The Rom Arcane
Por: Jack Hirschman
ALL THAT ‘S LEFT
All that’s Left
in the world
---whether in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia
as well as in China, Japan, the United States,
Europe, the Middle East, Africa---
all of them cannot,
despite their resistance,
despite their refusal,
stop this march of death
as well as all that’s Right
in the world,
despite their refusal,
despite their resistance,
already are counted among those
in this last parade.
Communists and progressives,
nazis, fascists and reactionaries,
zionists and anarchists of every stripe---
none are excluded, none can evade the march.
This one’s not coming
with hammer and sickles or swastikas
or flags of any land.
This one’s the march
all wars surrender to.
But when?! comes the unanimous cry..
When will it really happen?
If death is peace,
when can I truly die?
You will never know, and yet you do,
because you may already have,
and this life is your way
of paying homage to the power
that loves you enough
to have taken your life away
and left you with the taste
of immortality on your lips.
Nothing mystical: no Christ,
Allah, Jahweh or Buddha in the wings.
Even lying on your back you’re marching.
This is not a cynical or pessimist
or nihilist poem. Join death
to your life and you will live
as if there were no drum to march to.
There is no march at all.
You’re done. All will be well for all.
FOR THE FLOR Y CANTO
I remember the boxcars
not of a roll of dice, but
of that train from Mexico
smuggling across the border.
Remember its ceiling, O
hieroglyphs of last-gasp
screams of fingernails,
tears of blood,
and the flood of deaths that
came without water. 18
suffocated that day; how many
more have never been reported?
I read these lines now at Flor
y Canto, and indeed let’s all
read and sing the living word
that’s Latino and Chicano
hope wrapped in tortillas of rage,
and turn the sounds of battered-
down doors, of brutal round-ups
in the night, of the iron fingers
jabbed down into shoulders of
bending, grape-picking workers,
into flaming poems of resistance
and real change, a revolutionary
change that’s all the way up from
the grassroots to the branching tree
of stars in a sky that finally will
belong to us all.
THE ROM ARCANE
They wanted to burn ‘em,
burn ‘em all, burn all the
garbage piled up since
December: plastic bags,
spazzatura hills, trash from
the houses apartments shops
cafes---a casino, the mother
of all casini, grungy, empty
bottles of wine grappa fanta,
and the stench everywhere
dying to burst the bags with
variations of stink and rot
giving birth to rats that are
scavenging as one cycles by,
and even the squalid sewage
is holding its breath and its
O refuse of the refusers, this
is Napoli, this is how it is
when there’s no more dumping
space and there isn’t a govern-
ment you can see, so go see
Garrone’s version of Saviano’s
Gomorrah, wade through the
corner immondizia to the movie
house, it’s a film about where
you are right now in Naples, in a
poem of mucky streets where
you’ll wake tomorrow hopefully
without a bullet in your head
mistaken for Saviano’s for his
having spilled the slimy beans
about Camorra, and they rotted
and were putina, plastic-bagged
And left at the curb on Via Virginia
Woolf because she’s garbage like
the rest of life in Naples, now that
the Left is dead and cruddy maybe
in one of the bags AnnaToglietti’s
knotting tightly and tossing out of
her first-floor window onto a hump
of trash below; and the head of the
country, that cavalier of shit, that
burlesque coglione is coming with
Impy (his implanted wig), who’ll
decree all must be burned, there’ll
be no turning back, and they’ll want
to burn it---workers unemployed the
old the young children the Camorra
kids the adolescent gangs---but so
prick-stupid, so coward-dumb that
at the rumor of an alleged abduction,
and wanting to burn ‘em all, burn all
and be done with the rats multiplying,
they fix on the gypsy Rom in camps
in Via Ponticelli, Via Triboniano, they
make a pogrom, the Rom are garbage
they steal and they sell children right
left and center: a chorus, a macedonia
---“Massacriamoli!” the filthy bastards,
all of ‘em: Zero nomad camps, Zero
gypsies, Zero tolerance and stuffed ears
to “Na viom cai dove vial tu/ da manga
tu rispeto,/ Viom duva ial tu ta manga tur
rispeto.” Burn eye jakh, burn ear khan,
burn hand vast, burn mouth muj, burn
their noise nakh. A gypsy samidaripen!
