To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, November 30, 2015

Wai-limYip: From “The Nine Songs,” An Ancient Ritualistic Drama (by Qu Yuan [Ch’u Yuan])

 Portrait of Qu Yuan by Chen Hongshou
[This excerpt from The Nine Songs by Qu Yuan (332-296 B.C.), which appeared in the earlier edition of my Technicians of the Sacred in Arthur Waley’s different & text-only translation, was in its origins a clear example of poetry as an act of “total performance.”  Writes Wai-lim Yip as translator: “Recent scholarship, particularly the work of the poet-scholar Wen Yiduo, sees Qu Yuan's The Nine Songs as a collection of songs of folk and oral nature used in ancient shamanistic ritualistic dramas performed near Dongting Lake in Hu’nan Province. The songs as they appear in the Chu Ci or The Songs of the South (consisting of one single, ambiguous voice and in the form of poems) are believed to have been greatly worked over by Qu Yuan. Wen Yiduo, himself a famous modern Chinese poet of the 1920's, in addition to his many essays tracing the poem to relevant origins, reconstructs The Nine Songs into a performable structure. The present translation is a slightly modified version based on his reconstruction.” 
What follows is how the excerpt will appear in the expanded edition of Technicians of the Sacred now in progress. (J.R.)]

The Senior Arbiter of Fate

(Upon the Kongsang Mountain, a stretch of dark clouds.  Half-visible among the clouds, a huge black gate of the North Palace.  At the bend of the mountain is parked a jade-chariot driven by four dark horses.  Some beautiful girls are playing.  Suddenly, a trumpet is heard, and the Arbiter is seen walking toward the gate.)

          Arbiter:  May the gates of Heaven be opened wide!
                         I ride upon a dark cloud
                         And command the whirlwind to be my 
                         May the chill rain lay the dust to rest!

(The Arbiter sees the beautiful girls, descends quickly and runs after them. Surprised, the girls try to escape. The Arbiter succeeds in catching one of them.)

          Girl :        The Lord circles and circles in the sky and 
                                 suddenly descends.
                           Would that I follow you to the Kongsang 
                            Variegated and manifold are the peoples 
                                 in the nine provinces
                            Whose lives and deaths are in your hands.

(The Arbiter and Girl  begin to dance.  The other girls now come back to cheer them on.)

          Girl :          Skyward flight, how smooth and serene!
                             He rides upon the pure air, commanding 
                                  yin and yang  .
                             Quickly, solemnly, I hasten to follow you, 
                                  my Lord,
                             To accompany you all the way to the Nine 
                             Cloud-robes flutter and flutter.
                             Jade-pendants quiver and quiver.

          Arbiter:  One yin and one yang, one yang and one 
                         None knows the extent of my power.

          All in chorus: One yin and one yang, one yang and 
                                        one yin.
                                  None knows the extent of my power.

(The girls are all exhausted and fall asleep on the ground. The Arbiter is left alone, as if in deep contemplation.  Picking a flower from the bush and quietly putting it into the Girl's palm .)

          Arbiter: I pick this rarest cassia flower
                        For the one who lives away from home.
(The Arbiter sighs.)                  
                        Old age has now crept in, closing upon me.
                        Not to come closer ends in drifting apart.

(The Arbiter quietly goes.  Girl wakes up, finds the flower in her palm, looks for the Arbiter and catches sight of the Arbiter leaving up in the clouds, to her great dismay.)

          Girl:        He rides upon the rumbling dragon-chariot
                            Soaring, soaring into the high heavens.
                            Twisting the cassia-branch, I wait.
                            Longing, O Longing cuts deep into my 

          Chorus:    Sorrow, sorrow cuts heart; to it, what can 
                                 we do?
                            How one wish the now is forever.
                            Man's course is fated.
                            Unions and separations, who can master 

The Lesser Arbiter of Fate

(Sunset. In a garden full of semi-tropical flowers. Several girls are playing in the garden. The Lesser Arbiter of Fate arrives.)

          Arbiter:  Autumn orchids and deer parsleys
                          Grow in rows and rows under the hall.
                          Green leaves, white flowers
                          Such fragrance! to attack my senses.

