Gematria (3) :"In the Shadow"

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:14 AM 0 comments



made it happen.

Chance = 310.

Gematria – a form of traditional Jewish numerology – plays off the fact that every letter of the Hebrew alphabet is also a number, and that words or phrases the sums of whose letters are equal are at some level meaningfully connected. In the course of compiling A Big Jewish Book, I came across a number of traditional combinations of words associated (usually in pairs) through gematria, and I juxtaposed one of the words with the other so as to form miniature poems. A few years later I came across Gutman G. Locks’s The Spice of Torah – Gematria, which offers easy access to the numerical value of every word in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. With its more than three hundred pages of Hebrew word lists translated into English words and phrases, I began to construct new poems based on combinations that I discovered or that I calculated on my own. Unlike the traditionalists of gematria, I have seen these coincidences / synchronicities not as hermeneutic substantiations for religious and ethical doctrines, but as an entry into the kinds of correspondences / constellations that have been central to modernist and “post”modernist poetry experiments over the last century and a half. I have proceeded in these works in several different ways: by using one word or word-phrase as title and others (numerically equivalent) as poem; by using the gematria number as a title and constructing poems of single lines and/or stanzas of two or several lines that fall under or add up to that number; and occasionally by using a freer selection of words brought to my attention by gematria, but combining and adding to them with considerably more freedom of choice. To the degree that all such works are substantially aleatory, they are full of surprises that have added greatly to my own excitement in the act of writing.

“In the Shadow”

Without God

Without terror.


Gematria 372

A Week.


My Heart (1)


My Heart (2)



The Sign

I see
a word / spoken.


In the Shadow (1)

A womb
he devours.

In the Shadow (2)

I am


for Charles Reznikoff

The light.
The terror.



Your beautiful

at the entry.


A Fountain (1)

An eye.

A Fountain (2)

Shall I hide?


A Window

& forward.


Colors (1)


Colors (2)

His red


The Candlestick / The Fire

The yellow
like a god.


A Vision (1)

Beat it with power..

A Vision (2)

is crushed.



& a double.


The City





Flesh (1)

An ark
& a worm.

Flesh (2)

& bitter.


The Rock



A Curse

Your father
shall live.


A Cloud (1)

In wood.

A Cloud (2)




or enough.


Cities, Cities

& speckled.

A tree
fallen down.


My country
a fire




The Voice (1)

will answer.

The Voice (2)

A voice.

[Originally published in J.R., Gematria, Sun & Moon Press (1993) & scheduled for republication in a revised edition, Gematria Complete, by Marick Press in Michigan.]

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Urns and sarcophagi
pagans paint into life,
dancing fauns,
dancing bands of bacchantes,
bright lines of them,
goatfooted, fatcheeked,
squeeze sounds
hot & wild
through brass horns,
percussions & cymbals
blare out,
we see & hear
on the marble
birds beating wings,
sweet taste of the fruit
on your beaks,
no noise to frighten
still less to drive Eros away
who joins the bright crowds
hoisting his torch.
So bounty overcomes death
& the ashes within
in the house made of silence
still find pleasure in life.
Some day
may the tomb of the poet
be graced
with this scroll
he has richly bejewelled
with life.


Tight little alleyway – no room
to squeeze between its walls –
a young girl blocks my way,
my rambles around Venice
knocks me off my feet,
the place, the come-on
to a stranger’s eye,
a wide canal my drifting
takes me to. If you
had girls like your canals,
o Venice, cunts
like little alleyways, you’d be
the greatest city in the world.


what bothers me is this:
the way Bettina gets to be so skillful
every limb in her body
grows looser & looser
till she can stick her own little tongue
up her own little cunt
a charmer who tastes her own charms
will soon lose all interest in men.


Is it so big a mystery
what god and man and world are?
No! but nobody knows how to solve it
so the mystery hangs on.


Lots of things I can stomach. Most of what irks me
I take in my stride, as a god might command me.
But four things I hate more than poisons & vipers:
tobacco smoke, garlic, bedbugs, and Christ.


Doesn’t surprise me that Christ our Lord
preferred to live with whores
& sinners, seeing
I go in for that myself.


I could have made it just as well with boys
although my thing has always been with girls.
And once I get my satisfaction with a girl
I can turn her around & have her as a boy.


Not schwanz meaning “tail”
but some fancier word
o Priapus
me being a poet
in German
that word grinds me down.
In Greek I can call you
a phallos a marvelous
sound to my ears
and in Latin mentula
from mens meaning “mind”
another good word.
But schwanz is something
that sticks out from behind
& behind isn’t where
I find pleasure.

Translation from German by Jerome Rothenberg

[These translations will appear – in somewhat modified form – in Poems for the Millennium, volume 3: The University of California Book of Romantic & Postromantic Poetry, gathered by myself & Jeffrey Robinson & scheduled for publication in January. Our commentary on Goethe appeared in this blog on June 24.]

