from Track -- Norman Finkelstein


This is the place
where strangeness ends

The place forever
folding in upon itself

Which those already
at home call home

And those without rest
can never know.


Came to that place
or were of that place

Had come to that place
so long ago

Had left that place
knowing that place

Something they carried
taking its place.


Something taking place
standing in place

Folded in place
and left standing

A moving place
never left behind

Wings folded
around that place.


Those without rest
knowing that place

Knowing where strangeness
begins and ends

Knowing they have left
and have never left

Knowing never
to speak of home.


As one who would gather
all things into presence

Gather all things
before they disappear

Would give them this charge:
gather unto yourself
All that is you
all that is here.


But all that was here
borne here from elsewhere?

All that was borne here
by the currents of time?

Walking against the currents
walking on the shore

Came into the presence
of what was here no longer.


A figure loved as fate
because we love only our fate

A presence imposed
against the presence of things

Against the present
imposed the future or the past

Something to love
from time to time.


So that we cannot embrace
the here and now

Cannot embrace
here and now

Who have loved the future like a mistress
—said so long ago

Could love freedom as a presence
freed of fate in time.


and forced migrations

and exiles

The numbers must be
taken into account

And the disfigurements
of the surfaces.


Hymn or

Something of both
I imagine

born of chronicle

the Scholar/Translator were here.


Translation: you may no longer
write this way

Or: you may no longer
go this way

Those of you
awaiting translation

this way.


The force of that order
enactment of that order

As if disfigured
hymns and chronicles

into a new order:

Meaning standing forth
standing against force.


Love of meaning stands forth
freed of fate in time

Went into the background
and returned emptyhanded

Returned empty
hands with nothing to hold

Mind with nothing to hold
or so it has been translated.


In the tractate
on the mastery of meaning

Recently delivered
and newly translated

The lovers of fate
came into the Presence

in an empty space.


But in the tractate
on the mastery of mastery

Came upon a scribe
in an empty space

Before an empty book
indistinguishable from the others

Lining the shelves
but still empty.


Read the sound as silence
past or present tense?

Read freedom as fate
who is giving these instructions?

Read translator as scribe
read consonants as vowels

Read constantly the vows



The present set in italics
because of its urgency

The present set in italics
because it is ancillary

The present never
fully present

The present a formula
never set down.


The present a gift
gift of presence

Moment of beauty
moment of relief

Scintillant living
greens in the breeze

The sky the lawn
a moment here.


Walk into
that moment

Still a stranger
here at home?

Nothing more familiar
nothing more uncanny

(Ghosts) in the morning
guests at the door.


Guest Ghost Host
three figures with one face

Recall the text:
essay or film

Seen or read
so long ago

Three words with one root
at home so long ago.


So isolated
so connected

So isolated
because of the connections

The impalpable connections
ghosts in the machine

The little boy waiting
never growing up.


Waiting for rain
in a rainy season

Waiting for an earthquake
the existential shock

The shock of regularity
—cut it in half!

Break! cried the master
because the point


was not the point.
Because we are unhoused
because the litany

takes us up
takes us away

from or into
what is familiar

Because we are unbound.


Unbound, unhoused
alone or in families

The living and the dead
the real and the imagined

No choice but to obey

Neither eat the book
nor vomit it forth

One half falls away.


So the lost tribes
find their way into the text

So the saving remnant
remains to be celebrated

Monad upon monad
each reflecting the other

Came upon the words
after endless repetition.


Came upon the words
stolen as usual:

“A mode of assuring the seeker
that he is on the way

and is not merely wandering blindly
through the chaos from which

all form


The seeker here
was meant to be home

But is still on the way
despite our best intentions

Our best intentions?
—voice of god or fate?

Again that feeling
of wandering blindly.


“The chaos from which
all form rises”

“Wherefrom the shadows
that are forms fall”

Rising and falling
beyond any coincidence

That certainty before the text
which we can never reclaim.

Honored Professor!

Your recently published memoirs, which have shocked and amazed even your
most devoted students, are slowly revealing themselves to be a source of
great inspiration for those who would continue your work. Yet much remains
troubling. The conclusion that may be drawn from your observations regarding
the ineluctable lateness of what we call the sacred now forces many of us to
reexamine our most basic assumptions about the field. (I pass over the more
personal implications of your remarks for those students who continue the
attempt to reconcile their scholarly activities with the practice of an organized
faith. Alas that we lack your own guidance here, since all evidence points to the
probability that, prior to your departure, you destroyed the journal in which you
kept your most intimate theological speculations.)
How have you convinced us of this lateness? What does it mean for the Rule of
Primal Voices which you told us repeatedly was the guiding principle in your
practice of translation? If I may borrow a line from one of your last completed
renditions, “The world is made of his voice.” Surely, master, many of us feel
the same way about your work, and it is in precisely this conflation that the
problem now lies.
“But paleography is not propaganda,” you wrote, and the decisiveness of that
assertion (it could stand as a motto for all your efforts) remains, a sharp
contrast to the corrosive doubts poorly hidden in your other remarks. You
noted early on that the scribes were also redactors. Does the same apply to
the modern scholar/translator? You sensed that with your work, you had
“become involved in the process of formation of the canon of this sacred
material.” Does the student of these archaic texts unveil or decode their
sacred character, or in reality designate them, categorize them as sacred? You
longed “to make available what I so wanted to keep secret and inviolable.”
Which, in the end, did you choose?
Esteemed sir, we have little choice but to carry on with these investigations,
following your footsteps even into the most treacherous territory, the most
ambiguous researches. Even the faith we place in what you called “the
unsullied literary imagination,” as evinced in these documents, is a faith in an
ambiguous power, as fickle and unpredictable as the Yahweh of the later
Hebrew scriptures. How remote and godlike becomes the precursor, how
endlessly interpretable the founder of a discourse! And of whom do I speak
when I lament the loss of that original author? You became the figure whom you
sought. In turn you have become that figure for us. We know this by certain
signs you have left. That have always been there.

