THE NEW WORLD

“A great poem of this end of our century. It is masterfully structured in recurring themes and voices which build on and off each other. Gardinier is above all a poet whose language, music and images are completely integrated, so that in Keats's words, every rift is laden with ore. I found this a thrilling poem to read.”
--Adrienne Rich

“Intelligent, lyrical, a wonderful whole.”
 --Lucille Clifton

  A Poet Reacts To Violence, But the Sweetness Shines Through: New York Times 1994 >>>

A Poet Reacts To Violence, But the Sweetness Shines Through: New York Times 1994 >>>


The New World is a long poem centered in the area fifty miles in all directions from Columbus Circle; I started it on a train in New York when I was 27, and finished it in a Phoenix motel room just before my 31st birthday, in 1992, with a section about Gaza. I was living in Sag Harbor then, and remember that February running to the post office just before it closed with two copies of the manuscript under my arm:  one for Lucille Clifton, who was judging the Associated Writing Programs contest that year, and one for Adrienne Rich. ("If you can read and understand this poem," she'd written in "Coast to Coast," when I was 17, "Send something back.") That September I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Lucille Clifton at the Dodge Festival; when I walked up after her reading and introduced myself, she looked me up and down and told me that when she'd read the anonymous manuscript, she hadn't been able to tell whether it was written by someone young or old, black or white, a man or a woman. "In the poem, many voices speak," one of the notes at the back of the book says; "my name on it should not be understood as any claim to originality or ownership. I am less the poem's author than its gatherer; to make it, I 'thought' much less than I listened."

Contents

Book One

To The City of Fire (If I forget you let my sleep dwindle) 3
Admirals (He stares south on his column over anchors) 4
The Ghost of Santo Domingo (What I remember I will tell) 5
To Peace (When will you come The days are long the nights) 6
Our American Way of Life (Smoking a cigarette in a classroom) 7
At Work (Day is gone light almost gone torch leaves) 8
At School (Two boys are hurried into the office) 9
Refugees (Every night she dreams of departure) 10
Citizens (There is no need for concern the Ushan) 11
In That Time (In that time there existed Sovereign States) 12
The Shattering (I was determined never to marry) 13
Leviathan (Leviathan many tentacles) 15
To the Tribunal (There was a machine that opened the earth) 16
Blues (Come here baby wrap your arms around) 17
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Although it stands between the kidnappers) 18
Where Blind Sorrow Is Taught To See (Rain shines black where the red-and-white-light-laced) 20 Democracy (Nothing hurts but the foot is insistent) 21
Soldiers (Water they ask as she passes among them) 22
Memorials (Walt Whitman I lay on the grass today) 23
Migrations (The long migration is over We are) 24

Book Two

To The City of Fire (All this time I have never told you) 27
Admirals (Your Majesty We found today) 29
The Ghost of Santo Domingo (I’ve set six stones in a row near the eastern) 30
To Peace (Peace I have feared you hated you scuffed dirt) 31
Our American Way of Life (Chapter Eight Going Shopping What is this) 32
At Work (As she nods down into and up from sleep) 33
At School (It’s the first hot afternoon upstairs) 34
Refugees (By the time the stars prick their faint patterns) 36
Citizens (The Trees have no leaves A man on a stretcher) 37
In That Time (In that time before the Abolition) 38
The Shattering (Adam slept by the pasteboard wall) 39
Leviathan (Leviathan know that cotton river) 41
To the Tribunal (For seven days we were not allowed) 42
Blues (Lived here all my life Seen what you can do) 43
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Dear Amy At last a moment I miss) 44
Where Blind Sorrow Is Taught To See (Lips against lips The window is open) 46
Democracy (Where there was furnishing and canopy) 47
Soldiers (After the war I will go to the highlands) 48
Memorials (At the Mohegan Diner off Route Six) 49
Migrations (Far inland the earth under our feet) 52

Book Three

To The City of Fire (Here is soot Today it is all I have) 55
Admirals (October 1609 This land is) 56
The Ghost of Santo Domingo (All day she rocks forward and back whispering) 57
To Peace (All day I search for you without success) 58
Our American Way of Life (Chapter Twelve In School What is this This) 59
At Work (She ladles the grounds with a plastic measure) 60
At School (Excuse me the teacher says Where are you going) 61
Refugees (Before the dawn before the rain started) 62
Citizens (There is chilly dancing in Harlem tonight) 63
In That Time (In that time after the Great Silencing) 64
The Shattering (Wednesday January 25) 65
Leviathan (Leviathan ubiquitous) 68
To the Tribunal (I come from a village by the north border) 69
Blues (Leaves fallin down Here come the cold) 70
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Tonight I woke again afraid) 71
Where Blind Sorrow Is Taught To See (It’s Independence Day or by now) 72
Democracy (They took the beggar by the elbows) 73
Soldiers (These five days and five nights there are no) 74
Memorials (The tarnished band of old men slouches) 75
Migrations (At the foot of the cobbled highway linking) 77