Come the rat-swarms out of the stench.
Come the snakes born of vicious puzzo.
Who are they but none other than who
took the plastic, and who hasn’t? Even
in the borgata in Rome, in Pigneto dear
to Pasolini, gangs with kerchiefs with
swastikas again: tanti inspiegabile e
ingiustificabile ferocita delle spranghe
di ferro, clubs on the heads of the sellers
of kebab---the Bangledeshies, Indians,
Maghrebians---,and trees cut down on
Via Cupo del Cane to make barricades
to resist the downright scapegoating,
racist mob come to burn out the Rom
no matter many were born in Italy, no
fucking matter they work, pay taxes,
who now march with black triangle and
a Z not for Zero but for Zingaro on their
sleeves over their hearts in their eyes in
their mouths in their clenches
recalling the nazi blight of the gypsies,
and one can see and hear, emerging
with the banners of nationalism and
the filthy spittle claiming purity on the
part of the builders of walls against
asylum and flight, the old garbage
racism rancid and stinking, the trash-
talking fascism under the cover of
business deals with government, or the
instigation of gangster bigots and their
axes, and the wall that came down in
Germany was as nothing to the walls
that have sprung up along the borders
of Palestine and Mexico where it’s clear
the gypsies today are many peoples and
if there’s any future at all it’ll be where
the dump is found for all the passports in
the world, along with Napoli’s garbage.
CACRI IN CARACAS
In the Guaicaipuro shanty-down-town in the Sarria
in the shadow
of high-rise Caracas,
Mongrel jazz for that’s what cacri means:
mongrels who go from dumpster to dumpster scavenging.
That’s what they call themselves: Pablo,
Jose, Irvin, Max, Lenin, the two Armandos, Dario and Jesus---
this band of banditos in a room just big enough
to hold them and their instruments
blaring, destining and flowering out
a rapture of mouths and drum-hands,
flapping guitars and thunder-plucked bass.
The narrow alleyway just outside’s got its ear to the door.
The guys swinging for Jalagi Allison and me from the States,
they on their feet, we asquat on the floor,
all of us at home in a homeless world
racing to and from that point where all
contact and harmony and whirlawind
They start and they go! We go, you go too, Hugo!
In the rain of cats and cacri,
with hardly room, and all that space!
With hardly food, and all that funky
fishsoup in the drum-tureen,
sassafrass in the saxes.
The people by sound united
by rhythms of hope,
from Pythagorean to Coltranean
to Bolivarian free-form poetry
will never be defeated!.
Cacri! Cacri! Cacri! Cacri!
What a mix, what minx-mastered licks,
what chops to feed the belly of sweet poverty’s heart!
They were gassed, burned by the millions
simply because they existed.
Those who survived said: Never Again!
They were asked to come to Hanoi
and continue the socialist revolution.
They responded: Never Again!
We will never again trust any government.
We will make our home in Palestine,
defeat the Arabs there, scatter them or
let them live as ragged shadows
in the camps of our occupation.
We will live in and on the capital of America,
as Israel, by name, as the Jewish nation,
and never again be holocausted for
the crime of simply being.
But even as Israel grew and prospered,
those whom it displaced and arrested
were whispering: Never Again!
Poor and landless, they built their resistance
and fought and lost again and again
to Zionism’s army of American weapons.
The language of socialism, of the friendship
and harmony of peoples of different cultures
died of attrition in the Middle East, from
money. Deals. Dunny meals. Doomy mules.
Dummy moles. Mummy doles. The Star
of David unfurled over the land,
but the real Davids were in the streets
throwing stones at the Goliath.
O philistine irony and reversal of the Hebrew.
They who are the poorest and stateless,
who’ve turned their hatred of submission
to slavery into martyr brigades of suicided
human weapons, and called their brethren
to join their attack upon the ferocious colony
of the United States of Exploitation;
they, the poorest and homeless, in whom
the only solution still breathes, the only
solution that isn’t genocide or fratricide
or a final solution itself, where hand-clasps
and words can still open the gates to the
language of the future socialism of New
Israel and New Palestine,
--- where Never Again!
will be the united cry
of both, aimed
at the land of the fraud
and the home of the greed.