          Girl :       It is nature's law that man finds 
                               his woman.
                          No need to be so down, so sad.

          Arbiter:  Green leaves, white flowers
                          Such fragrance! to attack my senses.

          Girl :       Autumn orchids are green upon green.
                          Green leaves, in sprays, emerge from 
                               purple stems.
                          A full hall of beautiful girls;
                          Why me, why his eyes are all glued at me, 
                               ever so suddenly?
                          Ever so suddenly?

(For some unknown reasons, the Arbiter, apparently agitated, leaves in a hurry.)
          Girl :       Coming: no words. Leaving: no words.
                          He rode away upon the winds, carrying 
                               flags of cloud.
                          Grief, not to grieve? O this life-separation!
                          Joy, not to enjoy? O friends that we newly 

          Chorus:   Joy, not to enjoy? O friends that we newly 
                          Grief, not to grieve?  O this life-separation!

          Girl :       Lotus-garment, basil-belt;
                          So sudden, he came, so sudden, he went.
                          In the evening, he rests in the precincts of 
                          Lord, whom are you waiting for by the 
                               clouds' edge?

          Arbiter (from afar):
                          I would bathe with you in the Pool of 
                          And dry your hair in the Bank of Sunlight.
                          I look for the Beautiful One who has not 
                          Loudly into the winds, I sing my song.

          Chorus:  Peacock canopy and kingfisher banners,
                          He mounts the Nine Heavens, stroking the 
                          Stroking his long sword  to protect the 
                               young and the old.
                          O You alone, the most fit to judge over 

The River God

(The River God emerges from the water riding on the back of a white turtle. Fishes of all imaginable kinds swim around him. The River God sings in response to some girls dressed in white in front of the riverside temple.)

          God:   With you I will roam the nine rivers.
                      A riot of winds arises and cuts across the 
                      We will ride the lotus-canopied water-chariot
                       Drawn by two dragons flanked by hornless 

          Girl:     I climb up the Kunlun Mountains and look in 
                            all directions.
                       My spirit flies high as I face the infinite 
                       Dusk is here; absorbed, I forget to return.
                       I only look back upon the distant shore.
                       A fish-scale house, a hall of dragons,
                       A purple-shell gateway and a palace of pearl,
                       O God, why do you dwell in the waters?   

          God (ignoring her question):
                       Riding a white turtle, chasing spotted fishes,
                       I will roam with you among the small islets
                       As swollen waters come tumbling down.
                       With crossed hands, I will go with you to the 
                       To escort my beautiful one to the Southern 
   God & Girl:  Wave after wave comes to welcome

                        Shoal on shoal the fishes take us all the way.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Translation without Limits & the Limits of Translation, Part Two: “The Joys of Influence”

Keynote speech, American Literary Translators Association annual meeting, October 30, 2015, continued from posting on November 16 here & here.

