Jeremy Ganem

Woodcut of John Davidson. 1902. Robert Bryden.

When the barbarians come John,

We will meet them at the gates

Of the city we no longer live

In & we will give them flowers

John, flowers of the world-flower

John, burning flowers: gold &

Savage flowers John, savage

As your dream of England John,

Savage as the blank verse of your

Dreams John.


When the barbarians come John,

We will marry them & be new

Tribes & tribulations, new

Empires of nothing John, as you

Knew then always even as you

Died John, even as the barbarians

Come again for us in your after-

Life John, even when the fisher-

King found you in Mount’s Bay

John, & we wept.


When the barbarians came John

To dream of the £20 note that

We might receive if we had news

Of you, of your disappearing

Will John, the great will of a lost

Century given to you by

Zarathustra & your own

Implacable desire to

Testify John! To testify

Again & again until your voice died.


For when the barbarians come John

They will come bearing your body

As a testament to the fallen

Will John, to the fallen will of the

Great World-Flower that blooms

Upon the Great World-Tree of your

Infinite Will John, & we the

Barbarians will come John

To the gates of another lost

Empire & the gates will be cold.



Jeremy Ganem © 2016

Friedrich Nietzsche. Photograph from the series “Der kranke Nietzsche“ ("The ill Nietzsche"). 1899. Hans Olde.


You do not look well old friend

Of murderers & pariah

Dogs that scream on the streets

Of Berlin in the long night


Of the last century. Coming down

From the mountains you beat

The ground with your crooked

Staff & rage against things


As they are: imbecilic, raw,

& afraid. You made many

Things up—tore down idols

Just because you could,


Even if you once had loved

Them. You were the last

Decadent & the first as well,

For as you said many times,


Everything repeats, even this

Strain, this song, this light

Burning away your name

As you look out of eyes that


Are nearly dead. Always you were

Nearly dead, even with your sword,

Your mustache, your imperious

Gaze backward & forward—imperial


& reckless as your verse, as all

The books you vomited out of

The blackest lung of the Dead God’s

Dead soul. The Spirit that you


Hated probably crept up upon

You in the end Friedrich, as

You turned away, only to bury

Your head in the rotted cloth


Of the rank pillow & weep, to

Weep once again.



Jeremy Ganem © 2016