Poetry survives in its particulars. Is it that the postmodern ("after the modern") becomes an increasingly vacant echo, a place no longer specific even to memory as a fact of people who once had daily lives in customary places? "Responsibility is the ability to respond," as Robert Duncan said, parallel to Williams: "A new world / is only a new mind. / And the mind and the poem / are all apiece . . ." Yet such worlds are necessarily plural, an endlessly arriving accumulation. Benjamin Friedlander has edited impeccably the complex texts of Charles Olson (Collected Prose) and Larry Eigner (areas lights heights). He has provided remarkable translations of other poets such as Paul Celan. All these made worlds of infinite particulars, locating, defining, proposing. His own work has long been a measure for his peers. Susan Howe writes of Time Rations (O Books, 1991): "This is intelligent, passionate writing. The poems in Time Rations are fragments, splinters, and pilgrim staves." If blanks must remain our world, if the missing parts, the frustrating absences, insist, we still need a witness if there is to be any such "we" left at all. Late voices in a late time? Here Benjamin Friedlander speaks with a survivor's humor and ungainsayable clarity of what we had thought to forget.
R. C.
Pathognomic Verses
The Gift Outright
Like a minivan 
rolled into a lake
your eyes break
their beam against 
the surface 
of a kindness,
a cold [. . . 
. . .] giving 
nothing back
Spousal Abuse
Here, where a diaper service wends
through a forest of flagpoles 
a dungeon extends 
invisibly as a breeze 
lifting the stink 
of caked shit 
unpinned from a pledge, 
scattering allegiance
like so many leaves
on the obverse of inhibition 
and accessible therefrom 
solely by a punctured willingness 
to carry with an exhaled cut 
traces on the knife edge
Written in Yellow
My hands 
are washed
in urine, 
my heart's 
a yellow star,
my soul 
is in your body,
in a squat
raining down 
For Leonard Peltier
we cut 
with rusty teeth 
the brittle 
thin lipped cup
that pours the lies 
settled like dust 
on all we saw 
against us
Go On, Get Out of Here
Pit bull 
in a halter top 
a beer, 
a brow- 
bag of wind–
head protruding 
from a grimace
like a dead tree
in the steaming snow
Getting drunk 
on somebody else's empties
The Social Contract
who are about to sigh 
anoint you 
who sign for the drinks 
when the jig is up 
and lock us up 
in the clink
of two
flutes of champagne 
toasting the end 
of a losing campaign 
for temperance
For the Freedom of Information Act
Wheelchair access 
Rings the state 
Where planes dip down 
Like sidewalk ramps 
And rolling thunder 
Clears the slate.
An aborted document 
Called chamber pot 
Of horrors, henceforth cited 
In the body of the text 
As [. . . ]
Tells how a father of two 
Was dragged from his car by the hair 
A [ . . . ] made him [ . . . ] 
His daughter in the [ . . . ] 
And a [ . . . ] 
Forced the family to stare
Her cries were like a flashlight 
Exposing a deep hole. 
Her face was like a flashlight 
Dropped into deep darkness
Hands of a stopgap measure 
Clumsily made of words 
That only a tongue can tell 
What time it is 
By the shadow