I was determined to dream & I did, in the hope that the time spent dreaming would free me but fearful that the trap might spring & would drag me still further down. There remained the bed to hold us up, to sustain us for the troubled days ahead. “You” was the name of someone but she used another name. I was exposed to it as well, angry enough to cut the dream short but willing to pursue it where it led. A friend attempted to be rational, yet the attempt itself was the cause of his depression & what made it so hard to bear. Here was a phenomenon no doubt but more than that a constant urge. Apart from being gracious the opportunity arose to tip our hand – much less our hats. A thousand thousand pardons. Is your brother in that group of young men leaning against a wall as nonchalant as in a photograph from years ago but unapproachable? A trip to somewhere – Italy, Mexico, I can’t remember—but did that make the wonder less extreme?
We were watching a movie in which three young men were featured – a young Jew & two others. A discussion followed after a failed phone call to Isaac Bashevis Singer, to see if we could meet him at his new apartment on the Lower East Side. I tried to point out to the others that the film’s director cast a blond-haired actor as his medieval Jew (Jews are not supposed to be blond), but the others wouldn’t let me finish my sentence. Feeling on edge I walked outside & smoked a cigarette.
I was on a train soon after, heading for Bremerhaven I thought, but I couldn’t remember at which station I should exit. I checked the directions I had written down, and they said Convent Avenue. But I seemed to have been traveling too long. I must have passed it, I thought, and I got off at the next station, which was clearly not what I wanted. I checked a large map on the wall opposite the track but Convent Avenue wasn’t on it. Was it still ahead or had I already passed it? I knew I had to ask someone, but the platform had already emptied out.
The streets around our old apartment house were covered with a dark green moss – something uncanny, that if I touched it, would burn or paralyze my fingers. I knew that the river was only a few blocks away & that if I reached it, there would be a chance of cleansing. But the child at my side – not Matthew but a dark-faced girl I didn’t recognize – kept pulling in the opposite direction. I felt that this was wrong, but I could do nothing else but follow.
I was watching a movie on or by Yosano Akiko, when people started rushing out & others rushing in, & I remembered that I’d forgotten the paper I was going to deliver at the poetry conference of which this was a part, along with an expert in Italian literature, a little swarthy man who was only now arriving.
Startled by the noise the old woman looked up & saw: the television screen was black & the basket on top of it was empty. She said: I know who did it, that young girl did it. Then she began to scream, or I did as a warning, & the women servants came running, & the household pets came running. And one of us kept screaming till I woke up.
In Germany again, with Ammiel or someone who looks like Ammiel, going to hear & meet an Arab poet. We are traveling by trolley to check out the performance space, and once we find it, we go to a street café around the corner to get a bite to eat. After we’ve ordered I realize suddenly that I not only don’t have money for the meal but nothing for the reading & the reader. I decide to go back home and leave, making my way back to a main street, where I ask directions in German and someone points me to a wide boulevard, where a trolley or a bus should be running. But when I get there I find that the road is under construction and have to make my way down a steep ploughed-up ditch in order to cross it. Trying to find the bus, trying to remember the number of the building for the reading, to which I must return. It’s number 403! – I’m almost sure of it – but I decide to wake up instead and to end the dilemma.
A group of young men leaning against a wall as if in a photograph but unapproachable, & I realize that I met them years ago on a forgotten trip to somewhere – Italy, Mexico, I can’t remember.
[These poems by Jerome Rothenberg were recovered, along with numerous others, for Retrievals, a volume of Uncollected & New Poems 1955-2005, to be published later this year by Mark Weiss & Junction Press. Thirteen previous installments have appeared since 2008 on his blog Poems and Poetics.]