I realize that where I am at this point is already at a considerable distance from what my more literally directed side (and yours) would recognize as translation, that it begins to touch on what I have elsewhere and persistently spoken of as “othering” (a word my spell-check refuses to recognize as legitimate).  Still I would like to digress for a few minutes to speak of collaboration as it touches on translation and as a foundational part of my poetics and an antidote perhaps to those anxieties of influence that were injected into literary discourse some forty and more years ago.  Translation of course is, at its best, the joyful acceptance of influence and of shared voices in the process of creation and transcreation.  In that sense too it opens to an acceptance of collaboration and community (however problematic they may sometimes be) as foundations for the work at hand.  And I would take translation as a metaphor for the entire poetic process.
            My over-all experience of collaboration goes well beyond translation – work with artists & musicians. with editors and book designers, with performance troupes like The Living Theater, with poetry readings and publications shared or organized in common – all of which I came to see (rightly or wrongly) as a principal mark of the avant-garde in poetry & art.  This idea of an avant-garde, at least as I conceived it, is – or was – the work of individuals acting together – an effort somehow in common, even if performed one by one.  There are times of course when an individual proclaims himself to be an avant-garde, but I don't believe that there are, strictly speaking, avant-gardes of one.  (There are great & unique experimentalists who operate in isolation, but that I think is something different – referential sometimes to an avant-garde but different.)  And there are individuals also – Bretons or Marinettis – who dominate their avant-gardes, probably to nobody's advantage.   Strong individuals like that, I now believe, were not only influential in forging their avant-gardes but were responsible as well for the ephemeral nature of what they had created.   In that sense it’s also possible that avant-gardes are destined for short lives, hellbound for self-destruction – or an aspect, maybe, of what Tristan Tzara might have had in mind when he told us that “the true Dadas are against Dada.”  (Cooptation by the art market is of course another factor to consider.)
            In addition I thought of the big books, which were as often as not co-authored with one or two other poets or editors, not so much as anthologies but as assemblages or collages that fulfilled for me the primary function of collage – to bring the words of others into the work at hand.  It was the recognition of something like that, I think, that freed my own poetry to be more than it had been to start with.  It also energized me in the direction of translation – an activity that I’ve pursued into the present.  Even working as a solitary translator I felt myself in an interaction with whoever I was then translating, and I came to believe that all translation – of poetry at least – was inherently a matter of collaboration.  (I’ve called such processes – both of translation and collage – “othering” and have spoken about them elsewhere.)  But to carry on the translation work in particular, I often had to call on the help of others – either because the task at hand was too big or too foreign or needed more than my own voice to make it stick.  
With the ethnopoetic books I thought that all of this was obvious.  Technicians and Shaking the Pumpkin were assemblages of (mostly) translations, generally as I found them but sometimes with interventions of my own.  The range of languages was vast, & my own competence outside of the European sphere was non-existent.  On two principal occasions I came more properly into the translator’s role – both times with a collaborator.  In the one instance (Seneca Indian) my co-worker was a native speaker & songmaker, Richard Johnny John, and in the other (Navajo) the work was made possible by the great American ethnomusicologist David McAllester.  Aside from that – and apart from the ethnopoetic experiments – there were Hebrew translations with Harris Lenowitz for A Big Jewish Book and a more recent book of poems from the Czech modernist poet Vitezslav Nezval (Milos Sovak my co-translator there), in addition to which the ample books of poetry from Schwitters and Picasso were assembled alongside Pierre Joris (and in the case of Picasso a number of other poet- translators whom we brought together for the project).
It is in this context, then, that I would speak of translation with a recognition that my own work, as well as that of others, is not only experimental or avant-garde but practices all those forms of translation that John Dryden spelled out centuries ago: metaphrase, paraphrase and imitation, three procedures with varying degrees of departure from the original.  Or put another way, I’m mindful of the observation somewhere attributed to Wallace Stevens that “all translation is experimental translation.”  To which I would add that all translation [at least of poetry] is collaborative translation ... from the perspective at least of the poet translator.  As such my own experience has been that when I’m most intensely into the act of translating, setting another before me – “the most sublime act” as Blake would have had it – I am or I feel like an actor immersed in a role, becoming that role or character,  or like a dancer, say, responding to the movements of a partner, then thrown forward to do the dancing on my own.  The Lorca Variations, from which I read earlier, are the clearest example I have of this – from translations in immediate response to Lorca (developing my own rhythms as I go, but always with Lorca to guide me) to poems of “my own” which retain words from my translation but leave me free to compose anew.

With  that in mind I want to end with a twofold exploration of myself not as translator but as the object of translation and variation. 

A few years back, while I was preparing (with the Mexican poet Heriberto Yépez) a large anthology-like assemblage of my own writings, Eye of Witness: A Jerome Rothenberg Reader, the retrospective nature of that work opened me to the idea of applying to earlier poems of my own the procedures I had followed for Lorca and others in the “variations.”  That meant, as with the other variations, taking a poem of some length, isolating mostly the nouns and some adjectives, rearranging the order in which they appeared, and using them as what Jackson MacLow called “nuclei” in the seeding or composition of new poems.   I was also mindful of two statements attributed to Henri Matisse when he was my age or possibly a little younger: “One should be able to rework an old work at least once – to make sure that one has not fallen victim – to one’s nerves or to fate.” And again: “When you have achieved what you want in a certain area, when     you have exploited the possibilities that lie in one direction, you must, when the time comes, change course, search for something new.”