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George Economou: From & About Cavafy

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 4:58 AM 0 comments
[The following group of translations of poems by Cavafy and commentary has been drawn from a lecture entitled “Adventures In Translation Land,” given at Tel Aviv University as the annual Nadav Vardi lecture on May 29, 2008, and on June 1, 2008, in the English Staff Seminar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.]

I first started reading Cavafy in the original in 1957 during my first visit to Greece, have continued to do so to the present day, and will surely do so for the rest of my days. The fact that I did not turn to translating his poems until some thirty years later never particularly mystified me, though once I started I did occasionally wonder why it took me so long. I believe I was too busy being quietly enriched and influenced by Cavafy in ways that have persisted in surprising me, ways that also accorded with my realization that the time had come to write my own Cavafy translations. Hence the title for this excerpt:


Among the first of Cavafy’s poems I ventured to render into English is the title poem of my second small collection of poetry by him that is now in press, “Half an Hour.” Because this poem, written in 1917, was never published by the poet during his lifetime, presumably because of its homoerotic connotations, it has always been presented as one of his “Unpublished Poems,” and even ignored by the inexcusably ignorant. Ironically, there is nothing in the original Greek, and consequently in my translation of it, that assigns a specific gender to the individual addressed.

Half an Hour

Never made it with you and don't expect
I will. Some talk, a slight move closer,
as in the bar yesterday, nothing more.
A pity, I won't deny. But we artists
now and then by pushing our minds
can––but only for a moment––create
a pleasure that seems almost physical.
That's why in the bar yesterday––with the help
of alcohol's merciful power––I had
a half-hour that was completely erotic.
I think you knew it and
stayed on purpose a little longer.
That was really necessary. Because
with all my imagination and spell of the drinks,
I just had to see your lips,
had to have your body near.

A friend in Norman, Oklahoma, printed elegant postcards of this poem, which I thumbtacked alongside other literary and artistic curios on the front door of my office for the purpose of student edification when I was teaching at the University of Oklahoma. I lost count of the number of times I had to replace it there after it was ripped off, carefully I trust, by passing students whose eyes were hooked by the poem and who, I imagined, may have also perceived it as an aid to their own amatory ambitions. May their drafting of Cavafy as a kind of Cyrano de Bergerac into their campaigns to achieve true bliss have resulted in greater successes than the secret desires of either of these famous real and fictive poets ever did. Still, if ignorance is bliss, the pettily larcenous young lovers, whether winners or losers in their games of love, came out ahead.

The next two poems illustrate a theme that pervades much of Cavafy’s poetry, his unique perspective of the human condition through the trifocal lens of eros, memory, and art. Many of Cavafy’s poems deal specifically with the difficulties of the artist and poet, most notably the problem of the effects of time upon the artist’s ability to memorialize in his work a person or experience, invariably recalled for their erotic significance, for which he cares profoundly.

Craftsman of Wine Bowls

On this wine bowl of pure silver––
made for the house of Herakleides,
where grand style and good taste rule––
observe the elegant flowers, streams and thyme,
in whose midst I set a handsome young man,
naked, amorous, with one leg still
dangling in the water.–– O memory, I prayed
for your best assistance in making
the young man's face I loved the way it was.
A great difficulty this proved because
about fifteen years have passed since the day
he fell, a soldier, in the defeat at Magnesia.

In this poem from 1921, in which the personal and the political, the private and the public subtly intersect, the artist, working on a commission by a great family, has the power nonetheless to insinuate his individual celebration of his love as he simultaneously experiences the eroding effects of time upon his memory of that love. That the craftsman persona dates his loss by the critical battle fought in 190 B.C.E. that marks the onset of Roman dominance in the Hellenized East, provides an ironic historical context that may be more meaningful to the reader of this poem than to its speaker. Relative chronological proximity to the battle of Magnesia provides the speaker with poignancy, chronological distance provides the reader with ironic perspective. Perhaps the human dimensions of this context are large enough to accommodate the poet himself and us as well, revealing all of us as participants in our own private situations, full of passion and loss, and subject to historical forces that we are fated to understand only partially. Yet these pathetic, often tragic, conditions can be intermittently dignified by art’s attempt to record their sincerity and intensity.

A work that represents the consummate formulation of this rich and central aspect of Cavafy’s writing, “According to the Recipes of Ancient Greco-Syrian Magicians,” a late poem printed in 1931 two years before his death, is itself the answer to the question it states.

"What distillate of magic herbs
can I find," said an aesthete,
"what distillate according to the recipes
of ancient Greco-Syrian magicians
that for a day (if its power
won't last longer) or for just a moment
will bring back my age of twenty-three,
my friend of twenty-two,
bring back––his beauty and his love.

"What distillate can I find according to the recipes
of ancient Greco-Syrian magicians
that, in keeping with this retrospect,
will bring back our little room."

