April 3-9, 2006: Luis Benítez and Gary Beck

week of April 3-9, 2006

Luis Benítez and Gary Beck

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Luis Benítez Berman

Bio (auto)

Luis Benítez was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1956) Member of the Latin-American Academy of Poetry, the Argentinean Society of Writers and the Argentinean Foundation for the Poetry He has received the tittle of Compagnon de la Poésie, from La Porte des Poétes Association, France His 8 books of poetry, 2 essays and 2 novels were published in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, USA and Venezuela Between another local and international awards, he has received: La Porte des Poétes International Award (Paris, 1991); Biennial Award of the Argentinean Poetry (Buenos Aires, 1991); Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat Foundation Award of Poetry (Buenos Aires, 1996); International Award of Fiction (Uruguay, 1996); Primo Premio Tusculorum di Poesia (Italy, 1996) and 10me Concours International de Poésie, accesit (Paris, 2003).

The following work is Copyright © 2006, and owned by Luis Benítez and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


They are found wherever there is an emptiness The solitary seats do not dispirit them They lie in wait for each century They are, in fact, the ones
who push time towards us
now and then in the stillness of a photograph
where four or five men talk about butterflies
one or two of them visibly concealed
in the eternal eventide of all Sun-days But how persuaded they feel of being
what other creatures are “Like the dead when they feign to be asleep “
Something whispers to them from the dust
inaudible, intangible They play a role
these creatures who have become caricatures
of themselves like the small twig ignorant
of its being a tree Bound to perpetuate such
an arbitrary trend of events it is perhaps
to them and only them to whom
we owe the placid rotation of the world

A Wasp Crossed the Hymen of the Window

For two hours the shrewd animal went to
and for naively through the house
before the dust of things it touched the wild ferns
the thick valleys of the tiny garden
the stone that is a plain of lava for its infinite eye:
apprehensive traveler through the rooms almost deserted
in vain encouraged the imprisoned plants,
went around the head of the dog half-asleep,
who shooed it away like a remorse The ante-chamber was the Grand Canyon of Colorado:
its powerful ancestors had visited before
other countries denuded of foliage It was curiosity: Rousseau never thought
of the black wasp that dwells only on earth
when he imagined the face of the kind convenient savage;
curiosity to see where it’s lineage spawns
and how the big white animal
that fears and shooes it away since the beginning of time
kneads the mud for its nest;
armed activist of another house
ancient, abandoned,
where we were the intruder,
curious, like a black wasp.

On the Obstinate

From 1984 I just remember one thing:
the deadly autumn had already collapsed
upon the sidewalks the day after the summer,
with all the weakness of its strength imposing
itself like a gray ink copying
itself on the blotting paper It seemed to be Eternity and was merely
a season, as ever happens to us:
the municipal saws had once
again defeated the trees, dismembering
the ones already vanquished in
the humble Roncesvalles of deserted streets Someone was washing the sidewalk,
but I only saw the petrified wood
turned for ever into the insignificant,
minute detail of firewood Among the many shades of the chestnuts
loosely piled up at the edge of the streets
there was a green point, only one,
at the end of a branch even months later, in winter Entangled, near it the tatter of a newspaper
announced the beginning of the war
finished a few days before,
the ascent of an already anonymous minister,
and the plot, by then clarified,
of a robbery and a resurrection Nothing kept anymore its ancient significance
neither in private nor in public like the dry firewood
and the roots deprived of their old foliage From that mighty autumn only that stroke
of green persisted, absurd, obstinate
at the end of a broken branch.

Gary Beck

Bio (auto)

Gary Beck’s poetry has appeared in dozens of literary magazines His recent fiction has been published in numerous literary magazines His plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes, and Sophocles have been produced Off-Broadway.

The following work is Copyright © 2006, and owned by garycbeck@yahoo.com and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Once in the Bronx

Once I had a girl friend who lived in the Bronx I got lost whenever I visited her I vaguely remember her neighborhood,
a resplendent boulevard built to welcome
Napoleon IV, Marshal Foch, General De Gaulle But it received instead my urgent lust,
leading me astray in the seven hills,
not of rambling Rome
and the conspiratorial Tiber,
but of less noted waterway, the Bronx River,
already submitting to sludge and squalor I never found memorable landmarks The Bronx looked like so many other places
in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island too But the people were calm and untroubled It was a little while after one of the wars Big II? No, Korea! So I exaggerated So it wasn’t a war We’ve coined new phrases to describe not-a-war,
at least since World War II Thus public approval continues
for legitimate bombardments.

