"The Holy Words of Tristan Tzara" from "Abulafia's Circles" by Jerome Riothenberg
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"The Holy Words of Tristan Tzara"




Jerome Rothenberg

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sad in his world
or in yours
he walks for years beside
the economic lilies
explores the mysteries of bread
a wax archangel
stands on his tongue
his hands     cold     dry
deprived of water
in the room under the room
where Lenin sat
aromas of Bukovina gather
Moinesti with its corn mush
brinza cheese
redheaded Leah
like a hungry wolf
the word he dreams is
dada ice
dada piano
dada flower
dada tears
dada pendulum
dada vanilla
dada don quixote
dada humid
dada archipelago
dada pharmacy
dada sexenial
dada dichotomous
dada dichroic
dada dicrotic
dada didactic
dada didelphian
dada diluvial
dada dingdong
the fur of dada stretched out in the sun
dada on a hill old fox old dada
sammy rosenstock alive old exile
got Zurich on my mind
glass toys betwixt the stars with chains
electric flags & posters
"logic is a complication!
"logic is always wrong!
cries dada
holy cow
o cube
o hobby horse
the freedom first encountered in
first trip to Zurich
ghosts drunk on energy
they pulled the bells of war down
martyred the cabaret
until it exploded
like yiddish dada in the street
the overture to cheese
o Sammy brother
the sad one of your tribe
you said: disgust
you sat next to the photo of
redheaded Leah
under the axe & clock
your monocle hung from your vest
red life grew distant
in the room where Lenin sat
the walls sang politics to us
his nurse's name was "dada"
so was yours
& sputtered poetry
redbellies laughing thru empty skulls
"my name is Sammy Rosenstock
"is later Tristan Tzara
"I am so sad with life
"I love it
"I am of course Rumanian
"I allow myself to contradict
"I put an owl in a hexagon
"I climb on the stage
"I'm prim
"I'm formal
"I applaud the revolution
"the hands of bandits
"blind worms & dada nightmares
"invade your bowels
" messiahs are passee
"the word we dream is
"dada sweepeth out
"dada teareth linens
"rips clouds & prayers to shreds
"thou rides on hiccups
"dada has a balcony
"we squat there     pregnant birds
"we shit on thine umbrella
"dada is against the future
"dada lives
"in fire          wisdom      fear
"-- is fear of dada
"like a star? --
"no           like a fish      a plant      the moon
"a metal word
"distorted      boiling
"illumines the urethra
" sixty fingers on each arm
"I am a monster too
"I play with cushions
like hymns of queens
the eye of Lenin
now so wide
pushes the curtains
the chess game opens like a poem
metaphysics of perdition
rules them
tired of the stars
his horse eats colored snakes
o angel horse
on thee rides Hugo Ball
himself an angel horse
here Huelsenbeck & Jung walk
here Arp
here Janco
here kings of Zanzibar
here april nuns
here Tristan Tzara
ghost of Abulafla no ghost
he makes his buttocks jump
like belly of oriental queen
madonna face of Emmy Hennings
a silent fiddle
cuts the room in two
Hugo like a mannikin
at piano
stammers      yodels      farts in rhyme
in lusts of sabbath
-- hiccups --
-- bowwows --
dusts off the mask of dada
cardboard horsehair leather wire cloth
wears dada collars      dada boots
cothurnus of a bishop
lesbian sardines
ecstatic mice
vanilla derbies
from comers of Cabaret Voltaire
how many kings crow?
how many krazy kittens
cry for you?
how many centuries between
Zurich & Moinesti?
how many grandfathers?
how many clicks before the poem ends?
how much incesticide?
how many accordions to serenade
redheaded Leah?
Lenin dies
brave gymnasts march again
thru workers' suburbs
Stalin's moustache adrift
-- o feckless future --
writes Mandelstam:
"huge laughing
"cockroaches on his lip
"the glimmer of his boot-rims
"scum & chicken necks
"half human
"the executions slide across his tongue
"like berries
o revolutions of the fathers
you tease us back to death
pink sands of California
line my coast
saloons & oracles
stemming the tide
can't end it
you are dead
& dada life is growing
from your monocle
ignored      exalted
you lead me to my future
making poems together
flames & tongues      we write
like idiots
ballets of sperm
a brain song for the new machine
squadrons of princes pissing in the street
-- intensity      disgust --
an empty church from which
you drew the drapes back
the face of Jesus on each drape
"on each Jesus was my heart"
you wrote
messiah of stale loaves
of frogs in shoes
god dada
messiahs are passee
there is no greater saviour
than this      no eye
so credible
your fart that night was luminous
it stoked the cannons
thruout Europe
in the bus to Amsterdam
in Missouri in Brazil in the Antilles
in a bathrobe
under your bed the shadows massed
like sleeping robbers
the moon became our moon
again o moon
over Moinesti
o moon of tiny exiles
moustaches of antelopes we eat
& cry out "fire"
a swamp of stars waits
toads squashed flat against
red bellies
at center of a dream
-- magnetic eyes --
whose center is a center
& in the center
is another center
& in each center is a center
& a center on each center
composed by centers
like earth
the brain
the passage to other worlds
passage to something sad
lost dada
an old horse rotting in the garden
maneless      waiting
for the full moon
someone leaps into the saddle
rushes after you
exuding light

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At conclusion of Poland 1931 & A Big Jewish Book, I was left with after-images of largely unresolved messianic figures: historic & mythic. Of these, three appear in the present series: Abraham Abulafla, Jacob Frank, & Tristan Tzara. ABULAFIA (1240-c.1291) was a mystic & poet, whose most developed visual/meditative work took the form of 200 mandalic circles, made up of letters & words. He also adopted the name of the angel Raziel, went as messiah to interrogate the pope, was arrested & condemned to die, & only escaped after the pope's own death. FRANK (1726-1791), born Yakov Leivich in Podolia, recognized himself as messiah in the fullest sense, followed Sabbatai Zevi into Islam, & from there took the further road to Roman Catholicism. Legends of sensuality surrounded him, tied in with his proclamation of his daughter, Eva, as the female aspect of God. TZARA, born Sammy Rosenstock in Moinesti, Rumania, was the central poet of Zurich & early Paris Dada, who wrote: "Let every man shout: there is a great negative work of destruction to be done. Sweeping, cleaning. The cleanliness of the individual affirms itself after the state of madness, the aggressive complete madness of a world left in the hands of bandits who vandalize & destroy the centuries... Those strong in words or in strength will survive, for they are quick to defend themselves." His own path went through poetry & communism, & he made no messianic claims.

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Abulafia's Circles was published by Membrane Press (now Light and Dust Books) in 1979. Copies of the complete book are available from Light and Dust and from Small Press Distribution.

Copyright 1979 by Jerome Rothenberg.

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