[Reads: Jigoku Zoshi & variation]

The final experience of translation, however, came on the various occasions when my work was being translated into another language, but particularly where I was familiar with that language and, even more so, where I was able to work along with the translator.  That process in several instances was truly exhilarating while it also brought me up against the limits of translation and the strategies of the translator in trying to address them.  Some of this is obvious to all of us here and applies in whatever direction the translation is going: how to distinguish heaven from sky in most European languages, or spirit from mind in others.  For the former too I ran into a problem compounded by an element of word play, when I included a short sentence – “I will change your mind” – in a series of manifesto propositions, for which the translation could never be handled properly.  Or there is another instance where I speak of mind changing into spirit or of spirit changing into mind, and another example in a line and a poem title “the sky that harbors heaven.”
            Those of course are familiar instances, but the translation problem has been compounded for me in a recent series of poems (“Divagations”) where rhyming enters the picture.  I don’t here mean structural or end rhyme, where the rhyming words don’t have to be consistent between the original and the translation.  Rather what I’ll present to you now is from a series of poems called Divagations, which are currently being translated for a new book in French.  The rhymes here are obvious and have a relevance both to sound and sense.

[Reads and discusses: Divagations (1)]

An even clearer instance is a poem from a series that drew on images from Goya’s masterwork Caprichos and were then translated into Spanish by Mexican poet Heriberto Yépez.  What the Goya image gave me were two animal figures, a monkey and a donkey in English, but most literally “un mono” and “un burro” in Spanish.  My poem however took the rhyming coincidence in English as a point of departure to seed the entire poem with rhymings.

[Reads: “A Monkey & a Donkey”]

In this instance anyway, since Yépez and I were very close, we worked on several of the rhymes together, and at a couple of points we rewrote lines in question, to get the same effect if not the same meaning in Spanish.  It strikes me that more was possible here – a greater degree of Dryden’s “imitation” or de Campos’s “transcreation” or my own “othering” – but maybe we’ll get back to that in the years ahead.

[Reads: “Un asno y un chango”]

I will close then – if the time allows – with a translation of my work that I was most able to incorporate into the performance of my own poetry once it came into my possession.  The poem in question was the opening of Poland/1931, my attempt in the 1970s to create an ancestral poetry of my own “in a world of Jewish mystics, thieves and madmen.”  Amos Schauss, a translator whom I had met briefly and who was a rabbi and teacher at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, worked up a translation of the poem into Yiddish – possibly with my assistance, possibly not.  What resulted, from my perspective, was a perfect match for the English and allowed me the pleasure, in performance, to top off the range of Jewish works I was pursuing at that time – what David Meltzer called my “yiddish surrealist vaudeville.”  For this I remain grateful to Schauss for a gift of translation beyond any that I ever had, either then or later.

[Reads: “The Wedding” in English and Yiddish]

Monday, November 16, 2015

Translation without Limits & the Limits of Translation, Part One

Keynote speech, American Literary Translators Association annual meeting, 2015

I would like to talk – however briefly – about the ways in which translation has served me as a form of composition and as an underpinning for much of my work as a poet and a writer.  I have never thought of myself as a professional translator, since my grasp of any language other than English has been limited and has made any translation that I’ve worked on a slow and sometimes a very indirect process (often, too, in the case of languages that are exotic from our point of view, in collaboration with other translators).  I have not as a rule added to or subtracted from the original when translating, but within those limits I have thought of myself as a poet using translation as a means for making poems or bringing new poems into English.  Even more than that, I have had a need (I emphasize: a need) to translate and, by translating, to connect with the work and thought of other poets – a matter of singular importance to me in what I have long taken to be my “project” and the central activity of my life as a poet.
I do not think of this as in any way unusual, although it has taken me a long time to recognize it for what it is.  Many writers, but poets in particular, inherit and carry forward the works of those who came before them.  In my own case the work I’ve done with ethnopoetics and with the construction of anthology-assemblages – along with a devotion to the “experimental” as a basis for my writing – has made such considerations still more central to my practice.  Looking back at it now it seems inevitable to me that I would have gotten as engaged as I did with translation and for translation to have had the influence it did on the work I was doing.  A part of that work of course was directly connected with the opening of such a field as ethnopoetics.  My own efforts had followed others in the use of collage and appropriation as a way of opening our individual or personal poetry to the presence of other voices and other visions besides our own.  I came to think of all of that – appropriation, collage, translation – in ideological terms.  Long before our time, Whitman in Leaves of Grass had set the task very plainly:

            Through me many long dumb voices,
            Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves,
            Voices of the diseas’d and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs,
            Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
            And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the
            And of the rights of them the others are down upon,
            Of the deform’d, trivial, flat, foolish, despised,
            Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.