THE HOUSE OF THE SETTING SUN
“Become a rag again and the poorest may wave you”
---Pier Paolo Pasolini: To the Red Flag
I put my mouth to your misery, New Orleans,
inundated and soaking with death.
Here lies: war lies piled so high, this floating
prison of a cemetery cries out of rage
at the end of its breath. Here, in the last delta,
Desire lies on its side, is rolled, and rolled
over upon by its own government, and crushed.
Summertime is over and the livin’ is dead,
and ’round midnight all hopes are looted.
No one will come clean of the Katrina
of New Orleans in this sinking
house of the setting sun.
Bodies so Black and so blue from loving
what wouldn’t spit on their shoes if they
needed a shine. Let alone a dime. Or water.
America, you were always scorched earth
in our mouths, always a baptism of crap,
always a rain of disaster streaming
down the panes of our broken eyes.
Now our rags are the most torn,
our jazz the most blue, our poor the poorest
that can be worn in the soul’s thrift-shop.
Now that all is lost and there’s only nothing
to lose…”Long live the courage
and the sorrow and the innocence of the poor!”
The real flag’s in tatters. Begin to wave it.
THIS HOUSE OF HUNGER
For the American kids who
go to sleep each night without supper
This house of hunger has
millions of kids in it.
Breakfast and lunch is
all they’re worth.
Fat Exxon and Bechtel
have billions of bux in them.
What pretty profits to set
before King Death!
Banks stink with the stench
of unmitigated greed.
Ms., Mr. and Mrs. Indifference
included in their digital speed,
while those kids lie abed
each night without even
a cup of bullion in their
O go kill the children in other
lands, America, you shootiful,
and cover for the murders
you plant in your own backyard.
Keep insisting you’re democracy,
but in the starving darkness
those sad, lost eyes
know the truth of your icy lie:
that you’ve sold all the marbles,
in their little sacks
to the bullies who applaud because
they won’t give them back,
and you’ve stolen the bread
that cried for their mouths
and turned it into dirty dough,
and that’s why, when finally
they manage to fall asleep, their
dreams call you The Haunted House,
put a spell of the Sun on you
to burn you down,
so that greedy spirits flee,
and fields grow rapidly
good things for hungry
little bellies to eat.
This will get to you,
Mumia, I know,
one way or another,
you have a vast
number of people
you’re only guilty
and yours will be
we all of us know.
Not simply here but
in France, Spain,
as well as Haiti,
---in fact everywhere
books are translated
or the Web can reach
and your name and
your courageous writings
and your daily travail
are known, your victory
will be the priceless up-
lifting of human spirit.
For we’re all sick of
Death and its wars
for oil and profits,
the murdering of
innocents, the suiciding,
the genociding, the
the cost of holocaust.
Mumia, I know you
know there’s only one
reason you’ve not only
stood by your words
but lived to enunciate
their truths from inside
the cell of death where
they’ve thrown you:
not to save your neck
but to mend the broken
one of the world; not to
simply express yourself
but to project from the
loneliest pit the enthralling
light of the need for
You are the Nazim Hikmet
of the American grain,
that Turkish poet who
spent 26 years in prison
and who, in a poem of
only two pages, entitled,
“Ever Since They Threw
Me In Here”, revealed
how no amount of bars
or shackles can chain
the revolutionary impulse
in the human heart.
Like you, poet. Yes, you,
Mumia Abu-Jamal, poet
of our daily struggles,
writing from hell itself,
(and make no mistake,
brothers and sisters,
anyone born from that
radiant and incendiary
Manifesto that neither the
forced amnesia or the
societies can make
one forget, knows there’s
no difference between
poetry and prose); for you,
Mumia, have turned the fires
of hell into flames of the
highest honor. A man
most free must from
to greet the
Old enough to be
her grandfather I
light a midnight
at the window of
She is walking up
and down the thin
Idiot, you will miss
your chance in the
Tiny attic windows
across the little street.