Book Four

To The City of Fire (Where are you going Will you leave so quickly) 81
Admirals (The people go naked men and women) 82
The Ghost of Santo Domingo (That the earth may shelter and sustain us) 83
To Peace (Why should you come to meet me your most) 84
Our American Way of Life (Chapter Fifteen Our Flag What is this) 85
At Work (You so sleepy baby Who you been) 86
At School (Merchant and Merchant Junior march) 87
Refugees (Until half past eight Pin’s daughter belongs) 88
Citizens (It is late when she walks from the mica chambers) 89
In That Time (In that time the people gathered at night) 90
The Shattering (We were six We met in the evening) 91
Leviathan (Leviathan scarify and scour) 92
To the Tribunal (At Léopoldville I stood with others) 93
Blues (You tell me no trouble’s on your tail) 95
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Dear Amy It has been a long time) 96
Where Blind Sorrow Is Taught To See (Before you I walked with my hands in my pockets) 98
Democracy (You bought new clothes You thought it was finished) 99
Soldiers (Come my shirtless my hardly with us) 100
Memorials (The cathedral floors and ceiling vaults) 101
Migrations (I am wholly ruined Your Highness) 104

Book Five

To The City of Fire (All along there have been places where I) 107
Admirals (Your High Mightinesses I trust you received) 108
The Ghost of Santo Domingo (They gave us broken crockery broken) 109
To Peace (I have called you names I cannot repeat here) 110
Our American Way of Life (Chapter Nineteen The People The People) 111
At Work (For where there are no hiding places rows) 112
At School (In bright frayed coats and leaping the children) 113
Refugees (At midnight the old year blows its cold breath) 114
Citizens (In the bars and private rooms of the city) 115
In That Time (In that time the people presided over) 117
The Shattering (The President and the Prime Minister) 118
Leviathan (Leviathan the bullet bulwark) 120
To the Tribunal (To protect ourselves we had knives and bamboo) 121
Blues (By this fire I still feel the wind) 122
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (June 1867 Dear Amy) 123
Where Blind Sorrow Is Taught To See (Near where I lived there was a fenced schoolyard) 124 Democracy (This is the sowing time The harvest) 125
Soldiers (In the mica chambers the princes sit) 126
Memorials (This afternoon cut bond shocks of cane) 127
Migrations (It was the moon of big winds In the night) 130

 


To the City of Fire / 1

If I forget you let my sleep dwindle
and vanish in the dark early mornings
Let sleep forget me until I learn
to keep you near and not stray and not rest
in my wanderings over your rutted face
How can you think it can ever be finished
between us Do you understand
how the jostlings and marketplaces
of any other city how any
meadow or china cup will summon you
dying my provenance eyes closed trailing
blood from the severed leg left in the trap
you made Do you think you will dance that dance
forever Listen There will be a night
when the steel din of your heartbeat will fall
almost silent when I will ask your clamor
from you and it will be given I mean
to stay I mean to last your rebuffs
betrayals trials of stamina and trust
I mean to part your smoke to sleep
my mindful sleep and with that strength hold you
and say the parting words over you
and listen to the manifold voices
of those you crushed struggle into speech
to give myself to help make what will come

To Peace / 1

When will you come The days are long the nights
damp and quick but many I am leaving
the light for you my traveler Where
are you staying tonight What stranger’s fork
and cup and sheets press against you The rumors
that you were seen in the east have come
to nothing Can you not send a letter
Without you the hours will not balance
The summer burns and the winter snows
course through the streets and flood the low houses
Our neighbors’ faces are battlements
but perhaps for you we have lost this name
We hunt each other underground
hold celebrations in locked chambers
sleep uncovered in the rain The children
no longer know your name or your features
To the youngest you are as near as what hides
under grave markers They have not known
what it is to live with you my elusive
my empty-the-plazas my stay-away
How will I recognize your counterfeit
Does the place where your foot meets the earth still keep
the same imprint Has your blindness become
more burden than gift Will you remember the way
Will you feel the light’s warmth and come in

