Les Enfants du Paradis
“Don’t wait up for me this evening,
for the night will be black & white”
The Lobster Man hanged himself from a window grating
near Châtelet les Halles, rue de la Vieille Lanterne
(a no longer extent continuation of rue de la Tuerie),
in a brown dreamless district of the night, certain
all contracted obligations had been fulfilled, no trope
left unturned, gone to the Devil – for he was a peaceful
serious creature and not without hope for the next world.
How does such an occasion become a public memory?
The privacy of clouds, maps, a path through woods –
seeing words tremble in air, like aspic. A window grating.
As if to remonstrate with the striving for singularity –
perplexing to onlookers: the waterlogged, sodden stuff
of a former self – a mouth not wanting to be fed – closed-
eye visualisations of space travel, ancient Olympic athletes,
chamber music or the literature of minor conversations.
Berlioz. For what’s a man who can’t stand on his own feet?
The cleverness of dreams can’t unknot a hangman’s rope,
familiar as sweat, dust, bile – the leather gauntlet you feared
because it was you – adverting always to the difficulty
of repetition, the lacklustre reprise, the epilogue playing dead.
Léon Paul Fargue
(for David Vichnar)
Morning coffee telekinesis – inhaling that first dry cut
of grass, firemen in step, circling the park, glisten of sweat
in end-of-May weather. Another Copernican revolution
to scribble in books. Down in the station –
the 8.49 northbound rattler. Cluny heads clustered
under awnings, a surface of botched light, impressionniste.
Cameras flash – the grand old dame on her back
with knees up, sighing, and God in lofty voice
shoos the picnickers from the deportation monument.
A kiosk, another coffee, vague wordparticles fission
and collide in the rivegauche of the brain tree.
Maculate daylight, lurching under cinema marquees –
a rat pissing in a blind alley, rue Saint Denis –
rough-legged, yellow-eyed, crotchless Pigalle.
Watching an undressed square of light
flicker on a wall: afternoon, evening, the slide into entropy.
We sit along the Quai with bottled obsequities,
talking large into the night – sky a frazzled windowpane.
Lajeuneaméricaine, hiked skirts under the bridge:
Who’s there? A piece of graffiti in spiral lamplight
says “failure makes possible.” Footsteps in reverberating
stutter: this unended search to be satisfied –
hour-by-hour circling the périphérique. A sameness of things
in the same places, the grey tide, the discomfort of sleep.
[Louis Armand is a writer, publisher, visual artist and former subtitles technician at Karlovy Vary Film Festival. In 2004 he founded the Prague International Poetry Festival which has continued since 2009 as the Prague Microfestival. He is the editor of Contemporary Poetics (Northwestern UP, 2007) and in 2010 he edited The Return of Král Majales: Prague’s International Literary Renaissance, 1990-2010. He is the author of five novels, including the neo-noir Breakfast at Midnight (2012), recently published in Czech translation by Argo, and Canicule (2013; both from Equus). His most recent collections of poetry are Letters from Ausland (Vagabond, 2011) and Synopticon (with John Kinsella; LPB, 2012). He is presently an editor of the international magazine VLAK: Contemporary Poetics and the Arts.]
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