WELCOME TO MY WORLD
Selected Poems 1973 - 2013
You can now listen to audio recordings of more than 30 of the major poems from "Welcome To My World", and follow the text at the same time. Simply click here to go to David Prashker's Songs & Poems blog.
"I began writing poetry when I was seventeen, fully believing I was the next Rimbaud, the next Dylan Thomas, the next Walt Whitman. Everything I wrote reflected their works, or whichever other poet I was reading at the time. To write is to give outer form to the inner life; but everything I wrote turned out to have given outer form to someone else's inner life; and worse, in their own words. Eventually, I told myself, eventually I'll find my voice, my form. And no doubt eventually I will.
"In learning how to write I experimented with every form available to would-be poets: Hebrew forms, Japanese forms, blank verse, doggerel, the sonnet, the epic, the lyric; and even invented a few forms of my own. The poems collected here bring together the eight volumes that I published privately along the years of my journey: 'Early Poems', 'Hebrew Poems', 'Japanese Poems', 'Coins', 'The Pulse', 'The Caged Song-Bird of the Muse', 'The Strings on the Dome of the Tortoise' and "The Temple and the Word". For those of you who have googled me, and therefore know what I'm referring to, some but not all of the 'Toronto' poems are included (one was never a poem anyway, but a fragment of 'The Flaming Sword'; some I feel inclined to include as an act of defiance, but the truth is, they weren't very good poems in the first place).
PORTRAIT OF A MAN
First there is the name –
which I shall not mention –
skewered on the tongue's forked blade
Then there is the man himself
the swatch of bone and tissue
the veil of flesh
the tattoo numbered on one forearm
the scar marked above one eye
the weary movement of a broken arm across
the swung pendulum of a conversation
the trembling in the hollow of a thigh
This – all this – and nothing:
the rumours bartered in the market-place
the fictions and disguises
the transitory syllogism of the ego
the indecipherable hieroglyphs
carved on a face of stone
By a certain bridge
where I have often seen him
I watch his shadow in the lamplight
and his image in the water
trying to unlock the symbols
of an unknown algebra
Though the thickness of the undergrowth impedes him,
though doubt throws obstacles across his path,
though clearings of illusory light deceive him -
still he goes on grappling through the dark,
wriggling like a bifurcated spider
trying to reconcile two contradictory halves:
the joy forever rising up inside him,
the anguish meanwhile spreading through his calves.
Left and right are equally untenable,
for rejection is implied in every act of choice,
and every act of hope implies dejection,
for the silence is the darkness given voice.
Yet he goes on struggling, jib and mainsail for'ard,
knowing he does so out of cowardice, not fortitude;
the path is his to choose, however rough and awkward,
yet he chooses not in freedom but in servitude.
The goal, of course, is halting - but he cannot halt,
not, at least, until he has attained his goal;
and the darkness presses deeper, and the vaults
of darkness close around the halter of his soul.
And the darkness masks itself as lightness to deceive him,
for his skin has turned to silk as thin as cloud,
weaving the cocoon of his own unhatched creation
he sloughs the blackened husk of his own shroud.
Soon enough the birds will come in harness
to breakfast on his liver, share by share.
It will not nourish them. Reduced to mere skein of darkness,
he has become as insubstantial as the air.
THE NEW ORDER
I read in the Talmud
that if a man has boils
or bad body odour
he is obliged to divorce his wife
This is how it should be
This is how we shall build
the new world order
Men who fail to clean their minds properly
will lose their human status
Men who cook with too much ginger
will be compelled to sleep with insects
Men who walk on the grass
will be made to smoke it
Men who write foolish laws
will be compelled to keep them
This is the rule of the new world order
or be disbarred from eternity