Translations from the French by Andrew O’Donnell
O cowards, here we are! Vomited out into the stations!
The sun, with its burning lungs, turning arid
along the streets where the night brims with barbarians.
Here is the martyred city, sitting in The West!
Come on! We won’t bother with the rebirth of fire,
here are the quays, here are the streets, here are
the houses under a vegetable blue that still radiates
inside a night that took those bombs, and bled stars!
Hide the dead palaces in nests of planks!
The ancient horrified day renews all you see.
Here come the red-headed dancers wriggling their hips:
Go mad, go insane … I can see it in your eyes!
Packs of dogs in heat, eating from your bandages.
The howl from these gold houses reclaims you. Steal!
Eat! Watch the ecstatic night in its deepest spasms
flow down onto the streets. O you sorry drinkers,
Drink! When the light arrives, intense and mad,
piercing your side with its rippling luxuries,
will you end up drooling, without a gesture or a word,
into your glasses, your eyes lost to white distances?
Swallow, for the fetid Queen’s cascading arse!
Listen to the movements of these idiotic tearing
hiccups! In burning nights, listen to the panting pricks,
the old farts, the puppets, the lackeys… leaping about!
O hearts full of shit, petrifying mouths,
work harder, you stinking mouths!
Some wine for these depraved visions, at these tables…
your stomachs melt with disgrace, O Conquerors!
Open your nostrils to these glorious sicknesses!
Engulf the cords of every neck with your poisons!
With hands crossed on the napes of these young necks,
The Poet whispers: “O cowards, go insane!
Because you’ve explored the womb of Woman,
you dread any more of her convulsions
crying out and suffocating your efforts, as they settle
on her breast, where a horrible pressure is.
Syphilitics, fools, kings, puppets, ventriloquists,
does the whore of this city really care for
your souls or your bodies, your poisons or your rags?
She’ll be rid of you all… you putrid yellow bastards!
And when you’re down, as you moan unto your guts,
your sides aching, waiting on money, confused,
the red courtesan with her breasts grown fat on war –
far away from all of this – will clench her fists!”
When your feet danced so hard in your rage,
city! When you took so many knife wounds,
when you stretched out, to keep your eyes peeled
for something resembling the bounty of spring…
O mournful city! O half-dead city,
your head and your breasts pointing towards the future,
they open on your pallor and its ten million doors,
city, where our dark pasts could have been blessed:
your body recharged for enormous pain,
you drink in this despicable life again! You sense its
flood of ashen worms rising in your veins
and, on your clear love, you feel its glacial fingers.
And this won’t hurt. The worms, the ashen worms
won’t stop the breath of Progress any more than
when the Stryx put out the eyes of the Caryatides,
their astral tears falling from the blue heights.
Even though its horrific to see you covered
like this… even though you couldn’t conjure a city
as ulcerous and as rotten from verdant nature
The Poet whispers: “Your Beauty is glorious!”
The storm’s sanctity gave you supreme poetry;
a strength in the massive movements that courted you;
your work boils, and death moans, to our city!
Crowd your heart with the blasts of the trumpet.
The Poet absorbs the tears of the Infamous,
the hate of the prisoners, the clamour of the Damned;
And the light of his love plagues the Women.
His poems jump out: This is it! This is it! Bandits!
Society, everything is put back where it was:- the orgies
weep their ancient tears in ancient whorehouses
while the gaslights wreak havoc on reddened walls,
each flaring up ominously toward the dying blue ether.
Not Waking the Dead Man
It’s a green hollow at the mantra of a river,
caught in an insane wilderness that hails
silver rags where mountains free the sun’s fire.
This small valley, thrust into frothing rays.
A young soldier, mouth open, head bowed,
his neck bathing in fresh blue cress sown
as he sleeps stretched out on grass, under clouds
pale on his green bed where light rains down.
The feet rest among the gladioli. He’s smiling
like a sick child would smile. He’s having
a nap. Nature, take him in your arms: he’s cold.
Perfumes, don’t force one scent on those nostrils.
He sleeps in the sun with a hand on his chest,
quiet. He has two red holes in his right side.