Very late, when he feels his stomach churn,
Brother Milotus, one eye on the skylight whence the sun,
bright as a scoured stewpan, darts a megrim at him
and dizzies his sight, moves his priest’s belly under the sheets.
He struggles beneath the grey blanket and gets out,
his knees to his trebling belly, flustered like an old man
who has swallowed a pinch of snuff,
because he has to tuck up his nightshirt in armfuls
round his waist with one hand
grasping the handle of a white chamberpot!
Now he is squatting, chilly, his toes curled up,
his teeth chattering in the bright sunshine
which dubs the yellow of cake upon the paper panes;
and the old fellow’s nose, its crimson catching fire,
snuffles in the rays like a polypary of flesh.
The old fellow simmers at the fire, his arms twisted,
his blubber lips on his belly:
he feels his thighs slipping into the fire,
and his breeches scorching, and his pipe going out;
something resembling a bird stirs a little in his serene belly
which is like a mountain of tripe!
Round about him sleeps a jumble of stunned furniture
among tatters of filth, lying on soiled bellies;
stools cower like weird toads in dark corners:
cupboards have maws like choirmasters,
yawning with a sleepiness which is full of revolting appetites.
The sickening heat stuffs the narrow room;
the old fellow’s head is crammed with rags:
he listens to the hairs growing in his moist away,
shaking his rickety stool..
And in the evening, in rays of moonlight
which leaves dribbles of light
on the contours of his buttocks,
a shadow with details squats
against a background of snow-coloured pink like a hollyhock
Fantastic, a nose follows Venus in the deep sky.
The Seven Year Old Poets
And so the Mother, shutting up the duty book,
Went, proud and satisfied.
She did not see the look
In the blue eyes, or how with secret loathing wild,
Beneath the prominent brow, a soul raged in her child.
All the day long he sweated with obedient zeal;
a clever boy; and yet appearing to reveal,
By various dark kinks, a sour hypocrisy.
In corridors bedecked with musty tapestry
He wouls stick out his tongue, clenching hid two fists tight
Against his groin, and with closed eyes see specks of light.
a door stood open on the evening;
when, aloof, Under a gulf og brightness hanging
from the roof, High on the banisters they saw him crowing.
In summer, cowed and stupid,
he’d insist on going
Off to the cool latrines,
for that was where he chose to sit in peace and think,
breathing deep through his nose.
In winter-time, when, washed by all the smells of noon,
The garden plot behind the house shone in the moon;
Lying beneath a wall, in lumpy earth concealed
And straining long for visions,
till his eyesight reeled,
He listened to the creak of mangy trellises.
Soft heart! He chose out as his sole accomplices
Those wretched, blank-browed children, of slurred eye and cheek
And grubby, thin, sick fingers plunged in the clothes that reek
Of excrement: already old, whose conversation
Is held with gentle, imbecilic hesitation.
And if his mother, catching him at some foul act
Of pity, showed alarm, the child must face the fact
That to his earnest, tender mind brought grave surprise:
That’s how it was. She had the blue-eyed stare– which lies!
at seven years he wrote romance about lives
In the great desert, where an exiled Freedom thrives,
Savannahs, forests, shores and suns!
He had some aid From illustrated magazines,
whose gay parade Of Spanish and Italian ladies made him blush.
When, brown-eyed, bold, in printed cotton,
in would rush The eight-year daughter of the working-folk next door,
And when the little savage down upon him bore,
Cornered him, leaping on his back, and tossed her hair,
He from beneath would bite her thighs, for they were bare
–She never put on drawers. Then, though she grapped fast,
Pounding with fists and heels, he’d shake her off at last
And bring the odours of her skin back to his room.
He feared December Sundays, with their pallid gloom,
When with pomaded hair, from a mahogany ledge he read a Bible
with gold, green-tarnished edge.
Dreams pressed upon him in the alcove every night.
Not God he loved, but men whom by the sallow light
Of evening he would see return,
begrimed and bloused,
To suburbs where the crier’s triple roll aroused
A jostling crowd to laugh and scold at the decrees.
He dreamed of the rapt prairie, where long brilliances
Like waves and wholesome scents and golden spurts of force
Persist in their calm stir and take their airy course.
And, as he relished most all things of sombre hue,
He’d sit in the bare, shuttered chamber, high and blue,
Gripped in an acrid, piercing dampness, and would read
The novel that was always running in his head
Of heavy, ochre skies and forests under floods —
Then vertigo, collapse, confusion, ruin, woe!–
While noises of the neighborhood rose from below,
He’d brood alone, stretched out upon a canvas,
prophesying strongly of the sail!…
26 May 1871
Poor People in Church
Penned between oaken pews,
in corners of the church which their breath stinkingly warms,
all their eyes on the chancel dripping with gold,
and the choir with its twenty pairs of jaws bawling pious hymns;
Sniffing the odour of wax if it were the odour of bread,
happy, ad humbled like beaten dogs,
the Poor offer up to God, the Lord and Master,
their ridiculous stubborn oremuses.