Voices are spilling
out of the bistros.
I enter the morning
café. She enters and
Come here because I
flee and am so small
petite’s too immense
for me and du beurre
burns my lips to open
to you but am too shy.
I watch her leave. She
takes ten steps along
the street and then, in
a blink, just vanishes.
THE PITZ ARCANE
Two days before the baseball season
began, I dreamed of a bird
the shape of the letter “I”
with wings of stone that floated
in the air of my dreaming, and I knew
when I awoke I had to play Pitz,
with the Mayan Giants.
Next day I lost my head to a beautiful
young woman, who spun it on one finger
like a soccerball and then kicked it high
up into a tree. Then she went to the river
beside that tree and took off her clothes
and then her skin, and when she was
standing there, nothing but skeleton,
I went out of my mind and flung myself
like a mango out of the tree, spattering
at her laughing bones. She picked up
what was left of me and ate me the way
I’d always wanted to be eaten. I was 20.
She was 17. It was Destiny. We were in
the backseats of a Greyhound
racing after midnight across Kansas.
She had her tongue down my throat.
I had my finger up her wound. Here
comes a hard one. Mmm, she strokes
the bat good. Her name is Destiny Sue.
She comes from Cody, Wyoming.
And she sells buttons.
Now she’s running around Xibalba
as she runs, and I’m fair enough
but not too, when it comes to where
I gotta get to: my hips are bruised,
my knees and shoulders sore. I feel
I’ve used and been used, have boozed
and abused and have been floozed,
and my 5 Jaguar has had all the whirl-
winds of any stark weather, and all the
rotgut oil she can guzzle---I’m telling
you, Itzy, she’s gonna blow, in 5
go-rounds of the Calendar Round,
she’s gonna sing her tune alright,
and we’re all gonna sing-along:
K-K-K-Katun, beautiful Katun,
it’ll be the whole ball game
and nothing but. And we faced
one another, took everything
the other gave with our hips
and our thighs, our knees,
elbows, shoulders and chests
and when the Pitz was over
71/2 hours later, she the winner
offered her head to me.
That was the highest. I don’t know
anything in living death more lofty.
So I cut it off and called it Una.
That’s her name to this very day,
so that when you make a point, a
punta, that’s one. Another punta
is another one. A third’s another.
And a fourth, another And then
the four points sit upon a line like
a bat a fungo bat to hit balls all
summer long in the stadium.
A fungo bat and mango balls:
Van Lingle Mungo keeps the count
of the days of the Giants. And they
all dwindle down to Prussian blues,
---7 Horsehead, 12 Enchiridion---
and these last precious rounds of this
Katun have a chicken wish-bone
to break with you, and a bone to
cane the way for this three-legged
dog, when his tall tale’s at the tail-
end of the light, and the darkness
coming with the chill of the Fall
keeps him yipping and yapping for
joy at that keen fireball of a sun.
The « loner » is me,
the one who stopped listening,
the one with the hidden fuse,
with the fist of blind clench,
with the hole in his heart,
with the cool guns,
the one who blasts away,
who kills because, just because,
who kills at will and, because
there’s nothing left but the dead,
suicided on top of all he’s killed,
and now you know what a market
in old Bagdhad feels like
with its victims “in the wrong place
at the wrong time”,
and why your mourning is going
in one ear of the deaf tomorrow
and out the deafening other.
Jack Hirschman was born in New York City in 1933 and has lived since 1973 in San Francisco. Author, Editor, & Translator. He has published more than 25 translations of poetry from eight languages. Since leaving a university teaching career in the ’60s, Hirschman has taken the free exchange of poetry and politics into the streets and has been called by Luke Breit, “American’s most important living poet.” He currently assists in the editing of Left Curve and is a correspondent for The People’s Tribune. Among his many volumes of poetry are A Correspondence of American s(Indiana U. Press, 1960), Black Alephs (Trigram Press, 1969), Lyripol (City Lights, 1976), The Bottom Line (Curbstone, 1988), and Endless Threshold (Curbstone, 1992). His poetry has been published in Italy as well.