Friday, October 19, 2012

Instinct for Combustion

October is National Book Month—
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
(see also Cynthia's photo album on Medusa's Facebook page)

             To Man Ray
—Andre Breton

Weathercocks turn into crystal
They protect the dew with blows from their crests
Then that charming emblem the thunderbolt
Descends on the banner of the ruins
The sand is nothing but a phosphorescent clock
That says midnight
With the arms of a forgotten woman
No place of refuge turning in the countryside
Erected where the heavens advance and retreat
It's here
The harsh blue temples of the villa's head bathe in the 
                                           night that traces my images
Hair hair
Evil grows stronger nearby
But what does it want from us


—Andre Breton

Wearing a hooded beige cape, he frolics on the satin
poster where two paradise feathers replaces his spurs. She
with her special joints above the air, divides the song of
the radiant species. The hawthorn grows over what's left
of the bleeding motor: then the first deepsea divers fall
from the sky. The temperature has suddenly grown
milder and every morning nimbleness shakes out its
angel hair on our roofs. Against evil spells, what good is
this little bluish dog with its body trapped in a solenoid of
black glass? Just once can't the expression for life trigger
one of the aurora borealises they'll use to make the table
cloth of the Last Judgment?


—Andre Breton

Deep in the parasol I see the marvelous prostitutes
Next to the streetlamp the color of the forest their clothes
        a little out of fashion
They carry around a big piece of wallpaper as they walk
The kind that always breaks your heart on the old walls of
        a house being torn down
Or else a white marble seashell fallen from a mantel
Or else those strings of necklaces that get all tangled up in
        the mirrors behind them
Their great instinct for combustion seizes the streets
        where they stand
Like grilled flowers
Their eyes raising a wind of stone in the distance
While they are swallowed motionless at the center of the
For me nothing equals the meaning of their random
The coolness of the stream where their little boots dip the
        shadows of their beaks
The reality of those wisps of mown hay into which they
I see their breasts putting a dot of sun in deep night
And whose rise and fall is the only exact measurement of
I see their breasts which are stars on waves
Their breasts in which invisible blue milk weeps forever

(The Breton poems were translated from the French by Bill Zavatsky and Zack Rogow.)

Blue Meanie
—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Paul Verlaine

Violins complain
Of autumn again,
     They sob and moan.
And my heartstrings ache
Like the song they make
     A monotone.

Suffocating, drowned,
And hollowly, sound
     The midnight chimes.
Then the days return
I knew, and I mourn
     For bygone times.

And I fall and drift
With the winds that lift
     My heavy grief.
Here and there they blow,
And I rise and go
     Like a dead leaf.

(trans. from the French by Louis Simpson)


—Paul Verlaine

                  "It rains softly on the town"
                         —Arthur Rimbaud

Tears fall in my heart
Rain falls on the town;
what is this numb hurt
that enters my heart?

Ah, the soft sound of rain
on roofs, on the ground!
To a dulled heart there came,
ah, the song of the rain!

Tears without reason
in the disheartened heart.
What? no trace of treason?
This grief's without reason.

It's far the worst pain
to never know why
without love or disdain
my heart has such pain!

(trans. from the French by David Curzon)


—Paul Verlaine

They were just playing, lady and cat,
Their sport was a marvelous sight:
White hand, white paw, tit-for-tat,
In the shadow of gathering night.

She tried to conceal (to little avail)
Beneath gloves of the finest black net
A set of deadly agate-hard nails
Honed sharper than razors can whet.

And sweet as sugar, or so it seemed,
The other tucked claws away too;
But let's give the devil, as ever, his due . . .

And suddenly in the boudoir, where
A froth of laughter had filled the air,
Four dazzling points of phosphor gleamed.

(trans. from the French by John S. Major and Katharine Washburn)


—Paul Verlaine

High-heels were struggling with a full-length dress
So that, between the wind and the terrain,
At times a shining stocking would be seen,
And gone too soon. We liked that foolishness.

Also, at times a jealous insect's dart
Bothered our beauties. Suddenly a white
Nape flashed beneath the branches, and this sight
Was a delicate feast for a young fool's heart.

Evening fell, equivocal, dissembling.
The women who hung dreaming on our arms
Spoke in low voices, words that had such charms
That ever since our stunned soul has been trembling.

(trans. from the French by Louis Simpson)


Today's LittleNip:

—Nguyen Van Lac

They are no lords, no marquesses or dukes.
Yet they all brandish swords and sport long beards.
They splash in water, popping their red eyes,
quite unaware their heads are full of shit.

(trans. from the Vietnamese by Huynh Sanh Thong)