For the women it is very pleasant to wear the benches smooth;
after the six black days on which God has made them suffer.
They nurse, swaddled in strange-looking shawls,
creatures like children who weep as if they would die.
Their unwashed breasts hanging out, these eaters of soup,
with a prayer in their eyes, but never praying,
watch a group of hoydens wickedly
showing off with hats all out of shape.
Outside is the cold, and hunger – and a man on the booze.
All right. There’s another hour to go; afterwards, nameless ills! –
Meanwhile all around an assortment of old
dewlapped women whimpers, snuffles, and whispers:
These are distracted persons and the epileptics from whom,
yesterday, you turned away at street crossings;
there too are the blind who are led by a dog into courtyards,
poring their noses into old-fashioned missals. –
And all of them, dribbling a stupid groveling faith,
recite their unending complaint to Jesus who is dreaming up there,
yellow from the livid stained glass window,
far above thin rascals and wicked potbellies,
far from the smell of meat and mouldy fabric,
and the exhausted somber farce of repulsive gestures –
and as the prayer flowers in choice expressions,
and the mysteries take on more emphatic tones, from the aisles,
where the sun is dying, trite folds of silk and green smiles,
the ladies of the better quarters of the town – oh Jesus! –
the sufferers from complaints of the liver,
make their long yellow fingers kiss the holy water in the stoups.
The Stolen Heart
My sad heart slobbers at the poop
my heart covered with tobacco-spit
They spew streams of soup at it
My sad heart drools at the poop
Under the jeerings of the soldiers who break out laughing
my sad heart drools at the poop
my heart covered with tobacco-spit.
Ithypallic and soldierish
Their jeerings have depraved it
In the rudder you see frescoes
Ithypallic and soldierish
O, abracadabratic waves
Take my heart, let it be washed!
Ithypallic and soldierish
their jeerings have depraved it.
When they have used up their quid
How will I act, O stolen heart?
There will be Bacchic hiccups
When they have used up their quid
I will have stomach retchings
If my heart is degraded;
When they have used up their quid
How will I act, O stolen heart?
The Parisian Orgy
Paris is Repeopled
O cowards! There she is!
Pile out into the stations!
The sun with its fiery lungs blew clear
the boulevards that, one evening,
the Barbarians filled.
Here is the holy City, seated in the West!
Come! We’ll stave off the return of the fires;
here are the quays, here are the boulevards,
here are the houses against the pale,
radiant blue-starred, one evening,
by the red flashes of bombs!
Hide the dead places with forests of planks!
Affrighted, the dying daylight freshens your looks.
Look at the red-headed troop of the wrigglers of hips:
be mad, you’ll be comical, being haggard!
Pack of bitches on heat, eating poultices:
the cry from the houses of gold calls you!
Plunder! Eat! See the night of joy and deep twitchings
coming down on the street.
O desolate drinkers, Drink! When the light comes,
intense and crazed, to ransack round you the rustling luxuries,
you’re not going to dribbe into your glasses
without motion or sound, with your eyes lost in white distances?
Knock it back: to the Queen whose buttocks cascade in folds!
Listen to the working of stupid tearing hiccups!
Listen to them leaping n the fiery night:
the panting idiots, the aged, the nonentities, the lackeys!
O hearts of filth, appalling mouths;
work harder, mouths of foul stenches!
Wine for these ignoble torpors, at these tables
Your bellies are melting with shame, O Conquerors!
Open your nostrils to these superb nauseas!
Steep the tendons of your necks in strong poisons!
Laying his crossed hands on the napes of your childish necks,
the Poet says to you: ‘O cowards! Be mad!
Because you are ransacking the guts of Woman,
you fear another convulsion from her, crying out,
and stifling your infamous perching on her breast with a horrible pressure.
Syphilitics, madmen, kings, puppets, ventriloquists!
What can you matter to Paris the whore?
Your souls or your bodies, your poisons or your rags?
She’ll shake you off, you pox-rotten snarlers!
And when you are down, whimpering on your bellies,
your sides wrung, clamouring for your money back, distracted,
the red harlot with her breasts swelling
with battles will clench her hard fists,
far removed from your stupor!’
When your feet, Paris, danced so hard in anger!
When you had so many knife wounds; when you lay helpless,
still retaining in your clear eyes a little of the goodness
of the tawny spring; O city in pain;
O city almost dead, with your face and your two breasts
pointing towards the Future
which opens to your pallor its thousand million gates;
city whom the dark Past could bless:
Body galvanized back to life to suffer tremendous pains,
you are drinking in dreadful life once more!
You feel he ghastly pale worms flooding back in your veins,
the icy fingers prowling on your unclouded love!
