back toJacket2

This piece is about 2 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Carl Rakosi and Jacket magazine 1997. See our [»»] Copyright notice.
The Internet address of this page is

Carl Rakosi

The Citizen (1996)

Prometheus is now chained
to a promontory
for daring to think that
the universe is limitless
and bare, held together
by rigor, with only his
random, rogue imagination
to cope with it.

For this the vulture
gnaws at his bowels.

The terrain is fascinating
but the citizen is chained
to a real promontory
as a brash new breed
takes over in Congress,
young, self-righteous,
with an instant answer
in ten or less words
for every problem,

and out of TV imaging
steps a President, strong,
up-beat, dependable, while
in the corporate board room
canny, fine-tuned men
prepare the agenda for them,
and clerks enter ‘Payments
for Political Favors’
in the company books.

Investors and billionaires
swarm in the city.

As on a distant planet
devoid of public events
a beggar stands most
patiently with a tin cup.

And everywhere
the same old working man,
his nose to the grindstone,
expecting nothing,
not knowing where to turn.
Like Prometheus, the citizen,
who rages, “God
damn this debasement!
Must we become cynics?”

Oh, citizen!

Carl Rakosi

Photo: Carl Rakosi, San Francisco, March 1989. Photograph copyright © John Tranter, 1989, 1997

Carl Rakosi began publishing his poetry in the 1920s. His concerns were seen as being related to the work of the “Objectivist” school. His Collected Poems was published in 1986 by the National Poetry Foundation. His Poems 1923-1941 (published by Sun and Moon Press) won the PEN Center USA West award in 1996.

For the last twenty years Carl Rakosi lived in the Sunset district of San Francisco, where Jacket editor John Tranter called by to share coffee and cheesecake with him and to help him celebrate his one hundredth birthday on 6 November 2003. Carl died peacefully, after a series of strokes, on Friday June 25, 2004.

The Internet address of this page is

Counter from May 2009    visits counter

[an error occurred while processing this directive]