Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jerome Rothenberg's Dos Oysleydikn (The Emptying)

Continuing our occasional posting of poems from Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust (ed. Charles Fishman), we offer Jerome Rothenberg's Dos Oysleydikn (The Emptying), a mediation on a world after the Holocaust.

Here's a link to Mr. Rothenberg reading the poem: Click.  

Dos Oysleydikn (The Emptying)

at honey street in ostrova
where did the honey people go?
empty empty
miodowa empty
empty bakery & empty road to warsaw
yellow wooden houses & houses plastered up with stucco
the shadow of an empty name still on their doors
shadai & shadow shattering the mother tongue
the mother’s tongue but empty
the way the streets are empty where we walk
pushing past crowds of children
old women airing themselves outside the city hall
old farmers riding empty carts down empty roads
who don’t dispel but make an emptiness
a taste of empty honey
empty rolls you push your fingers through
empty sorrel soup dribbling from their empty mouths
defining some other poland
lost to us the way the moon
is lost to us
sorrel in gardens mother of god at roadsides
in the reflection of the empty trains
only the cattle bellow in
like jews the dew-eyed wanderers
still present still the flies
cover their eyeballs
the trains drive eastward, falling
down a hole (a holocaust) of empty houses
of empty ladders leaning against haystacks no one climbs
empty ostrova & empty ostrolenka
old houses empty in the woods near vyzhkow
dachas the peasants would rent to you
& sleep in stables
the bialo forest spreading to every side
retreating the closer we come to it to claim it
empty oaks & empty fir trees
a man in an empty ditch who reads a book
the way the jews once read
in the cold polish light the fathers sat there too
the mothers posed at the woods’ edge
the road led brightly to treblinka
& other towns beaches at brok
along the bug
marshes with cat tails
cows tied to trees
past which their ghosts walk
their ghosts refuse to walk
tomorrow in empty fields of poland
still cold against their feet
an empty pump black water drips from
will form a hill of ice
the porters will dissolve with burning sticks
they will find a babe’s face at the bottom
invisible & frozen imprinted in the rock


"The Emptying" was originally published by New Direction in Rothenberg's book Krurbn (1989), and later republished by them in Triptych (2007), along with Poland/1931 and The Burning Babe.


Born on December 11, 1931, Jerome Rothenberg was raised in New York City and graduated from the City College of New York in 1952 with a BA in English. He went on to the University of Michigan to receive his Masters in Literature in 1953. From 1953 until 1955, he served in the U.S. Army in Mainz, Germany and afterwards returned to New York and continued his graduate studies at Columbia University until 1959.
Rothenberg began his literary career in the late 1950s working primarily as a translator; he is responsible for the first English appearances of Paul Celan and Günter Grass. He founded the Hawk’s Well Press in 1959, and with it, the magazine Poems From the Floating World. Hawk’s Well Press published Rothenberg’s first book, White Sun, Black Sun, in 1960. He remained in New York City teaching, writing, and publishing until 1972, when he moved to the Allegany Seneca Reservation. In 1974, he moved to California to teach at the University of California, San Diego.
Rothenberg has published over seventy books and pamphlets of poetry. His books have been translated into multiple languages; two of them have been turned into stage plays and performed in several states. He has also assembled, edited and annotated over ten anthologies of experimental and traditional poetry and performance art and has been the editor or co-editor of several magazines. He has translated an enormous amount of world literature, including Pablo Picasso and Vítezslav Nezval. He has been deeply involved in performance art and has written several plays.