And it does you no harm.
The worms, the pale worms, will obstruct your breath of Progress no more
than the Stryx could extinguish the eyes of the Caryatides,
from whose blue sills fell tears of sidereal gold.
Although it is frightful to see you again
covered in this fashion; although no city was ever made
into a more foul-smelling ulcer
on the face of green Nature, the Poet says to you:
‘Your beauty is Marvelous!’ The tempest sealed you in supreme poetry;
the huge stirring of strength comes to your aid;
your work comes to the boil, death groans, O chosen City!
Hoard in your heart the stridors of the ominous trumpet.
The Poet will take the sobs of the Infamous
the hate of the Galley-slaves, the clamour of the Damned;
and the beams of his love will scourge Womankind.
His verses will leap out: There’s for you! There! Villains!
-Society, and everything, is restored: – the orgies are weeping
with dry sobs in the old brothels:
and on the reddened walls the gaslights in frenzy flare
balefully upwards to the wan blue skies!
Jeanne-Marie has strong hands;
dark hands tanned by the summer,
pale hands like dead hands.
Are they the hands of Donna Juana?
Did they get their dusky cream colour
sailing on pools of sensual pleasure?
Have they dipped into moons,
in ponds of serenity?
Have they drunk heat from barbarous skies,
calm upon enchanting knees?
Have they rolled cigars, o
r traded in diamonds?
Have they tossed golden flowers
at the glowing feet of Madonnas?
It is the black blood of belladonnas
that blazes and sleeps in their palms.
Hands which drive the diptera with which the auroral
bluenesses buzz, towards the nectars?
Hands which measure out poisons?
Oh what Dream has stiffened them in pandiculations?
Some extraordinary dream of the Asias,
of Khenghavars or Zions?
These hands have neither sold oranges
nor become sunburnt at the feet of the gods:
these hands have never washed the
napkins of heavy babies without eyes.
These are not the hands of a tart,
nor of working women with round foreheads burnt
by a sun which is drunk with the smell of tar,
in woods that sink of factories.
These are benders of backbones;
hands that never work harm;
more inevitable than machines,
stronger than carthorses!
Stirring like furnaces, shaking off
all their chills of fear,
their flesh sings Marseillaises,
and never Eleisons!
They could grasp your necks, O evil women;
they could pulverize your hands, noblewomen;
your infamous hands full of white and of carmine.
The splendour of these hands of love
turns the heads of the lambs!
On their spicy fingers the great sun sets a ruby!
A dark stain of the common people makes then brown
like the nipples of the women of yesterday,
but it is the backs of these Hands which every
proud Rebel desires to kiss!
Marvelous, they have paled in the great
sunshine full of love of the cause
on the bronze casing of machine-guns
throughout insurgent Paris!
Ah, sometimes, O blessed Hands, at your wrists,
Hands where our never-sobered lips tremble,
cries out a chain of bright links!
And there’s a strange and sudden
Start in our beings when,
sometimes, they try, angelic Hands,
to make your sunburn fade away
by making your fingers bleed!
The Sisters of Charity
The young man whose eyes is bright, whose skin is brown;
the handsome twenty-year-old body which should go naked,
and which, its brow circled with copper, under the moon,
would have been worshipped in Persia by an unknown Genie;
impetuous, with a softness both virginal and dark,
proud of his first obstinacies,
like the young seas, tears of summer nights,
turning on beds of diamonds;
The young man face with the ugliness of this world,
shudders in his heart, generously provoked;
and filled with the deep unhealing wound,
begin to desire his sister of charity.
But O Woman, heap of bowels, sweet compassion,
you never are the sister of charity,
never: neither your dark look,
nor your belly where sleeps a russet shadow,
nor your light fingers, nor splendidly shaped breasts.
Blind one, unawakened, with enormous rises,
the whole of our union is only a questioning;
it is you who hang on us,
O bearer of breasts;
it is we who nurse you, charming, grave Passion.
Your hatreds, your unmoving torpors, your failings,
and your brutalization suffered long ago,
you give everything back to us,
O Night still without malevolence,
like an excess of blood which is shed every month.
– When Woman, taken on for an instant, terrifies him;
love, the call of life and song of action; they come,
the green Muse and burning Justice,
to tear him to pieces with their august obsessions.
Ah! Thirsting without cease for splendours and calms,
forsaken by the two implacable Sisters,
whimpering fondly after knowledge
whose arms are full of nourishment,
he brings to nature in flower his forehead covered with blood.
But dark alchemy and sacred study are repugnant to the wounded one,
the somber scholar of pride;
he feels marching towards him atrocious solitudes.
Then, and still handsome, without disgust of the coffin,
he must believe in vast purposes,
in immense Dreams or Journeys across the night of Truth,
and he must call you in his soul and sick limbs,
O mysterious Death, O sister of charity!