July 19, 2006

Come move in another dimension


10th and D, NYC, March 1937, by Berenice Abbott

Two poems by Raymond Queneau:

Raymond Queneau was born in 1903 in Le Havre and is one of the most influential French authors of the twentieth century. Queneau was at the forefront of the surrealist movement of the 1920s. During the Occupation, Queneau refused to work with the collaborationists and worked in secret on Resistance publications. After the war he was elected to Académie Goncourt and became director of the Encyclop'[die de la Pléiade. His best-known novel, Zazie dans le métro, was made into a movie by Louis Malle in 1959.

Front-Page Carnage
-- by Raymond Queneau

translated by Rachel Galvin

I've walked my sorrow
through the streets of Paris
I kept it on a leash
so the Parisians would laugh
pigsty cheese shop
window display all splayed out
bloody shop window
butcher stall
wallowing on every corner
a calf that blubbers
maybe it's me
maybe it's my double
I hold back my sadness
and sit down on a bench
to read the papers
which tell of misfortune
crime and assassination
floods earthquakes
murders epidemics
rape and violent death
and this does not console me one bit
and this consoles me not

The Water Tanks

In the middle of deserted lots
amidst the soot of the burned silks
not far from the stock market
close to the pillars of sundown
under the screen of the equinoxes
beyond the white frost of time
deep in the eye of the four corners
by the central metro station

that's where the water tanks are

Bent Tones
-- by C.D. Wright

There was a dance at the black school.
In the shot houses people were busy.

A woman washed her boy in a basin, sucking
a cube of ice to get the cool.

The sun drove a man in the ground like a stake.
Before his short breath climbed the kitchen's steps

She skipped down the walk in a clean dress.
Bad meat on the counter. In the sky, broken glass.

When the local hit the trestle everything trembled —
The trees she blew out of, the shiver owl,

Lights next door — With her fast eye
She could see Floyd Little
Changing his shirt for the umpteenth time.

The High-Toned Old Christian Woman
by Wallace Stevens

Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms,
Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That's clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began. Allow,
Therefore, that in the planetary scene
Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,
Proud of such novelties of the sublime,
Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
This will make widows wince. But fictive things
Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.

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