The Putsch

A black blackening
Stirs in the brain of the man.
It is the hatred
He bears for other brain-burdened men
Like himself.
His lips peel back comically
To reveal an impeccable row
Or bristling ships.
Dreadful sounds jam in his mouth
For a moment,
And a shudder runs through the city.
His bones rattle like rusty sabres,
His sockets eat his eyes
As he strikes his political enemy to death.
A bull is loose in the well-arranged streets,
He is knocking over the statues
Of the dead generalissimos,
He is goring the beautiful mannequins,
He is tearing open their dresses,
He is violating their navels.
The streets are now a disarray of fallen hyacinths,
And the man and the bull have
Taken over my city.
Tonight I will mourn ten thousand cats,
I will begin to bury the massacred flags.

Bust of Camille

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I am exhausted, can’t you see it,
How my eyes are so ripe with lassitude,

And you call them beautiful.

I have created too much,
And what is yet unborn wells up in me

And becomes the disease of my mind.

And you think I have become so secretive,
But what could I now say?

The things that I fashion grow so frightening,

And speak on my behalf with
Distorted mouths.

And see my hand,
What you once so fondly called

The coil of my creation,
See how monstrous it has grown,

And it already shapes my famed madness,
And it is as though I was no more than hand,

Brutal instrument of my genius
That would one day smother me.

But then you remember my lips,
Which have always been so childlike,

Fragile,

A sensuality wholly reserved for me alone
And waiting to break.

The Burghers of Calais

The-Burghers-of-Calais

Some with eyes of bold acceptance
Of impending horrors
That cancel others.
And this one turning back,

With open pleading mouth
To the city that
Already goes about its daily business,
And hears the hawkers in the streets,
And sees the watchmen at the wall.

And this one with grim determined cheeks,
Gazing straight ahead
At the arrayed captors,
While the condemned hour
Dances on his lips

And he almost smiles.
And at last, the key holder,
In the centre,
around whom the others
Revolve like abandoned stars,

His head bowed with the weight
Of the sacredness of his death,
While it is not despair, but
A sense of release
That floats across his gaunt face.

That the city may be saved,
These five must go away.
And so, like one without a homeland,
Whose body is no longer chained

To anything,
His feet move toward the open field
As though they were
Of another’s volition,

And how light,
How pleasant the wet grass
As he gazes into immense distances,

Eyes filled with reverence,
Far beyond the bristling soldiers
And the walls of the surrendered city.

A Broken Sun

You must understand
That it is easier than you think
To commit acts of evil.

Take myself for instance.
In medical school I dreamed of
Becoming a doctor
Among villagers in the remote mountains

Of Japan,
Such simple folk who
Lacked adequate access to
The marvels of modern medicine.

But then the war,
And China.
How can I put it?
I lost this ability
To imagine a softer world.

The strict, enforced obedience
To the leviathan of flame,
The soul-rotting acceptance
That this world was alight,
And life was the fuel.

And then, my own chosen profession,
As one who deals with the body
Like an instrument to be fixed,

Somehow this too inured me
To the obscenity of pulling
Apart humans for the sake of
My nation’s science.

The rot had set into the living,
Into those of us charged with
Ameliorating ancient suffering.
We told ourselves,

In dissecting our enemies
We were completing a noble quest,
To cure the bodies that mattered,
Our own, of tragic diseases.

At first, I will admit,
I felt squeamish,
Hands trembling as I cut open
Some poor soul, un-anesthetized,

His pleading, pitiful cries
That turned guttural at the sight
Of his own insides.
Who wouldn’t be shaken?
I was still human then,
Even after all I had seen.

But after two, then three, then four
Vivisections,
My hand became steady,
As cold and precise as the instruments

It clasped.
Had I gained some new plane of
Existence,
Was I beyond good and evil?

What, after all, was life
But the fuel for something
Incomprehensible, mysterious,
Beyond all individual pain,

Propelling us all
Into a future vaster and more
Terrible than a devouring sun?
Was I not merely an instrument
Of this god?

But then suddenly,
With blinding violence
That sun arrived,
And the grandeur was gone in an instant.

No longer a surgeon to the
Imperial Army of Japan,
To the men of steel and death,
I returned to Japan.

I set up a quiet and humble
Practice in the remote
Mountains among the villagers.
I specialised in treating the

Children of farmers,
Tuberculosis cases,
Whooping cough,
Sprained ankles.

I had a normal kind of life.
But I was no longer human,
And when I placed my stethoscope
To the chest of one of my simple hearted patients,

Even without a word,
They recoiled instinctively from my touch.

The Waltz

La_Valse

Your arm,
With full surety that air
And movement never fail,
Clasps my waist.

Your mouth,
As if you knew that
I had finally surrendered,
Pressed to my neck,
Which already ever so lightly
Retreats.

And as if to assert that this
Dance should be anchored
In known things;
Turn, rhythm, embrace,
Release,
The dominant and subordinate one,
You pull back my loosening grip.

But notice how,
Like one who nonchalantly
Throws off her dress,
I have already abandoned equilibrium.

Headlong we will fall
In a chaos of unraveling distances;
Only then will I see what lies
Behind your poise.

Danaïd

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You were cruel to leave me alone,
With only my hands, and
Only my art.
In your absence I turned the chisel
Against my own longing,

My despair entered this stone,
And like nerve pulling at nerve
I retrieved your impossible, naked
Soul from its guts.

See how your shoulders arch here,
Where the light becomes sharp and unforgiving,
This is where I first cut my heart out
With your touch.

And here, where your hair plunges
Like a leviathan of caresses,
Down into the unhewn rock,
Here my belief in the separateness
Of our bodies finally fails.

I am curled into every curve,
And surge and retreat of your terrible absence.

When you return, you
Will discover I have gone quite mad.
Night after night in my atelier
I have disemboweled myself,
A dozen new figures to worship your savagery.

The Separation of Camille and Rodin

Auguste Rodin

No, let me turn now and go away
From your too complete fierceness.
Until you the women I loved
Remained encased in my art,
Figures I could bend in plaster, bronze,
With violence, with tenderness.

But then you burst forth,
And refusing this clay immortality
All men offer,
Deigned from the beginning
To create.

And I loved you,
Because to my sensuality you offered this
Savagery,
Female vehemence.
What in me had grown too smooth, yielding,
Discovered suddenly, in you,
A disheveled beauty that far outstripped me,
And my art became frightening.

From you I learned the craft of agony,
The torn open garden of your female genius,
That is now mine.
And what I create is ugly and essential,
The breasts of my women are inhuman,
The loins of my men collapse the world,
And those who look upon my art
Spit at its feet and turn away in contempt.

You have given me this triumph,
Returned to me stone and soil.
But I want myself back,
My languid hurt.
Your too full madness imprisons me,
And I don’t know what my art means,

For it surpasses us both
And annihilates our purpose.
No, let me turn now and go away
From your perfect love.