholarship as by anything else I knew about him. He also took on the translation into German of some poems from my Holocaust-centered book,Khurbn, & its extension into a series of gematria-based poems, 14 Stations [14 Stationen], published in 2000 by Ralf Zühlke’s Stadt Lichter Presse in Berlin.

It was from those translations that the idea came to him for an exchange of poems that would allow us to carry our mutual concerns with issues of holocaust & human brutishness into the immediate present. At the time, if I remember correctly, the question of Israel & Palestine was in its Oslo phase, with Ariel Sharon & the second Intifada [& all that followed] still in the shadows, so didn’t enter the poems as (for both of us) a deeply troubling issue. And the collaboration – the poems – went up to a certain point & never reached the scale that we had originally intended. I remain interested, certainly, in how a common language or poetry breaks through in them, something with which I’m fully at ease, as I hope he is also. It is a collaboration, anyway, in which the two of us can work together & can co-exist as who we are.

The preceding, with an important note by Hyner selbst, was originally published in Sawako Nakayasu’s Factorial magazine in 2003. At the conclusion of his note he writes: “I do think that collaborations between people w/so-called different cultural backgrounds can show that human beings are very well able to coexist w/out the threat of violence & the display of power. That despite all arguments to the contrary mutual aid, & to me a collaboration is nothing else but exactly this, is the dominant factor of life & not the crazy idea of an out of touch anarchist.”