With almost every Cavafian persona, including the autobiographical one, neatly subsumed in this undiluted common denominator of an “aesthete,” Cavafy makes the essential case for poetry, for searching out the knowledge of past masters, denoted by “Greco-Syrian magicians,” in order to describe as objectively as possible the quest to which he has dedicated his life in art. If the recipes to be followed can be construed as tradition and the precious distillate as the individual work of art––an interpretation I believe the discourse of the poem supports––how are we to apprehend its singular power, extracted by ancient prescriptions from “magic herbs,” if not by experiencing the poem in its totality, as a work of art, as defined by Paul Valéry, “constraining language to interest the ear directly”? Ever since I first read this poem aloud, it has occupied a place in my private anthology of poems great with sound. So it was reassuring to learn some years later that George Seferis considered it one of the most beautiful poems in the Greek language, an observation that redeems him in my eyes for having also remarked that Cavafy’s poetry is as prosaic as an “endless plain.” Surely as some things can’t be bought or taught (or completely carried over from one language into another), this poem’s greatness resides in the highest realization of its sense through its maker’s inimitable mastery of the sounds of his own special brand of Greek.

[George Economou’s most recent books are Acts of Love, Ancient Greek Poetry from Aphrodite’s Garden (New York: Random House/ Modern Library, 2006) and I’ve Gazed So Much, C. P. Cavafy Translations (London: Stop Press, 2001). Half an Hour, a second collection of Economou’s translations from Cavafy, has just been issued by Stop Press, and his ultimate adventure in translation, Ananios of Kleitor, will be published by Shearsman in 2009. During the 1960s he was the co-editor, with Robert Kelly of the magazine Trobar and has been an active poet, translator & scholar ever since.]

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Axe and animal, all able
but bleeding by blunt barbarisms
creep cowering cunningly, craggily cancelled:
death does dutiful debts, defers
even evening’s edges. Eleven eagles
fly furiously. Four foxes, furred,
gorgeously groomed, grow grandiose, groan
however hard. Headstrong hedonists, hairy
islanders in Italy, idiot inmates,
jeer Jewish jugglers, judicious Jainists,
Kantian killers, kowtowing krazy kat
lawyers, lesbian ladies, lowborn, lamenting,
mad mothers made masculine, mammals
no nereids nuzzle, not nymphs
or oracles, only on oceans
pretending. Passengers plumb plangent prows,
quote quaint quintessences, quarreling, queezy,
religious reformers return. Russian rabbis,
some sinister, sample smoked salmons.
Travelers, too tawdry, telegraph testaments,
upload unnatural utterances. Useless utopians
vilify violent videos, volatile, vain
with whatever webmails we waken:
x-rays, xerography, xanadus, xenophobes x-ed.
Yet you yearn, youthful yammerers,
zygotes zonked zigzagging, zealfully zapped.

c. 1978/2008

[A portion of this poem was recovered, along with numerous others, for a volume of Uncollected Poems to be published by Mark Weiss and Junction Press. The lines in italics were subsequently added.]

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Shaking the Pumpkin (2): Some Event Pieces

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 9:46 AM 0 comments


After having a dream, let someone else guess what it was. Then have everybody act it out together.

Have participants run around the center of a village, acting out their dreams & demanding that others guess & satisfy them.


Start by giving away different colored glass bowls.

Have everyone give everyone else a glass bowl.

Give away handkerchiefs and soap and things like that.

Give away a sack of clams and a roll of toilet paper.

Give away teddybear candies, apples, suckers and oranges.

Give away pigs and geese and chickens, or pretend to do so.

Pretend to be different things.

Have the women pretend to be crows, have the men pretend to be something else.

Talk chinese or something.

Make a narrow place at the entrance of a house and put a line at the end of it that you have to stoop under to get in.

Hang the line with all sorts of pots and pans to make a big noise.

Give away frying pans while saying things like “Here is this frying pan worth $100 and this one worth $200.”

Give everyone a new name.

Give a name to a grandchild or think of something and go and get everything.


1. A shaman has a dream & names a child for what he dreams in it. Among such names are Circling Light, Rushing Light Beams, Daylight Comes, Wind Rainbow, Wind Leaves, Rainbow Shaman, Feather Leaves, A-Rainbow-as-a-Bow, Shining Beetle, Singing Dawn, Hawk-Flying-over-Water-Holes, Flowers Trembling, Chief-of-Jackrabbits, Water-Drops-on-Leaves, Short Wings, Leaf Blossoms, Foamy Water.

2. A person receives a name describing something odd about him, always on the bad side. Such names include: Grasshopper-Ate-His-Arrow, Gambler, Ass-Side-to-the-Fire, Pants-Fall-Down, Blisters, Fish-Smell-Mouth, Bed Wetter, Rat Ear, Yellow Legs.

3. A person receives a name describing something odd & sexual about the namer. Here the namer is a woman or a transvestite, who makes the name public by shouting it after the man named when others are present. The man invariably accepts it & is regularly called by it, even by his wife & family. Such names include: Down-Dangling-Pussy-Hairs, Big Cunt, Long Asshole.

4. A group of namers gathers around a dead enemy & shouts abusive names at the body. These names are then given to the shouters. They include: Long Bones, Full-of-Dirt, Back-of-a-Wildcat, Yellow Face, & Gold Breasts, the latter spoken of a girl.

