The Likht Variations, With Snakes & Stones

 

                        Wandering in the wasteland
                        I saw the snakes smile
                        their dusty skins
                        in convulsions
                        of laughter.
                                      (M.L., “Legend”)

 

1/

 

the weak reproach
of someone’s membranes
painted yellow

 

dust kicked up
by snakes
whose pale eyes
match your own

 

what schemes
we live with
face to face

 

the mould
of years
the blood
of tyrants

 

& the fire
cleansing them
of doubts

 

Pan plays for them
brutes that the sun
rains down on
that the time allows

 

they slide
& slither
from the bottom up

 

 

2 /

 

snake
skins

 

that the dust
entombs

 

the wasteland
covers

 

legends
grow apace

 

convulsions
rise

 

& laughter
matters

 

 

3/

 

atop a mountain
stones
are hammered down
stone after stone

 

the sun
ignites the air
a carnival
atop a mountain

 

in a show
with wagging
tongues
stones touching stones

 

& casting shadows
stones in heaps
the luck of brothers
binding brothers

 

fire in the sky
a heap of stones
& how a hammer
raised aloft

 

can signal
joy

 

 

4/

 

are sorrows
carmine colored
like a kiss
squeezed tight
with tongs
a kiss or something
hot inside
our mouths
a ritual of blood
driving all creatures
mad –
even you

 

 

5/

 

her breast
comes open
spilling dust
& rust
around her

 

skinny virgin
whom a genie
fills with love
the gods
with hate –

 

their salutations
stiffen her
leaving her prey
to what they aim at her
down to the basest
offal

 

 

6/

 

delight
in blueness
or in scum
that flows
from hollows

 

there is magic
in the place
where blades glint
hopes still live
deep in the vortex

 

the long stretches
air so thick within
it loses
any rhythm
in the season’s calm

 

a yellowness
of air
we cut through
with a pair
of hatchets

 

somnambulism
guides us
lethargy returns
a zephyr floating
overhead

 

something to envy
skulls that time
has left behind
chameleons with diamonds
on their bellies

 

yiddish symphonies
up from the depths
its waters
bursting
from a stone

 

they practice
immobility
grass covers earth
like scales
or wings

 

one thought
a thousand
movements

forced vibrations
in the sea

 

a hatchet
clatters down
dispersing points
of dust
& sand

 

a plane
above us
diving
down
& out

 

7/

a hatchet like a dream in yiddish strikes them    flanks & bellies tremble     timber swells  
a cryptic compromise sucks up the fragrance from the floor before a fire cracks the
silence springing up along the path     the little nothings seen are both a promise & a violation
            like a dream in yiddish stones drop down & houses bring forth fountains  
    sight forsakes your eyes   & over on your left     rugs cover windowpanes   with
eyelids shut   somebody twice a nobody cries slander    creativity    an archipelago with
houses set aflame    a measure of how matter drags us down    of how our hands hide
glass utensils    how on your right    the windows of an attic form a mouth    a stone
frame near the house’s peak
            how like a dream in yiddish I am near you    how a scarecrow’s heart starts
swelling    in an eerie earthlight seen from far away we sit on facing chairs    the walls
are like a morgue’s     a damp anarchic void surrounds us    steel & stone    a mountain
house    a buddhist forest     shadows of our feet beneath an oaken table     from our ears
bejeweled rings are dangling    pipes connect us to our roots    a yiddish cry for
judgment   where a creature lurks & nobody replies

 

18.i.14

 

8/

 

eyes in his head like crystal scorpions god’s crooked loins vibrating until it shakes the street makes bridges fall & scatter like a line of snakes responding to the way his breath blows & the streets grow foggy parapets shoot through the air & drop straightdown in the abyss through which we make our way by impulse drifting past the intersection of two streets at left & right an airborne chase a trip that takes us to the middle of a further street a snake at one side testing our courage shaken by its fateful noise refracted through bright prisms sparks of energy a dance that cracks our ribs the rhythms of a world reduced to chaos yesterday erased with scarce a care

 

20.i.14

 

[Author's note: Written in the process of reading Mikhl Likht’s Protsesiyes / Processions along with the translation from Yiddish by Ariel Resnikoff & Stephen Ross, while following the procedures set earlier in my Lorca Variations. A tribute both to Likht & to his language.]