This was in the section of Leaves of Grass called “Song of Myself” – that great bringing together of the individual voice with the sense of a total and suppressed humanity.  And it was reborn for us, for me certainly,  in Charles Olson’s rant, say, against “the lyrical interference of the individual as ego,” or in Robert Duncan’s call for a new “symposium of the whole,” a new “totality” – among my immediate predecessors and near contemporaries. 
I have practiced translation in one form or another for more than fifty years now.  My first published book in fact was New Young German Poets in 1959, a year before my own first book of poetry.   That book included first-time translations into English from poets like Paul Celan, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Günter Grass, Ingeborg Bachmann, and Helmut Heissenbüttel, who would become major German authors in the decade that followed.  In the 1960s I adapted Rolf Hochhuth’s play The Deputy for its Broadway performance, did further translations from Enzensberger’s poetry, and began to make occasional translations of Dada poets like Hans Arp and Richard Hülsenbeck from German and Tristan Tzara and Francis Picabia from French.  I had also become engaged with translations from Spanish modernists – much of it for my own recreation and as a way better to understand the work at hand – and from 1960 on, I began to use translation as a way to channel material into publications and readings/performances of my own. 

[Read: translations from Celan (Death Fugue), Neruda (Walkin’ Around)]

Where the channeling turns up most clearly in my own work, assuming it is “my own” work,  is in the acts of translation that are an underpinning for the big books, the anthologies or assemblages, beginning with Technicians of the Sacred and Shaking the Pumpkin in the early 1970s.  It was there that I could let rip for the first time with those voices and find myself absorbing – thrillingly – something that was far more than myself.  And the translation led me also to an interplay with poets closer to my own time – Schwitters, Lorca, Nezval, Nakhara Chuya, among those I’ve since done in abundance – and finally, most surprisingly to me, Picasso.  For me too the big books were a kind of assemblage and collage (a “grand collage” in Robert Duncan’s phrase), very much like the translations in terms of what they allowed me to do or to be.
 In the big books – the ethnopoetic ones in particular – I was engaged with a range of processes, related to but not always identical with that of translation.  Some of those involved the enhancement of previously existing translations, while others – the more interesting from my perspective – involved experimental forms of translation with perhaps an emphasis on the translation of oral poetry and – conversely – of visual poetry – a fascination with what had been thought of as untranslatable forms of poetry.  In “the 17 Horse-Songs of Frank Mitchell” – from sources in Navajo – I engaged in what Dennis Tedlock and I were calling “total translation,” going beyond the semantic level to try to find equivalents for the non-lexical (“untranslatable”) vocables in Navajo song and even – most outrageously for me – for the music – the melodies – by which the words and sounds were carried.  Other Indian song-poems – these mostly from the Seneca – were short combinations of words & sounds which I chose to translate as a kind of visual (concrete) poetry – in order to bring across the curious complexity of otherwise simple or minimal forms – by calling up an image of similar minimal forms in our own (presumably sophisticated and developed) arts of language. (I also found a way to sing them [the Seneca poems] later.)  And along the same lines, while working with contemporary poems that were themselves experimental, I undertook the translation of a large group of often minimal poems by the German concrete poet Eugen Gomringer – finding those a curious vehicle to get down to some fundamentals about the nature of both poetry and translation.

[Read: Mystic Animals (Seneca), Horse Song 1 (Navajo)]

All of that remains central to me – the translations, I mean, and those other suppositions and legitimate acts of  “othering” (something like what Haroldo de Campos called “transcreation”) that underlie my total project.  In The Lorca Variations, a series of poems from the early 1990s, I took a step beyond translation by writing with Lorca (or my translation of Lorca’s book-length poem series called “The Suites”) as my source – isolating his nouns and other words (which were by then my own in English) and systematically recasting them into new compositions. 