5. A person buys a name or trades names with another person. For example, Devil-Old-Man exchanges names with Contrary, or Looking-for-Girls-at-a-Dance changes with Big Crazy, but has to give him four pints of whiskey in addition because of the desirability of the name.


1. Act like a crazy dog. Wear sashes & other fine clothes, carry a rattle, & dance along the roads singing crazy dog songs after everybody else has gone to bed.

2. Talk crosswise: say the opposite of what you mean & make others say the opposite of what they mean in return.

3. Fight like a fool by rushing up to an enemy & offering to be killed. Dig a hole near an enemy, & when the enemy surrounds it, leap out at them & drive them back.

4. Paint yourself white, mount a white horse, cover its eyes & make it jump down a steep & rocky bank, until both of you are crushed.


Go to a lonely place & rub a stone in a circle on a rock for hours & days on end.


Let the person who wants a vision hang himself by the neck. When his face turns purple, take him down & have him describe what he’s seen.


Go to a mountaintop & cry for a vision.


Here, as earlier in Technicians of the Sacred, the editor has taken a series of rituals & other programmed activities & has, as far as possible, suppressed all reference to accompanying mythic or "symbolic" explanations. This has led to two important results: (1) the form of the activities is, for the first time, given the prominence it deserves; & (2) the resulting works bear a close resemblance to those mythless activities of our own time called events, happenings, de-coll/age, kinetic theater, etc. It may be further noted that most of these "events" – like the (modern) intermedia art they resemble – are parts of total situations involving poetry, music, dance, painting, myth, dream, etc., as are many of the songs & visions presented elsewhere in this anthology. But a crucial point of tribal poetry- &-art is precisely that it calls for total performance & participation: a maximization of human activities to allow the world to remake itself at that level of intensity ( = reality at white heat) that [anthropologist Paul] Radin spoke of.

[Originally printed as part of a larger “Book of Events” in Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas. The book, first published by Doubleday in 1972 & last by University of New Mexico Press in 1986 & 1992, has now been out of print for several years. While I’ve been engaged with other projects, big & small, I haven’t been able to work toward getting it back in print. But that may now be changing. – J.R.]

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Selection from Wordsworth Day by Day: Reading His Work into Poetry Now, by Jeffrey C. Robinson. Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 2005.

[He writes] : This book is a diary that I kept for a year on the poetry of Wordsworth, mostly in diary format but at times breaking into a poetry of deformation or improvisation from Wordsworth’s own texts (with a few brief phrases from George Oppen’s Daybooks). Here the entry begins as diary-commentary on the quoted passage from The Prelude and then swings open into poetry.

November 20, 2002

Thus were my sympathies enlarged, and thus
Daily the common range of visible things
Grew dear to me: already I began
To love the sun; a boy I loved the sun,
Not as I since have loved him, as a pledge
And surety of our earthly life, a light
Which we behold and feel we are alive;
Not for his bounty to so many worlds—
But for this cause, that I had seen him lay
Its beauty on the morning hills, had seen
The western mountain touch his setting orb
In many a thoughtless hour, when from excess
Of happiness, my blood appeared to flow
For its own pleasure, and I breathed with joy.

Stammering: love the sun/loved the sun/ since have loved him

Moments of intense pressure in Wordsworthian blank verse in which memory of past made conscious and full of significance torques the sentences of the present—not recollected in tranquility, not a smooth surface of a stream. The passage is at once patient in its meandering elaboration, exploratory—poetics lines like a snake moving through the grass, or something that “creates itself”—independent of the “I” that initiates its motion, but also has turbulent disorientations (which may be related to the sentence’s self-creations) perhaps registered in the double personification of the sun laying His beauty on the morning and the western mountain—as if in a subsequent gesture of a peopled universe that includes the mobile sentence—touching the sun’s setting orb. Stammering marks the disruption to the chronological narrative of sentences, a voice caught in a thickening vision of a boy immersed and stretched and imbued with utterances and agencies beyond himself. But since stammering belongs to the poetic speaker, it reflects a view that at such moments of spiritual intensity the temporal separation is squeezed down to a condition of turbulent pressures in the lively vibrating, precarious sentence, which, it could be said, appears—like the speaker’s blood—to “flow at its own pleasure.” Here Wordsworth’s blank verse eschews the future-orientedness of that day when we will all be “free-standing agents,” not “reclining poets” in touch with nature and reveries, but rather “aufrechter Gang” (in an upright posture of the citizen), in which our agency will flow like the most assured, and transparent, of enjambed pentamenter lines; instead it stammers, calling attention to its materiality in the present, its ungainly reality.