Your devoted student,


Layer upon layer
we return to the site
again and again
return to the sight

This was the origin
so long ago
the great island
and the outer boroughs

The romance of the streets
for the young archaeologist
is gone in the dust
of moments or years

Ash on the fruit
in the Amish Market
ash on the jars
ash in the jars.


Neither the sonnets
nor the clay tablets
the arc of fireworks
the haunted collage

Neither the impossibility
nor the incommensurability
¯the proper tools
are always at hand

To free oneself
of sententious platitudes
music the ally
silence the ally

Turn to the task
turn the task
turn it
and turn it again.


The easy wisdom
the impossible ambiguities
gone in an instant
the complex of time

The constellation of phenomena
trajectory of forces
too complicated to calculate
too diffuse to predict

The stymied pundits
in the face of mourning
the threatened nation
gave him “strange courage”

Gave him hope
in the face of powers
powers beyond hope
powers of hope.


Sixteen is the number
he found on the card
too awful to picture
or to name

Awful the sense
of numbed fatality
out of the fatalities
in awful numbers

Only the flimsiest
game to guide him
so that he must ask pardon
¯but of whom?

Himself or all of us
in the verbal reversals
setbacks, defeats
ruins upon ruins.


Not the mighty dead
with whom you are wont to wrestle
but the humble dead
who can swat you like a fly

There and there again
each morning in the Times
staring from sheets of newsprint
not from sheets of flame

What counts counts
in and beyond the poem
far beyond the poem
into empty space

Empty and full
full of emptiness
each morning in the Times
each morning in time.


Tell us the way
they sing without music
tell us of the shops
where they go to change

Colors, white to brown
or brown to white
tell us of how they eat
the food if it is frozen

Tell us if that is food
or a toy in the child’s hand
or a room full of toys
or a shop full of toys

Tell us why the woman
walks so many dogs
tell us of the dogs please
before we have to go.


Tell us the news
that we want to know

Tells us the news
whether we want to know or not

Tells us
what it wants us to know

Whether we know it
or not

Whether it knows us
or not

Whether we know us
or not

What do we know?
only that we

Knowing that want
want to know.


Days such as these
the poet
seeks even more intently

for a language somehow commensurate
with the presentation of events
scarcely possible to follow.

Days such as these
the poet
can count on little that was not his

though from the beginning there was nothing
he could count
as his own.

Days such as these
the presentation of events
is owned and disowned continually

in the poet’s search.

Lost and dreaming
among the antiquities
the dead world memorialized
if only in thought

He lived in a museum
at the edge of an abyss
lived in an abyss
resembling a museum

Shuffling through the corridors
invisible to the crowds
the invisible crowds
in what was really his home

The pots, the masks
the unidentified artifacts
that came from a time
before or after.


And he would hear things
now and then
not quite dictation
neither song nor speech

And he would see things
as if they were photographs
in the pages of a newspaper
he hadn’t time to read

And he would know things
not really in advance
no more so than anyone
who cared to think about it

I mean he would be visited
by ancestors or descendents
would ascend or descend
without any choice.


I mean as time went on
there was little he could do
less and less
becoming more and more

Needs and demands
compounding the losses
the living continually
adding to the dead

Subtracting what he could keep
from what he believed he possessed
believing he was possessed
because all seemed lost

“All is lost”: ashes, ashes
the memory of masters
masters of memory
lost and restored.


And when I love thee not
declared the great Captain
Chaos is come again
as chaos came again

How everything was falling
and knew it was true
for it was on a screen
for all to see

The philosopher
and the physicist
the critic and the missing

All of them transformed
into connoisseurs of chaos
all gaping
at the loss of love.


But they provided a language
one of many
and that too
appeared upon a screen:

Or imagined it embroidered
upon a sampler
in an old-fashioned parlor
rocking chair and all

Repeated endlessly
part of a pattern
studied by intelligences
here and beyond.


From which perspective
little can be gained
so that one must return
to simple statements

Simple sentiments:
let’s have it out:
I believe in technique
as the test of a man’s sincerity

Wherefrom may follow
inevitable argument
unavoidable argument
and the music thereof

Say an idea
and its concomitant emotions
or an emotion
and its concomitant ideas.


Nor is this theory
or even poetics:
there is a hole in my city
as there is a hole in my heart

But the poet
has learned certain lessons
must have learned certain lessons
about weights and measures

Of words and their accuracy
prior to consolation
seeing, listening
reaching toward that goal

prooftext or metatext
here always an elsewhere
foursquare, builded
inevitable cycle


Therefore the repetition
of the text or act of love
leads inevitably
to the text or act of love

So that the consolation
appears to arise
out of a certain logic
built into the syntax

Built into the body
ears, eyes, genitals
posed against death
though “Deathward we ride”

So love calls to love
love calls for love
and the urgent master
calls love to task.

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