Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Aimless Reading: The B's, Part 18.8 (Charles Bernstein)


Girly Man
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Bernstein, Charles
Girly Man


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books in Buffalo. Being that it's inauguration day, I'll tell a story about Charles Bernstein and former President Bush. I re-read about half of this book last night before going to bed. One memory in particular came back to me as I was reading the section titled, "World on Fire."

It was this: Charles read here in Buffalo at Talking Leaves...Books on Elmwood Avenue along with Sean Thomas Dougherty. It was very soon after the Supreme Court decision that handed Bush the presidency had come down. While introducing the poem, "Death Fugue (Echo)," which ends with two lines in German from Celan's devastating poem about the Holocaust, Charles started talking about the election. He told those assembled that he thought the election was the worst thing that had ever happened to our country. And then he got this look in his eyes that I had never seen before -- it was something more than anger -- a kind of fire. "Indignation" is probably the word I am looking for. He looked out at the audience and said something like, "We're all going to burn." I felt a chill run through me and through the audience as well. It was one of the more intense moments I have ever experienced at a poetry reading. 

And then he read the poem:

Death Fugue (Echo)

After Stefan George

In wind's web
Was my fate
In trauma's eye
In only a smile
As you gave
At moist midnight
When your glance ignited.
Now mays drone on:
Now I grieve only
For your eyes and hair
All day
In always longing,
dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Shulam
ith

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