The Life of Things (from The Prelude)

I was seventeen. I conversed conversed conversed with bliss ineffable coercive transferred sentiment of being and auxiliary light spread o’er spread o’er spread o’er beating living spreading gliding beneath wave and air life and knowledge and wave of air and melodious light with blessings spread around

Half an hour I watched between mute with independent life (dust as we are) watched forms half an hour watched spreading archetype of numerous accidents watched ghastly forms breathless

I looked round ere I had been I left and saw I repaired and returned repaired ere I bowed low I should need. . .words. . .looked stumbling difficult dweller at bottom difficult and dreary stumbling invested vexed and tossed the girl blowing vexed and tossed

I cannot paint nor paint colors no colors and words unknown sense of thinking beyond what I already know or what
Someone already
Knows is terrifying
words vexed and tossed unknown I cannot paint visionary
dreariness in which but the girl gone bones shaped like a grave

that things of the lower
world exist
the world moves and remains

naked pool

emotion which discloses

words vexed and
scattered hair

dreary the vision already
“winter of the book”

strong enchantment of
dying away of stars
I turn
in gusty days

fell destroyer

with gentle powers
slipping still hanging

from knotgrass
guided almost silent

strain of music

my mortal life on plain beneath gliding beneath the wave, now naked pool that lay lonely scene beneath hills dim dim abode faint memorial gleam of dim similitude having lain I register reascend bare slope trace

glittering idly
a cabinet of sensations

passion its birth
let the fiddler
scream in twink-
ling of stars

* * * * *

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for Charlie Morrow

Scene One

Jews in a ring.
Jews on a rollercoaster.
Jews who sing in a ring.
They are & they sing about everything.
Old Jews who do what they do they sing & they ride on a rollercoaster they sing in a ring & young Jews do too who move by ones & by twos they ride to the sky & over the sky they ride in Italy over the sky & on the sky Jews on a rollercoaster do who ride over Italy on a ride to the sky.

First Jew
[in black face & puffing on a stogie]
I am a Jew I am a Jew too & I have come to Italy to ride on the sky & to be blue oh yes blue yes blue blue.

Second Jew
[a pirate with a gold ring in one ear]
Over the sky in a rollercoaster I too who am a Jew & who say blow me away & shiver my timbers sweetly yes sweet my sweet Jewish timbers.

Third Jew
[in a feather bonnet he is an Indian tomahawk & all]
Yes yes I have come all the way to Italy to be a Jew like you oh like you yes yes like you I ride on a rollercoaster over the sky.

Fourth Jew
[majestically dressed he is dressed as the statue of liberty in a long gown & with a glowing torch]
I have left the golden land & I have a torch in my hand in my precious Jewish hand I have come to land in Italy too & to ride on the sky like you.

Fifth Jew
[a wolf mask over his face & a shepherd's crook in his hand]
Am I not a Jew if I am not a Jew what am I, but if an animal can be a Jew I am one too.

Sixth Jew
[in the clothes of an Arab or maybe of a patriarchal Jew]
I am a true Jew true & blue & I say barakh hu to everyone I see in Italy & here too.

Seventh Jew
[wears a military costume with medals on his chest & a cockade on his head]
A Jew who says one two & two knows one & two & can do whaever I do, he can ride on a rollercoaster & dance yes a Jew can dance too in advance of a rollercoaster.

Eighth Jew
[a faggot]
A Jew like me in Italy is a Jew & is a faggot too like me yes anyone who comes to Italy can be a Jew & he can ride on a rollercoaster on the sky & so I am true & blue.

Ninth Jew
[spherical & round he rolls across the floor]
I cannot say barakh hu & yet I am a Jew nevertheless & this is true.

Tenth Jew
But Abulafia who is a Jew is different too. He is the first to sing & the first to come to Italy. He is the first to meet the king the true Italian king & the first to meet the pope the way I do. He is the first in war the first in peace & the first in the hearts of his countrymen.

[The true Italian king comes in he is dressed like George Washington & rides on a bicycle.]

Chorus & Jews
He is King.
He matters.
He is King.
He forgives.
He is King
He is King.
He attends a wedding.
He is King.
He attends a decision.
He attends.
He attends.
He dances.
We see.
He is King.
We siphon.
The inheritors dance.
He matters.
He is King.
We attend a wedding.
He is King.
He is King.
He forgives.

This is a scene.

In a garden.

In Italy.

What is your name.


You have come a long way. What is your name, I pray, I pray.

My name is buried in a hat.
[He looks for it.]
Yes it is Abulafia. See. It is Abraham Abulafia.

I see & do you sit beside me.

Yes I do. Thank you I do.

I am a king.

I see that & I thank you too.

But I am a hidden king though I am most true.

Do not forget the penpoint when you do.

No but I forget the world in bits & pieces.

[Abulafia reads from a book.]

Will you read to me from a book.

Thank you, I pray & I pray. I will read to you from a book.

Begin here

Yes here.

[He begins to read aloud. The other Jews circle around him.]

Here is here now & here is here now & here is here now. And here. He does & does he sing between the curtains. Yes it says. A herd of horses crosses through his hall & circles. In a ring. What is his book called. It is called the Book of Witness. See. The little y is where his name is. It is here & here. Oh yes cries Abulafia & do it once. Once here & one here. One is called a king & two is called a king's king & three is called a king's king once. Four is fourth & goes forth to a door. He opens to begin a door. And five. Five is on a hand & is a herd of horses. Six are Jews & brightly. Seven is a proposition. Eight is also nine. And Abulafia again is ten & goes forth to a door.

