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”)




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 /




that the dust


the wasteland


grow apace




& laughter





atop a mountain
are hammered down
stone after stone


the sun
ignites the air
a carnival
atop a mountain


in a show
with wagging
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





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





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





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


guides us
lethargy returns
a zephyr floating


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


yiddish symphonies
up from the depths
its waters
from a stone


they practice
grass covers earth
like scales
or wings


one thought
a thousand

forced vibrations
in the sea


a hatchet
clatters down
dispersing points
of dust
& sand


a plane
above us
& out



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






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




[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.]