To Peace / 2

Peace I have feared you hated you scuffed dirt
on what little of you I could bear near me
scorned you called you vicious names Every time
you have settled over an afternoon
a friendship a night walk my brow my sleep
I have lashed free of your desolate island
back to the familiar continent
Coward I have watched you buckle under
nightsticks and fire hoses You have
disgusted me slipping flowers into guns
holding hands with yourself singing to bullets
and dogs Who can speak your language
but animals and saints What history records
your triumphs Over what centuries
have you reigned Miasma Where are the stone
lists of those who have died in your name
In the land where you are loved what becomes
of the veterans of all against all How
will I clothe myself How will I eat How
will I teach my children whom to respect
how to find themselves on a map of the world
when I have so seldom seen your face
Tell me Bloodless Outlaw Phantom what is
the work of the belligerent in
your anarchic kingdom Where is my place

To the City of Fire / 3

Here is soot Today it is all I have
to give you My stores of honey and corn
and fresh water and even sand are empty
Here With this you can hold the city’s
every corner under your fingernails
ground into the soles of your shoes riding
the pulses of your lungs’ fragile chambers
traveling from your eye’s edge to the back
of your hand Here is soot signature
of the city of fire and its web
of consequences It has spread its burned
body over the river filmed the slick
dark heads of the cormorants as they plunge
to eat It has settled between the pavements
and the clothes of those who sleep on them
It testifies to the lost integrity
of forests of the earth’s buried black veins
of tenements of poison sealed in drums
against flesh of circles of pointed tents
of the bodies of those who would not obey
or who slept on park benches unheeding
It is memory smearing the sunsets
to attract our shattered attention each mote
a crippled survivor voiceless haunting
our eyes and throats trying to find a way in

At School / 3

Excuse me the teacher says Where are you going
 Mister Do you have a pass He nods
May I see it  He sighs offers the paper 
and stares out the doorglass laced with diamonds
of wire On his chest are a skull
and the words Harvester of Sorrow
The interrogation complete he continues
his journey She resumes her watch
 Something’s burning  Charlie a colleague tells her
 Can you smell it They don’t know what it is
Probably toxic fumes
she says and we’re all
gonna die Nah
Charlie says hooking
a thumb under his belt The buckle
says USMC We’re safe This is peace
I did what I had to do over there

he says I went and when I came home
I lay in the streets to stop it I thought
I would change the world       I used to be
an idealist
she says     It’s still in you
somewhere
he tells her No I don’t think so
Her gaze splits as another adolescent
approaches When the revolution comes
Charlie laughs you and me Chickie we’ll lie
in the streets    Don’t hold your breath Charlie    Yes
I’m telling you Chickie we’ll lie in the streets

At Work / 4

You so sleepy baby Who you been
botherin all night
Clarisse laughs She sets
on the green counter eggs triangles of bread
and a gleaming orange glass She don’t say
nothin
she tells her friend I don’t answer
 She ain’t givin nothin away
You better eat up baby
She aligns
a knife and fork on the napkin One hand
brushes mine You hardly holdin up
that sleepy head
She crosses to the window
It’s still too early for Saturday’s thicket
of orders the row of tickets hung
by the kitchen portal the ache in her feet
She sits at a set table Winter roaring
through the village makes the plate glass tremble
 Where your babies at Clarisse her friend calls
and her face changes Her smile returns
to the place where she keeps it She rubs her eyes
and doesn’t answer Where your babies today
her friend calls again They are three
Their photographs grin from the wall by the toasters
I have never met them but I know their names
 Girl  Clarisse starts She stands and gives me
her square back on the way to the kitchen
to answer Clarisse Where your babies today

Leviathan / 4

Leviathan scarify and scour
Leviathan leave barren dirt
Leviathan bend you to the diggin
Leviathan stipple lungs with chasms
Leviathan sow fevers and thirst
Leviathan lash-boss the first ones
Leviathan big bellies and flies
Leviathan broadcast sprays of shrapnel
Leviathan spavin all the smallers Leviathan call it Civilize
Leviathan bill you for the pillage
Leviathan leave you stonybroke
Leviathan counterfeit the bargains
Leviathan oversee the strongbox
Leviathan lock it paper yoke
Leviathan decimate the saplings
Leviathan suck out the pith
Leviathan grind up the seed corn
Leviathan gut the villages
Leviathan say Please Remit
Leviathan wrack the skinny tin-roofs
Leviathan twist the penthouse throat
Leviathan cry like crocodile
Leviathan trick and give mouth honor
Leviathan got the stranglehold