[He passes the book to the first Jew.]

First Jew
He goes forth to a door. Here is Barcelona where the trip begins.

Second Jew
Begin is pleasing. Capri is rich with fish & goyim. If you can do mileage with a pencil others will find the way.

Third & Fourth Jews
When they say they say. When a month is far away they say the gay month.

Fifth Jew
Jews kiss Jews. A gay month. He is on his way to Rome.

Sixth Jew
Two Jews are on their way to Rome. One is gay & one is in golf shoes. The other is in despair.

Seventh Jew
A king a garden & a violin. The door before the Pope is open to a door. A door swings shut so sadly sadly.

Eighth Jew
Two Jews in golf shoes. Two Jews in paper hats. My hat is launched. To see the King first is to be with kisses.

Ninth Jew
Two Jews in tears. One bows before you. One is the other's keeper. The Messiah is the one called the Messiah.

Now Abulafia puts down the book. He is all smiles. The King is charmed by him & the Jews are irreversible. Abulafia winces. His right leg feels the skateboard still in place. Ring a rubber bell for me. He rings it. The house in Italy leads to a rollercoaster in the sky. A Jew lights a cheroot & feels a small decline. I let the King peak through my glasses. See oh yes I see. A wise Jew pisses in a tub. He rubs her ivories with lemons, then descends. Dance One: The King in Limbo. Strike a pose. Repose. Disclose. Expose. A thin Jew swings a shoe. Dance Two: The King is talking to his telephone. Where is the Pope is he in Rome of course the Pope would be in Rome. And the Messiah. Tell oh tell is the Messiah in the garden in which he fell.

King & Abulafia
Yes he is here oh yes yes he is here & here before a garden.

[The first scene of an opera conceived & planned with composer Charlie Morrow but never finished beyond the first two scenes nor ever put into production. Abulafia selbst (1240-c.1291) was a great mystic & master of a species of meditation that took the form, often enough, of a kind of mystical lettrism. In 1280, responding to a dream or vision, he set out for Rome to convert the Pope (Nicolas III) & to proclaim himself the Jewish messiah. Threatened with execution he was thrown into prison but saved by the sudden death of the pope himself. Some of his lettristic work, translated by me and Harris Lenowitz, appeared in A Big Jewish Book: Poems & Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to Present (a.k.a. Exiled in the Word), still in print from Copper Canyon Press.]

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Shaking the Pumpkin (1): Four Poems for Coyote

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 9:25 AM 0 comments

(by Simon Ortiz)

Old Coyote …
“If he hadn’t looked back
everything would have been okay
… like he wasn’t supposed to,
but he did,
and as soon as he did, he lost all his power,
his strength.”

“… you know, Coyote
is in the origin and all the way
through … he’s the cause
of the trouble, the hard times
that things have …”

“Yet, he came so close
to having it easy,
But he said,
“Things are just too easy …”
Of course he was mainly bragging,
shooting his mouth.
The existential Man,
Dostoevsky Coyote.

. . . . . . .


One day when Coyote
was walking through Snoqualmie Pass,
he met a young woman.

What do you have in your pack?
she said.

Fish eggs.

Can I have some?

If you close your eyes
and hold up your dress.

The woman did as she was told.

Hold your dress over your head.

Then Coyote stepped out of his trousers
and walked up to the woman.

Stand still
so I can reach the place.

I can't.
There's something crawling between my legs.

Keep your dress up.
It's a bumble bee. I'll get it

The woman dropped her dress.

You weren't fast enough.
It stung me.

English version by Carl Cary


In the old times women's cunts had teeth in them.
It was hard to be a man then.
Watching your squaw squat down to dinner.
Hearing the little rabbit bones crackle.
Whenever fucking was invented it died with the inventor.
If your woman said she felt like biting you didn't take it lightly.
Maybe you just ran away to fight Numuzoho the Cannibal.

Coyote was the one who fixed things.
He fixed those toothy women!
One night he took Numuzoho's lava pstle
To bed with a mean woman
And hammer hammer crunch crunch ayi ayi
All night long.
"Husband, I am glad," she said
And all the rest is history.
To honor him we wear our necklace of fangs.

English version by Jarold Ramsey

Nez Perce

Ravening Coyote comes,
red hands, red mouth,
necklace of eye-balls!

Mad Coyote
madly sings,
then the wind roars!

Daybreak finds me,
eastern daybreak finds me
the meaning of that song:
with blood-stained mouth
comes mad Coyote!

Translation by Herbert J. Spinden


Coyote appears here & elsewhere in the familiar role of primordial shit-thrower, cock-erupter, etc., to satisfy the need for all that in the full pantheon of essential beings. No merely horny version of a Disney character, he is (like other tricksters in tribal America: Rabbit, Raven, Spider, Bluejay, Mink, Flint, Glooscap, Saynday, etc.) the product of a profound & comic imagination playing upon the realities of man & nature. Thus, as Jung writes about the Winnebago Trickster in that now-famous essay: he is “absolutely undifferentiated human consciousness … a psyche that has hardly left the animal level … [but] god, man and animal at once … both sub- and super-human … an expression [therefore] of the polaristic structure of the psyche, which like any other energic system is dependent on the tension of opposites.” Like any genuine poetry system too.

