Poems

-POEMS-


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Squattings

Accroupissements

book

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.

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The Seven Year Old Poets

Les Poètes de sept ans

book

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

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Poor People in Church

Les Pauvres à l’église

book

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.

1871

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The Stolen Heart

Le Coeur volé

book

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?

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The Parisian Orgy

or

Paris is Repeopled

L’Orgie parisienne ou Paris se repeuple

book

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!

May 1871

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Jeanne-Marie’s Hands

Les Mains de Jeanne-Marie

book

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!

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The Sisters of Charity

Les Soeurs de charité

book

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!

June 1871

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