Jerome Rothenberg

1931 / New York City, New York

The Lorca Variations (XXVIII) "For Turtles"

Up there—or down here
for that matter—the screams
rush around us
Ellipses dismember the tower
of Babel, crapulent city,
enraged zigzag women still sit in
with feathers, on porticos
Men with pale foreheads
shout poems from its rooftops,
crushing its grasses,
city that's buried in words,
like "cypress" & "daylight"
"up there" & "down here"


My heart is flying from me
—see it fly—
& rising in a spiral,
like a star,
a spiral rising past the Cape
obliquely,
like a neon heart,
celestial turtle set before the pope,
until the turtle & the star
drop back to earth,
to test the limits of a heart,
the way that hunger
tests the soul
or feet whatever life is left us
A heart, a soul, & many turtles,
where the heart transforms
the body, like some pluvial
sahara, & the turtles
blot out the horizon,
leaving turtleshells & wings behind,
unto our final rest
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