by Raymond Federman

The Key to the Universe

God used to be the key to the Universe
until Hilter and his cohorts decided
that the Holocaust would become
the key to the universe

Before Auschwitz
one could blame God for everything
good or bad that happened to us

Now that God has vanished
or been declared dead
the Holocaust
explains everything

It explains why you have headaches
why the economy is doing so badly
why you are getting fat and bald
why you are sad and depressed
why you have money problems
why your neighbors hate you
why your lover deserted you
why people kill each other
it's always because of the Jews
dead or alive !


all my life I've been against metaphors
all my life I've objected to metaphors
mocked them oppose them
took position against metaphors

that figure of speech
in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not
literally applicable
in order to suggest a resemblance
sometime producing an incongruous assemblage
so says one of my dictionaries

the bringing together
of two incongruous
often incompatible elements
objects or actions

and me incongruous to myself
and incompatible as I am
all my life I've been opposed to metaphors
have rejected them in my work
except when inadvertently
they crept in

I hate metaphors

but then I come across this marvelous list of metaphors
invented by Isaac Babel
and I could not resist
abusing those metaphors

Babel and the Sun

The sun hung from the sky like the pink tongue of a thirsty dog

Personally I see it differently

The sun hung from the sky
like the pink ass of crapping monkey

The Sun poured into the clouds
like the blood of a gouged boar

Personally not being Russian
I see it more this way
The sun poured out of the sky
like a glass of wine out of a bottle of
Château Latour 1959

The sun soared up into the sky
and spun like a red bowl
on the tip of a spear

Personally I prefer

The sun raced across the sky
and vanished into the darkness
like a bursting balloon
pricked by a needle

The orange sun is rolling across the sky
like a severed head

Personally I like
Van Gogh's skies

The green sun fell outof the sky
like a huge watermelon
and crashed
into the sun flowers

Babel and the stars

The stars scattered
in front of the window
like urinating soldiers

Personally I find this one
rather good I cannot
see how I can improve it
well perhaps this way

The stars poured out of the sky
in front of my window
like a pissing cow

Babel and the tablecloth

The velvet tablecloth knocked
his eyes right off their feet

Personally I find this one
rather weak in terms
of synesthesia

Personally I think it should be

The masculine tablecloth
knocked the woman's eyes
right on her ass

Babel and dreams

I sat to the side, dozed,
dreams pouncing around me
like kittens

Personally my dreams are more ferocious

when I lay awake
fighting the spiders
of insomnia
my dreams whirl about me
like enraged coyotes

Babel and the smell of a woman

A sour odor rose from the ground
as from a soldier's wife at dawn

Personally I like this one
so much I am ashamed to touch it
perhaps just a little at the end

A sour odor rose from the chamber pot
as when a good bourgeois wife
takes a leak in the middle of the night

there are more such masterful metaphors
in Isaac Babel's oeuvre

I just hope I haven't been contaminated
that would be disastrous
imagine Federman doing metafors

Hail Napoleon

Karl Marx
reflecting on revolution
objected laughingly
in his 18th Brumaire
to the French revolution's
with its archaic revival
of symbols
from the republican phase
of the Roman Empire

the revolution
did not last long
the symbols crumbled
the masquerade fizzled
and the Emperor came
and all the bon bourgeois
Hail Napoleon

To Do Nothing

having oscillated all my life
between the torments of superficial idleness
and the horror
of disinterested action
I find myself at last
in a situation
where to do nothing
becomes an act
of the highest value

The Origin of the World

He always dreamt of a source
and the source was here
he dreamt of the profusion
of smooth petals
on days of festivities
and the petals were here
for his eyes for his hands

He never ceased to scrutinize
the mysterious wedding
of earth and water in swamps
and now he was contemplating the magnificent evidence
of pure essence and upheaval

He often sat in his youth
on the edge of a wet slit
observing its quivering
its lively movements its traces
and now he was leaning over
the mother of slits
listening for the rumbling

He often caressed the skin of fruits with fingers full of desire
but here the pulp was his
rather than the skin
in its glorious complicated


At first when you enter
you think
it's just like
whence you came
except it's a bit darker
that's what you think
but in fact
you are not thinking
because you can
no longer hear
yourself think
that's why it feels
not just outside
of you
but inside too
as if a light
was slowly
towards total
it's a strange place
one you would prefer
not to be in
but it's too late

Radio Talk A to Z

An interviewer--aloah!
on a Beau: boo!
asks buy, beau, boo
to tell cocky kike
the numbers of Eye Coke
he spends Dee--Dido do
in an Eve ear elu
to the amount of fi fo foo
he makes in guy go goo

The artists mumbles Hmmm!
something about Hop-la
art and yid id idea
are not iiiiiiiiii!
and leaves Joe--Jew?

I wanted to Kak kuku kalo
and tell that Lolly-lye
interviewer that
he was Low Lou
A job lie low: loo

A job is where My moe moo!
goes to make Knee nigh, no new
Work (especially oh!---------O---------oh!
Work po-poo) is
what gives Pa? Pee? Piep?
and nothing Poo!

A job is quuquy
A job is Row, rue
A job is sew (Sioux)
A job is so sue!
A job is sew sou
A job is Tie toe to
A job is uno una un

A job is void vidi

Work is Zazeez, I zo! (Zoo)!

List of Things That Can be Useful to a Poet

Things that are not far from here

Things that can be spoken clearly

Thing lost in the Sahara Desert

Things that don't mean a damn thing

Things that are more exquisite than others

Things that look honest beyond any doubt

Things that are on a pedestal

Things that give you hope

Things that are better than they look

Things that look like they have come to an end

Things that are buried underground

Things that should be plucked today

Things that are unbelievable

Things that are in surplus in the universe

Things whose majesty is sublime

Things that ought to make you cry

Things that are useless

Things whose loneliness is scary

Things that look like flowers but are not

Things full of holes

Things without detours

Things that make you fall asleep

Things that refuse to be apprehended

Things that pretend to be things

The Spiral of Destiny

when we fall into the great void
we recede backwards at the speed of light
towards our origin
so that we can
be launched
into the spi
our un
shed destiny

The Federman Collection
at Spineless Books