Afterwards, our puppeteers again mishandled
the strings that make the public dance
to a more appealing prosperity So we don’t call it war, no more, no more We don’t call it war, no .more Police action Protective intervention Preventive strike Preemptive attack Far east, mid-east, near east So many ways to say we’ll bomb you I could go on, but you get my drift,
or you might as well depart,
’cause you won’t appreciate the rest
I never noticed while I searched for my girl friend,
how many old people lived in the Bronx For the youngsters came home from World War II,
married their girls, packed their bags,
kissed Ma and Pa goodby
and went to college on the G.I bill,
followed by a class jump to lower middle,
paid for by good old Uncle Sacrifice
to reward their loyal service
with the first installment of the American dream So they got their degrees
and moved to Westchester and Long Island,
to new houses, lawns, two car garages
filled with the latest consumer goods The Bronx was not for them While they were packing and moving out,
marooning Mom and Pop in oversize apartments,
no longer rattled by arguments and growing pains,
distant political agitators,
in San Juan and San Turce,
were stirring credulous Puerto Ricans
with dazzling tales of streets of gold
waiting for them in New York City And where did they settle?
(Can’t you guess?) The Bronx So out with the old,
in with the unprepared for city life,
unassisted by family, government, union-
the Hispanic migration.

Instead of welcoming the newcomers to our shores
with jobs, education, assistance in urban living,
once again we betrayed our immigrants,
but this time better than ever before Irish, Germans, Swedes, Poles, Italians, Jews-
however low they seemed to America’s owners-
were more acceptable than Black, Hispanic, or
despite the pledge of life, liberty and the pursuit
of After all, the less we look like our masters .

Once I had a girl friend who lived in I no longer remember her name.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you .

While Puerto Ricans were pouring off the planes,
Blacks were torrenting off the buses,
stiff and creaky from the long ride
from Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi too Driven out, not by Goth, Hun, Zulu, Mongol horde,
but farm machinery, by Deere, by Deere,
that rendered unnecessary until World War III,
or Interplanetary War I,
agriculture’s favorite utilities,
the bent human back, the grasping human hand.

And so they came to the Bronx, the Bronx,
as others before them had come, had come,
for jobs, homes, schools, a better life Does this sound unreasonable to you?
But in the mid-nineteen fifties
It was unacceptable to most For in with the new, out with the old,
who galloped, drove, flew, trucked, punted, fled,
until the once comfortable neighborhoods,
abandoned by experienced city dwellers,

left groups of rural newcomers adrift,
on harsh, unfamiliar streets of decay Despite all the universities in the Bronx,
and law courts, and legislators,
constitutional guarantees lapsed:
inalienable rights were alienated
I’ve almost forgotten the pleasures long ago,
shared with my girl friend in the Bronx.

I didn’t go back for twenty years What a change, citizens I had lived in Germany,
walked the ruins of World War II,
saw defeated ghosts of the Vaterland,
heard the laments of destruction,
met a madman, crooning for the lost “Fuerher”,
rushing crazed through Stuttgart streets,
chanting: “The bombs are fallen, Berlin is dead The bombs are fallen, Berlin is dead “
What does this have to do with the Bronx?
Imagine that I made no gentle rediscovery,
but found a biblical revelation.

Abandoned, burned, collapsed buildings,
spreading rubble, refuse, riots,
on unresisting residents,
atoning their sins in urban purgatory
Yet across the river,
on Sutton Place terraces,
comfortable observers counted the fires,
entertained by companions and cocktails,
while tenuous holds on life went up in flames But how the feasting in Sodom went on .went on and the pleasures of Gomorrah were many Separated from us by the palace guard The prosperous wallowed in indulgences,
refusing to receive suppliants,
a perilous subway ride removed Thy song, chanted for all of us:
consume, consume .Waste, waste Burn, baby, burn .

Her house was buried under rubble,
while the fires still smoldered,
and extravagance burdened the people But who had declared war on the Bronx?
Did I miss the notice in the New York Times
that intelligently explained the invasion,
or authorized high altitude bombing?
Dresden, Hamburg, Nagasaki, ravaged cities,
welcome to the Bronx, don’t say no thonx My visit no voyage of atonement,
nor conquest of reclamation,
but arrested by these bleeding streets,
I was possessed by the wilderness,
and compelled to serve the needy.

I saw visions that tortured my spirit;
murderous madhouses of anguish,
provided by the state, the state,
no different than bedlams of Dark Ages Our prisons jammed, crammed full-
criminals, sinners, sufferers, babies-
hidden from sight behind forbidding walls After my pilgrimage to American Institutions,
I recognized the style of government consent The children of the parents we would not help,
were finally receiving some attention,
concealed from us by padlocked doors While outside those bitter caverns,
where frightened children howl,
the non-war on crime, drugs, poverty,
and all the other social divertissimos,
that keep the media at peak employment,
constantly declare truce, amnesty, armistice,
whenever it’s time to go home to the suburbs.

Our schools are losing the spirit to struggle,
our leaders always have eloquent answers,
our churches are falling silent,
while multi-national corporations peddle our heritage Are we mortally wounded?

I think my girl friend was crushed
beneath the wreckage of her house of dreams,
in a once pleasant neighborhood,
now submerged,
somewhere in the Bronx.