Blues / 4

You tell me no trouble’s on your trail
You tell me no trouble’s on your trail
But you got shakes and blood under your nails

When you keep on lyin like you do
When you keep on lyin like you do
I can’t love you the way you want me to

You promised me somethin you ain’t given yet
You promised me somethin you ain’t given yet
You promised me and I won’t forget

Where Blind Sorrow Is Taught To See / 4

Before you I walked with my hands in my pockets
by the dark deserted piers in all weathers
Before you I asked at the oracles
of steel grates and park maples’ winter cordage
and tried to decipher the admonitions
of saplings and windows of notebooks and globes
Before you I bluffed and hoarded I ranged
the inconsolable archipelago
bent with useless offerings ungiven
past taverns and perfume and cardboard pallets
longing for the embrace of mannequins
trying to walk captivity’s scent
from my clothes Before you I could not hold
oblivion tightly enough against me
The parsed days’ murders and educations
settled into the bones of my face
where I could no longer understand them
Before you blank tablets Before you dumb
Before you I looked for you in the rubble
of roadways and broken pediments
in the praying mantis climbing the pilaster
in the bleak hacked view from the promontory
in cuffed new leaves stirring In empty shoes
Before you I walked and whistled invitations
and heard no answering voice before you

Democracy / 4

You bought new clothesYou thought it was finished
Your tongue had learned some of the strange new words
But the newspapers cry On the stock exchange
the hoarse barkers pace and tear up their tickets
Stand up Stand up We are going to war
Soon all the words will be lost in roaring
and gestures flung into rains of steel
Already the meals are brittled with warnings
the cups set stiffly at the silent places
Push back your chairs We are going to war
It is time to give up the avenues and pastures
you dreamed It is time to take the strangers
whose languages had begun to touch you
and show them who is terrible
and who is afraid We are going to war
We will cast nets over their mouths and bar
all nourishment We will teach the price
of defiance and empty pockets’ depth
Your round tables are cinders Put on your boots
and disguises We are going to war
Though they shrink back to their shelters’ corners
though they burn their own land under our feet
though generations fall and the birds
drop from the trees we will make dominion
of sand Stand up We are going to war

To the City of Fire / 5

All along there have been places where I
have stopped my sentences to hear you
For every word of this blathering figure
four words’ worth of attentive silence This
poem is no more mine than the whorls
of my fingerprints the graves of my ancestors
this Usahn in my mouth and no less Here
is the place for you to speak alive
or dead midwifing this city’s birth
or leaving the neckwound cord to its purpose
or sitting by or walking the hallway
outside the red room Here is one place
for you to say your piece although since
we began this journey you have started and stopped
as you pleased put your two cents in
or offered your silence I offer this now
Tell me your part Tell me what I have not
been able to imagine Tell me the universes parallel to the ones
I know Tell me your ecstatic breakfasts
what food pleases you what gods if any
Tell me your mother and father your sidewalks
and leaves your exiles Tell me what
you have told no one hardly told yourself
Tell me I’m leaning forward to listen

To Peace / 5

I have called you names I cannot repeat here
When you have spoken I have turned away
I have kept your every settling place
barren The solace of your absence
has sustained me It is useless now
In the morning you rest on my closed eyelids
and race through neon alphabets at night
Every brick every bus every curb’s steel protection
every jackhammer every newspaper hat
every pigeon every furtive night insect
every blighted tree every stranger’s breath
brings your hands on my shoulders nearer
my patient tenacious my wide and deep
Your name simmers in the greetings and curses
of the scattered commonwealths of one
We are piecing together your clothes in secret
Those who hide you in rooms underground
who come to the door in their weariness
for your blessing know you by the cooksmoke
over the banked fire by the shards of slate
and chalk by the fretted braids of bread
by the signature of the sentry lichen
over the rocks at the entryway
your sign the slow the ancient the adherent
your emblem the disparate two made one

 

May 1988 - January 1992
New York


From internet article on The New World in Japanese, put through the Babelfish computer translator: 

"...as for the line extending over it turns out and entrust also random and the rhythm with, almost it cannot find the trace of those which you call note to sound. Therefore, when it keeps searching the thing and such kind of ones which first designate feeling as the ? those above the geohistory political fragmentary data, as an art, only several sections it remains after all. Tendency of this kind of prose conversion now has become the problem which (it is) is in common to post modern and the poem of post colonial age, but those several sections in The New World are very beautiful in fortunate thing."

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