Chicano Poet

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Superbowl: Tackling Che

Poets struggle to define Che. Here John Berryman vacillates
between admiration, ridicule and disbelief.

“so I’ll pretend I’m you thro certain lines
and maybe I’ll improve.”

and a few stanzas later,

“I’m screwed if I’ll praise you;
enjoy and fear you;”

but Berryman is stuck with the message. And of course
the messenger must be killed even if he has to kill himself.


I make a connexion: in your death and life
I see the Third Temptation overcome,-
foreseen (which bulks out as remarkable enough
for poor men rarely aimed) and overcome;

so I’ll pretend I’m you thro’ certain lines
and maybe I’ improve. You can’t object,
you are Bolivian molecules, dim slime
so far as judgement comes, it’s ruined years now

and many across our world sweating to “read” you,
over some slobs of which I claim advantage
as sequent: Sticking to your goddamn word
I couldn’t care less except to save myself.

So saying, I burn myself out of my way.

I wonder where rich Mother fetched her blood-
from Aragon or Huelva? –obstinater,
proud to all hurrying deaths, seductive, amusing,
reckless as a pampas fire, follow-the-leader…

Fuck my dry father’s, you wind up with me
breathless, fighting for breath,
sucking from dipped chalk in (said to be fatal),
seeking out companionable lepers up the Amazon.

O vampire bats with rabies, bite not me,
I’m not that brave. We enjoy less & less
tortoise feet daily with the toenails off,
incredible rapids & loud jaguars.

You thought it all for pure joy, anyway,
sacrifices, the bit. I’m screwed if I’ll praise you;
enjoy and fear you; you open a hope
we’re not contemptible necessity.

No, Matthew 4:10 was the point & the only point:
to head for what but fearlessness and love,
anything less or other become the Devil himself
to suck the ample anus of, & sign in:

“Lost soul. Sold, for something less
than man.” From Siempre, a gross U.S. map
all mouthing faces, all but a baffled Chief
and sorry yippee, with mouths drawn down shut.

Begin with shame. The woman or man not revolutionary
isn’t. Where he found “no will to fight,
leaders corrupt,” he went Elsewhere,---
versatile as the word “set” & as single.

Stuck with a message. Stuck, worse, with a witness.

by John Berryman from Henry's Fate

Paul Maritnez Pompa (late arriving crowd) tries desperately
to revise Che even though he claims he can not do it. “Daddy,
daddy, you do not do, barely daring to breathe or Achoo..”
First he makes him into a Christ-figure, and yet in frustration
he turns him into a mere decoration. Eventually he chooses to
look the other way like the rest of us though he himself has
told us,

“Nothing truer
than a poet who resists
on paper.”

Pompa is not willing to be the condemned messenger that
Berryman was so eager to become,


In the photo your corpse is draped over
a wash basin as Bolivian soldiers stare

and poke, careful not to get too close
to your sunken chest. Your Jesus

veneer tempts the nuns to clip a lock
of hair before an agent is ordered to take

a saw to your wrists. Fingers to fall
like bullets in formaldehyde. The tale

of your body varies with each voyeur’s
attempt to write it. The photo blurs

& I realize I cannot revise an icon
permanently cast as mere decoration.

Let near poets dismiss you as ironic trend,
I have nothing to say not already said.

by Paul Martinez Pompa
from My Kill Adore Him