The good-of-him, which should be more apparent after the “counter culture” [now forty years & more in the past – J.R.], is at least three-fold:

(1) to find a place for what – as animals, children, etc. – we were & are: to be aware of, even to enjoy, the very thing that scares us with threats of madness, loss of self, etc.

(2) to ridicule our ordinary behaviors by breaking (vicariously at least) their hold on us: to punch holes in established authority ( = the way things are) so as not to be its forever silent victims.

(3) where Trickster is creator too, to explain the dangers inherent in reality itself – of a world, that is, that must have such gods at its inception: or as an old Ten’a Indian said to John Chapman: “The Creator made all things good, but the Raven ( = Trickster) introduced confusion.”

[Originally printed in Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas. The book, first published by Doubleday in 1972 & last by University of New Mexico Press in 1986 & 1992, has now been out of print for several years. While I’ve been engaged with other projects, big & small, I haven’t been able to work toward getting it back in print. But that may now be changing, & in the meantime excerpts will continue here. – J.R.]

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[From Eugene Jolas, "Pan-Romanticism in Atomic Age," Transition Workshop, ed. Eugene Jolas, New York: Vangard Press, 1949, pp. 393-395.]

If there exists a single unifying line traversing the entire activity of Transition, it might be called pan-romanticism. Many of the writers whose original or translated work appeared in the twenty-seven numbers of the review belonged to that heritage of visionaries which was epitomized by the continuous attempt to find a synthesis through philosophical and philological transformation. Transition contained elements of gothic, romantic, baroque, mystic, expressionist, Dada, surrealist, and, finally, verticalist modes of thinking. In the last phase it tried to blend these traditions into a cosmic, four-dimensional consciousness.

Most of the writers were aware that the social convulsions of the epoch could be exorcised only through psychic freedom. In this striving towards a magic idealism, some of them sought the re-definition of old terms that had become exhausted and overladen with a contradictory aura. They invented new words for the expression of newly discovered areas of the psyche. In the war against all forms of totalitarian nihilism, they strove for complete liberation of the creative mind.

James Joyce pursued a pan-romantic objective by breaking through archaic literary forms. He explored the mythic unconscious of his heroes and invented a new language of many dimensions. Ernest Hemingway is a pan-romantic in that he searches for geographical and spiritual realities which will transfigure the nostalgia for love and death. André Breton is a pan-romantic in that he has continued Gérard de Nerval's and Achim von Arnim's descent into the abyss of chimeras and liberated the imagination by applying Freud's theory of free association and automatic writing. Franz Kafka was a pan-romantic in that he recognized Kierkegaard's doctrine of existential fear as a basic emotion and presented man's tortured migration towards the light as the will to escape from the prison of existence. Dylan Thomas is a pan-romantic because of his metamorphosis of Welsh folklore, his use of the myth of man's renascence, and the wealth of his metaphor.
Romanticism was presented in Transition as early as 1928, by translations of Novalis, Jean Paul, Hölderlin and others of this epoch. The Hymns to the Night [Novalis], which I translated into English in 1929, do not sing of the bitter conflict between the finite and the infinite but grow out of a certainty of redemption, a spiritualization of the sensual, in which the real and the transcendental worlds interpenetrate. Preoccupation with the nocturnal was a characteristic of the early romantics, for whom the dream and the daydream, the fairy tale and the fable constituted sources of a future literature. To them poetry and life were identical. This may have been mere Schwärmerei, as the philistines insist, but it was also an attempt to demolish the dualism of spirit and nature, of the I and the non-I.

After periods of realism and naturalism, the romantic idea came to life again in the great symbolist movement of Mallarmé. It ended in the dream-monologues of Maeterlinck's plays. (Maeterlinck, it should be recalled, was the first to translate Novalis's The Disciples at Sais into French.) There were neo-romantic movements in both France and Germany in the early years of the twentieth century, but not until the explosion of the first World War did a modern form of romanticism, under the aegis of Freud and the psychoanalytical school of Zurich, foster the magical operation of the inner world again. Such expressionists as Franz Werfel, Georg Trakl, Carl Einstein, and others, presented a frontal attack against naturalistic materialism and made possible a revolution of the soul. They liberated both form and language and reintroduced the metaphysical and the numinous into life and art.

Dada was born in Zurich in 1915, when Hugo Ball, a German poet, Tristan Tzara, a Franco-Romanian poet, Hans Arp, an Alsation poet and sculptor, and Richard Huelsenbeck, a German poet, along with a few others, gathered at the Café [Cabaret] Voltaire for readings and lectures. The wild irrationalism of their utterances expressed their insurgence against a war-mad world. Looking for a suitable appellation, Ball and Huelsenbeck chose the word dada, which they found quite by chance in a Franco-German dictionary. They invented sonorist verses and developed an antiliterary style in which the absurd was the quintessential element. The war ended, the movement soon reached Paris. By this time Hugo Ball had withdrawn, having returned to the quietism of his Catholic faith. With the early dadaists, language was a method of conjuration, and their poems – especially in the case of Arp's verbal phantasmagoria – became fairy tales in sound.

