I Fail As a Celibate

By Jerome Rothenberg b. 1931 Jerome Rothenberg
Despair leaves
a dry spot
the passage of light
through my veins.
I fail as a celibate.
The smell of honey
fills my throat.
I lose touch with
my bone when
it stiffens.
I find a place
to spring
& spike you
while you cry.
I try to rev things up
although I hate
the sound of flying.
Gagging leaves
the breath
no exit.
Then the chest puffs out,
no longer hapless,
in the face of
everything aloof
& distant,
where the world begins.
I go on craving
hostile to the ones like you
who bind me.
I surrender any
knowledge of the cave
in which I hide
from light.

"I Fail As a Celibate" By Jerome Rothenberg, from A Book of Witness: Spells and Gris-Gris, copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 by Jerome Rothenberg. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Source: A Book of Witness: Spells and Gris-Gris (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2003)

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Poet Jerome Rothenberg b. 1931


Subjects Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Love, Philosophy, Desire


Jerome Rothenberg's publishing career began in the late 1950s as a translator of German poetry, first for Hudson Review and then for City Lights Books. Founding Hawk's Well Press in 1959, Rothenberg used it as a venue to publish collections by some of the up-and-coming poets of the era, including Diane Wakoski and Robert Kelly. He also self-published his first book of poems, White Sun Black Sun, under the Hawk's Well imprint. . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Love, Philosophy, Desire


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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