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Benjamin Friedlander

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.

--Robert Creeley

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

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