l e p o è m e a f f l i g é
Let me tell you some of what I have seen. Amid the languages I speak, and those I keep concealed. Things I have touched with my hands and those that have eluded me.
Through a window in an old wooden door the sky breaks at dusk. What remains is a dark stain where none was. And my inability to recall the shape of things before.
There is a telephone with a cut cord and a dog lying heavily against the wall. It is or is not cold.
I walk from one end of a room to another.
I walk from one end of a garden to another.
What remains after seeing is a short burst of colour, gone.
After suggests something other. Other than what is before me. This letter, your name.
Language that is conciliatory rebukes the body. I am offended by the nature of words and their ability to dissuade. Often I am most offended by the words of your language. The language in which I write. The language that sets my body against itself. And dismantles the present.
In your language, there is illusion, but there is no hope.
In hope, there is illusion.
And in illusion, there is the stuff of language.
I have acquired a viola that in time I will learn to play. Do you still listen to Górecki? I have also acquired the score to ‘Already It Is Dusk.’ In it, Górecki notes: ‘The viola is always ‘en dehors’, but not too much.’ Do you know what this means? I believe it to mean that the viola for Górecki is much as some poets intend language to be. The viola is always underneath the music. Underneath is the suggestion of itself. It is outside. In another language I would say: Désincarné. But I would not say: Disembodied.
Affliction is a capital word. Affliction is the blood of poetry.
Don’t misunderstand me. Through the window in the door, I see the afflicted sky. It is afflicted because it is out of reach. For a poet, this too might be the nature of language. And it might also be the nature of the poet, in relation to others. For the poet must make language into two things simultaneously: sobriety and passion. Does not Buber do the same through Walter Kaufmann?
‘And to gain freedom from the belief in unfreedom is to gain freedom.’
Where is the poet who will return language to the body?
Where is the body that is prepared to receive language?
I am sending you plays by Koltès. I think that you will know what I mean.
from Touch to Affliction, Toronto, Coach House Books, 2006.
from The Sorrow And The Fast Of It, forthcoming from Nightboat Books, 2007
It is possible to write one’s day through letters, a letter.
Here in this city the letters are many and the days are many. The city that was to be every possible thing that came before. I admit I exalted it. Now there is the broken glass river and our cut up feet. Now there is a horizon of hydro lines. And bridges. From a distance they might be beautiful. But underfoot... There is a small island of herons. And just beyond the beginning hunting ground. Gunshots. The dogs madden. City dogs. Their hearts furling. And me? What does it matter? I bark along with them.
I was looking for something to soften living. The collapse of it. The reach of it. It was a coldest winter. The river was not wistful as I had imagined it. Intempestif was the word I used. Wind billowing the rapids even whiter. Magesterial. I could live here I thought. Hook my eyes into frozen rock. What was I thinking? It is six months and already I am leaving. Eugène said une ville en vrac. He was right. What I first saw was monumental. A saillie of gorgeous concrete. Stairs spiralling. Turrets. A rue piétonne. Pigeons shitting on cobbled walks. A joie de vivre? It is best not to dream too much. The dogs began coughing. I laid down on the ground. Just to see. The police man moved me along.
Here there is one poem and the poets keep writing it.
This excerpt appeared previously on Drunken Boat
from The Sorrow And The Fast Of It, forthcoming from Nightboat Books, 2007.
Books don’t show the way but insist on remaining. So how to leave the book and enter directly into the body ? We are jealous of one another’s bodies yet we each have one. I would undress my tongue and dip it willingly into ice cold water would invite you to meet me where the body becomes transparent where lucidity is a function of the flesh where nothing is for sale and everything is given away. I would invent rude words for your mouth show you the true colour of blood. Love in the raw is life renewed. But of this write nothing down not a thing. Be wary of the heat that emanates from the unwritten page. Everything remains to be said so long as we have said nothing. Most importantly do not fear dirtying yourself. Love washes the body clean of perfection.
from Je Nathanaël, Toronto, BookThug, 2006
(also exists in French as Je Nathanaël, Montréal, L’Hexagone, 2003)