Found Poem: “Genesis, American Style”

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Musings on Writing and Life.

In March 2019, Halfway Down the Stairs published my found poem, “Genesis, American Style,” in the All That Glitters edition of their quarterly magazine.

Halfway Down the Stairs is a visually inviting literary magazine that was, according to their website, “established in 2005 to publish cutting-edge fiction, poetry, and nonfiction by talented writers.” In the All That Glitters issue, the editors wanted to explore “our never-ending resistible urge to pour ourselves out. You will find a little bit of everything – potholes, ashes, affairs, guillotines, gallows – and, here and there, true joy.”

I crafted my found poem from scraps of language I culled from reading Genesis, the first volume of Eduardo Galeano’s trilogy, Memory of Fire, translated by Cedric Belfrage. The other two volumes are Faces and Masks (2) and Century of the Wind (3). The intended form of my poem is a nod to the traditional sonnet of fourteen lines, in this case, three tercets followed by the final couplet or envoi. Note: I am still working out some formatting issues as to how poetry appears on my website. So the poem below will look different from the one published by Halfway Down the Stairs.

Galeano wrote: “I believe in memory not as a place of arrival, but as a point of departure—a catapult throwing you into present times, allowing you to imagine the future instead of accepting it…I wrote Memory of Fire in the present tense, trying to keep alive everything that happened and allow it to happen again, as soon as the reader reads it.”

This blurb on the back of my paperback edition says it all: “Memory of Fire is a sweeping account of the Americans from their birth to the present day…a rendering of the historical and mythic fabric of the continents, and a resistance against the genocide of conquest. Galeano tells of the often silenced…whose contributions form a people’s history of the other América.”

Genesis, American Style

Planting the cross and the gallows,
men wearing clothes did come, dominate, kill
every gaiety that once warmed the blood.

In square gray houses, the women were condemned
to breed behind shutters. A barren land starved, scorched—
much misery in the years of the rule of greed.

The noonday sun made the stones smoke & medals flash.
One bat’s caress drew from a boy his last laugh,
yet few spirits expressed themselves by whistling.

Any who failed to wash absolution from their eyes?
Apprehended. Breathing grew violent, an effort.
Each casket of words held a body the size of a sigh.

Witness a world made empire, unfettering.
There is no flame at the festival of the new fires.

a found poem culled from Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire

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