Poems and Texts

from “A Book of Cormorants” by Pierre Joris

The one & only
cormorant was waiting
right there
at the elbow
the 69th street pier &
the Narrows walkway made.
Sitting some ten feet off-
shore, neck craning, eye taking
it all in,
        sea and land,
I wondered if…
or started to
but it dove for breakfast as
I picked up walking speed
earphones broadcasting
France Cul interview
with Jacques Rancière
by Laure Adler,
the theme “It is not
democracy that’s exhausting itself,
but oligarchy,” while
I looked back twice
not over French Marxist thinking
but over the undisturbed surface
of the Narrows,
        then moving
forward into speed-walking
hip swinging mode
I am overtaken
50 feet to my right
by said creature —
the cormorant, not Rancière —
doing its quiet cormorant
       flying south just above
the surface, skimming ahead
as I pick up more speed
then see it at the level of
the 86th street flyover
settled again & diving
& as I come up to it
it breaks surface,
silvery fish at a 90º angle
in beak, as if showing off
the twitching freshness of the
catch, down its gullet it goes,
      as I hear Jacques Rancière
explain the need back when,
I know not, missed that bit, but
long before I had ever met
a cormorant, the need to think with
Debray — Règis, that
is, whom I had met &
who had swallowed me
like the cormorant its fish —
the notion of a revolution
in the revolution,
to create that living space in
between — as I would put it
now — twixt the gulag of totali-
tarianism & the gulag of
        That was the only
what’s his name, my bird,
black lightning without thunder,
my poorer memory at seventy,
my cormorant, the only
such cormorant this morning,
made my morning in the
sweltering anthropo-
scene called
New York.

Pierre Joris

Poet, translator, essayist and anthologist Pierre Joris has published some 50 books, most recently, Barzakh: Poems 2000–2012; and Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry of Paul Celan. With Jerome Rothenberg he edited Poems for the Millennium, vol. 1 and 2: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry. He lives and works in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with his wife, performance artist Nicole Peyrafitte. They are currently at work on Talvera: A Millennium of Occitan Poetry (Poems for the Millennium, vol.6).

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