Surrealism, under the leadership of André Breton, continued the irrationalism of Dada, but systematized its antidoctrinary elements into a rigid dogmatism. It was based on certain romantic and post-romantic predecessors (Achim von Arnim, Lautréamont, Rimbaud) and drew heavily on Freud's discoveries. In 1924, Breton gave impetus to the movement with his Manifeste de Surrealisme. He surrounded himself with a brilliant group of young poets and painters, among whom were Benjamin Péret, Robert Desnos, André Masson, René Crevel, Antonin Artaud, Paul Eluard, Philippe Soupault. The exploration of the dream and other tenebrous aspects of romanticism found expression in automatic writing and the famous textes surrealistes which Breton and Soupault inaugurated with Champs Magnétiques.

Harking back to Novalis and Jean Paul's symbolism of the flying dream, verticalism revolted against the nightmare quality of its predecessors and inaugurated an attempt to liberate the human personality from the possession of nihilism. It stressed the creative urge towards a liturgical renascence by reconstructing the myth of voyage, migration, flight, and particularly ascent, in all its romantic-mystic manifestations. It sought the "marvelous of the skies" in the poetry of aeronautical flight, in the conquest of the law of gravitation, and in an aspiration towards aerial perspectives. It also developed the poetry of cosmic or sidereal flight, tried to sing of the stellar spaces, and accentuated the vision of the "third eye." In the poetry of mystic flight it sought a transcendental reality. This new poetry of ascent wanted to express its vision in a language that would make possible a hymnic vocabulary.

Paris, September 1949


Born 1894 in New Jersey, grew up in Lorraine (France), returned to U.S.A. at 17. Died 1952. From Paris (1927-1938) he edited Transition, a comparatively long-lived magazine that acted as a principal link with European modernism (especially Surrealism & related events) & a vehicle for maintaining a consciously numinous & experimental tradition in American poetry between the two world wars. In all of this his intention was toward a total transformation of language & consciousness in the light of anthropology, psychology, linguistics, folklore, mysticism, etc.; & his enthusiasm for the tantric & gnostic, the primitive & archetypal, if not original with him, would reemerge as germinal ideas for the poetry & lifeways of the 60s & beyond. Against the force of that continuity, his own poetry seems often spotty, & his language experiments & platforms (verticalism & trilingualism, the revolution of the word, language of night, etc.) naively one-dimensional. Yet when he hits, the “energy” is still a very real presence, & that, I would suggest, is more than can be said for those of his contemporaries who chose the safer middle-ground.

(J.R., from Revolution of the Word A New Gathering of American Avant-Garde Poetry 1914-1945)

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Uncollected Poems (6): "Hero"

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 1:23 PM 0 comments
Uncollected Poems (6): “Hero”


He is dreadful.
He is alive.
He is walking in the sun.
The sun is in the small box he carries in his hand.
How tall a hero looks.
His legs go.
Up & down.
They name him for an animal.
His name is Otter.
People tell stories about his silly death.
Otter Otter.


At midnight.
Otter Otter standing in the lamplight.
Eating flies.
Many flies drop dead before his open mouth & eyes.
The more he eats flies.
The more the night is growing dark.
Don’t cry.
Be a hero.
Be a man.


Stop at three.
Be Otter Otter in the dark cage of animal delights in which he bathes.
A lamp in Otter Otter.
A walk with Otter Otter in the clearing after light.
It falls.
A lamp is in the way the way.
He walks around it
& steps back.
A night in Otter Otter.
Half a moon.
A star inside a moon in Otter Otter.
He makes a cosmical projection.
What arms.
What furry balls.
What messengers.


I can be a man & a hero.
Very wise
to be standing here & now
here & now.
I am slow to learn
eager to repent
fast to add up numbers.
I was waiting the return
of certain acquaintances.
My career is clearly before me.
When can we start?


At the end of a line
he draws a line.
Then draws another down from it
& down
& down
& down
& down.
Stands on the borders of a second world.
He sees
a second hero at his window.
A second pair of shoes.
Tracks in the dust
behind the door.
The hero is no longer held by time.
He takes a flashlight.
He is building worlds.


A stone.
A lullaby.
tap tap.
A shadow in his hand.
A discharge.
The third door from the left.
tap tap.
A pressure at his heart.
The ease of being beneath himself.
tap tap.
Half a bar of soap.
He is awake in the space between two rooms.
The light against his eyes.
Against his eyes.
His eyes.
tap tap.
(I think this is the song he sings
in making it.)


[This poem was recovered, along with numerous others, for a volume of Uncollected Poems to be published by Mark Weiss and Junction Press.]

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