[Read: from Suites and Lorca Variations]

In another series of poems, Gematria, I used a traditional Jewish form of connecting words by numerological methods and a word list of numerically arranged words and phrases from the Hebrew Bible, to make a poetry – as with the Lorca Variations – that I thought was both personal to me and was created by means that shared in what Blake saw as “the most sublime act ... [:] to set another before you.”  And still more recently – in a work published in 2004, A Book of Witness – I have used the first person voice, the pronoun “I,” to explore whatever it is that we can say for ourselves – not only my personal self but that of all others – and by that process can even and meaningfully put identity into question.

[Read: from Gematria, 14 Stations, A Book of Witness]

To Be Continued

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pierre Joris: from THE GULF (Between You & Me)

[note. These texts, originally published in Barzakh: Poems 2000-2012 (2014), were commissioned after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion & oil spill by Donald Nally & the Crossing Choir to be set to music by Gene Coleman, Chris Jonas & Gabriel Jackson.  The work premiered in Philadelphia in 2014, and had its first European staging in Luxembourg in October 2015.

— The first two sections of the work are partial writing-through’s of Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem A Throw of the Dice, using both Daisy Alden’s & my own translations. That poem, despite being usually called the first “abstract” poem of the modern avant-garde, does tell a story: that of a shipwreck & the drowning of its captain.

— A number of the spoken phrases in the second section are taken from interviews with Sheri Revette by Antonia Juhasz in the latter’s book Black Tide (Wiley, 2011), talking of her husband, Dewey Revette, a driller killed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 20 2010.  Sheri tells the story of their love and life together and the moments after Sherri's discovery of her husband's death.]


               what do we know, what can we know?
                              OF THE DICE
               of science, of love?
                                             only the facts, that is to say
                                                            only effects
               can this happen
NEVER even if, can this happen
                              in science, in love
                                             EVEN WHEN CAST
               Indras net of love,       
                              moneys net of stone
what do we know, what can we know?
               What has caused this gulf
between water & oil, you & me
                                             IN ETERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES
               (no circumstances are eternal,
                              of this rigwreck
What will we know?
               We know only effects / have to choose
the causes
               A SHIPWRECK at the heart that the
gulf widens
               between water & oil, you & me
                              fish & water, me & you
                                             that the
               between water & water, you & you
                              me & me, oil & fish
widened then whitened
                                             there is slack growing
                              raging underwater in the heart
                                                            underheart in the water
               on the brain
what we know is oil & water dont mix
what we know is fish & oil dont mix

               what we know is you & I have to mix
               what we know is you & I have to live

                                             under an incline
                              clinamen of a warming clime
               an angle not an angel tells us
                                                            me & you want to live
                                             even if despair desperately soars
                              & gets an angry rise
form the phantom pain of its own planets sore
                                                                           broken wing
               a second-hand angel singing Ecce Homo,
                                             Ecce Homo, though not so Sapiens,
conscious liar,
   beforehand relapsed, liar, liar, not released from wrongly steering
                               the flight of this planetary love affair
                                           no use repressing the outbursts
                                                         of this lethal love affair
                                                                       cleaving the bounds
               of this oily love affair
                              at the root of greed
                                             set the rig afloat
                                                            a ship finally a ship
                                                                          the impossible change
     for deep inside weighs the admission of impending disaster
the shadow hidden in the depth
                           by this by this arrogance this arrogance
            at the root of greed this arrogance
                               at the root of arrogance
                                            this love this love for more
                                                   a more always spelled out in money
blows the rig up this morning
will blow the world up tomorrow
               there is no alternate sail
                              ship earth in space / space ship earth
                                             the only raft for dumb sapiens
who has to learn to love
this imperfect raft
there is no alternate sail

dumb sapiens has to learn love
               has to learn to adjust
                              has to learn to look       to the spread
the spreading of disaster
               has to learn to jump
                              its yawning depth
as great as any abyss
                                                            between you & me
               the hull of a rig
                              the hull of a ship
careening from side to side
               turns over & is for a moment cathedral
                              burning church of the worship of money
brightly floating death flaunting love
                                             rigwreck rigwreck
a catastrophe here now,
                              the circumstances local & global
               not eternal only this now
cannot grasp the hawser
                                             opens a gulf
                                                            between life & death
a millimeter uncrossable
               a BP centipede monster
at the heart of this rigwreck
                              abolish                abolish
abolished responsibility
                              Moloch, Moloch
                              rules, Moloch
all rules broken when Moloch rules.


                        THE MASTER is no master
               the master is a corp       a corpse a corporation
                              beyond outworn calculations
where Moloch where Moloch arisen
                                             is a manoeuvre with age-
less scorn for you & me
               scorn for love  /  love forgotten
                              the master is absent
now present here only Dewey
                                             could have gripped the helm once
upon a time & called his mates
               now locked into the assistant drillers shack’s C chair
 can his love hear him

SOLO  (Deweys voice):
               Thirty years offshore
                                             & I can smell a rat
               leaving a rig, I can, I do right now —
Im toolpusher, not master,
               should sleep but follow
                              inauspicious orders
tomorrows another day, nights growing darker
               somethings wrong here, somethings off
                              shouldnt follow inauspicious orders
               It is night / the only light
                              is tomorrow is Sheri
Sheri my love a gulf between us
               my message reaches across a gulf
                              awaits you listen listen
                                              left it this morning at first light
O why am I not ashore I knew
               the bosses would lie would cut
                                             corners until from this conflagration...

                              at his feet mud overflows the rig floor
                                             shoots through the derrick
               the blowout preventers does not act
the wells blown out
               Dewey dead now in this conflagration
on the no way unanimous horizon
                                             end of the horizon
                                                            of the deepwater horizon
a Gulf prepares itself
                              the fist would grip it
               will swallow the tossed & burning rig
as one threatens destiny and the winds, the elements all
                       eleven die
    the one Number which can be no other
                    eleven die
                             their Spirit hurled
                                   into tempestuous fire gas explosions
                 nothing can seal the gap nothing can go proudly
          eleven die
love left ashore a Gulf
                                        between their loves & their corpses
                        eleven die
                                   eleven die.

SOLO (Female Voice/ Sheri):
         Dewey got pretty hot
                       Dewey never—ever—ever
                                      loses his temper — never, ever, ever.
               If he really believed this could have happened,
                              hed never, never let them do it.
Calls at 9 a.m. each morning
               missed his call that morning,
                              phone didnt ring, he left
                                             a message I deleted as
               I knew he was coming home
                              knew he was coming home.

               Dont hesitate
                              cut off from the secret they withhold
                                             cadavers that will not wash ashore
caught rather than dressed
                              now in shrouds of lethal
               oil & dispersant pearls
old madmen play the game on behalf of the waves
                              one surges over the chief toolpusher
               a directly shipwrecked
all-American love story flows over:
                              of the man no submissive graybeard
                                              who just liked being home,
               ancestrally huntin, fishin, playinon his tractor
                              not to unclench his hand
Shewithout a ship
        a small place in Ohio, no matter where vainly there was:
                                      Kmart in walking distance,
                                                            mall twenty minutes by car.
They met when he drove up to the local Kerr
                                             gas station where Sheri worked.

SOLO (Female Voice /Sheri):
     It was love at first sight
              We had the old time Coca-Cola coolers.
                      He reached in for one he was sittinthere
                             we were talkinthat was it…
                                     He had this smile. It would make you melt.
                                                                         Love at first sight.

        Contracted before & above the worthless wellhead showed
She was 18 & he was 21 when they got married
                           an all-American love story
                                          the legacy of his disappearance
          yet back then no gulf between them
                      to some unknown the ulterior immemorial demon.

SOLO (Female Voice):
               It was love at first sight.
                              When we got married so young
                                             everyone was looking for a baby.
                                                            There wasnt one.
                                                                           We were just in love.

From dead & narrow lands
               induced / seduced
                              by an old man toward this supreme lethal
                                             conjunction with probability
this morning she expected him home
               sister called at 5 a.m. said turn on the t.v.
                              she knew right away that hed be dead.
                                             Even his boyish shadow
caressed & polished,  drained & washed
               not to return wave-softened
                              unyielding bones stripped off

                                             lost among the debris