Descartes' Dog


A man must be caught dead
before he takes himself seriously
                         – Norman Mailer (1969)

He considers his resemblance to Melmoth.
A torso on the moon, in a fine light
slanted – three / tired / parallel / lines
where the contradictions lay subtly upon.
And laughed, “I am as a tidelocked sea.
Not all that can be said, will be.”
Still at the bedside before his time,
& pulls faces in the mirror –
“Take up the roles, haha, tear the photographs,
the dreadful imaginaries!”
Dancing in the inshala-la, dancing in the…
For the eyes to unclose, for the fear not to.
As near as the other side
of that window, as history –
so long as there’s blood in these veins, even
if other people’s. He considers his resemblance.



Looked at verbwise in unpolished glass
as “from within”
the picture resembles
in its scale & attack
a propensity, a notation of mentalese.
                                        Arrayed like
                                        Saturn’s moons,
                                        the migraine stirs –
strange transits which
in ten, a thousand years
might still conjunct, luminesce –
                                        brain volume &
                                        eye volume,
                                        the tipped balance.
And are our children thus dead before us?



He had only two wishes:



The visible light
slowed to a standstill,
beguiled by the
striped wallpaper,
une paysage dépassé.
Watching them
wheel their chairs
around the park:
he only OD’d
for the camera,
“It’s not like y’d make
a career of it.”
Counting black sheep
to surface –
two pisshole eyes
in the correctional
high tower.
Europe at 3 o’clock
in the afternoon
was a fish a rock
a shit a deletion –
“I killed them
y’re killing me
you also must die.”
Time if the world
turned on a pin,
restless in lockstep.
And stood behind himself,
a ruin – dead
roaches in his hair –
conducting the scenery.



He concluded on a sour note.
He abjured prostituted ached.
He confused himself with his avatars.
He forgot his hearing.



Such a weight borne down for the last
stroke – the changeling prince
in the bearded-lady pietà
                  Vergine madre, figlia
                                               del tuo figlio
Lies there in his hand-me-downs
while the Weegee politburo guy
solemnly pulls a trick from his sleeve
for realism’s children to gawk at.
But the hand we see in the picture isn’t the same
as the hand that performs
                                          our nightly eviscerations –
miming a beat-up transvestite
in a Buonarotti clown car.
               A curtain twitches in the stepped fortress
of the hero’s mind,
                                       as a cloud crosses the glass
                                       forever seaward,
                                       & the clock, unadmonished,



All things retrospective by appointment.
For instance, who were you?
Soulless as the production of uniform opinion is,
in the present case, etc.
Kind, they said, to ants, flywheels & dust,
but a fossil for a backbone.
Ah, how sweet it tastes,
the life before they made you.
Four legs because intended to crawl.
And hunched beneath the viaduct baying,
Doggerel’s death to the dog!



Nadir to the sun we have no shadow
                         – Thomas Herbert (1638)

That it creates the myth of itself – the end of the road
of the centuries to come, mollusc-eyed –
a foetus on a collapsed stretch of paper, crossed-out
& re-begun – wheels, larvae, ectoplasm, a whole
masticated alphabet of choked frenzies.
How read the map of this masquerade?
The wall-people, the starers, made Sleeping Beauty faces
on the TV of his mind; his formative years,
dabbling in blank austerities (his face was his revenge).
The machine kept everything to schedule –
a wind rose through its bones like a vast antipode:
dig as they might, the grim adjustments, the dead
batteries, weren’t cathedrals in space.
Nothing here for the opinionated monkeys.
Such crimes, such abominations!
Omission had always been his intimate companion –
he carried a window with him everywhere
even on his wedding night (the sperm-counts
of the galaxies supplicated themselves).
He roared, he conjured, he was the century’s
unacknowledged primitive, vaulting between abyss
& nothing – the world that begins & the world
without beginning – to gravitate, as do
the parts of the mind, in a mobile epilepsy
(that a man be greater than the sum of his dross?).
He was the deuce inside – straining at a gnat
& swallowing a camel – the maggot in the brain,
the tightrope-walker with a peg-leg. Had they
wished him to exist (to creature the myth of themselves
or to any other end) he’d’ve refused on principle –
he only went where he wasn’t wanted.





[Louis Armand is the author of the novels The Combinations (2016), Cairo (2014), and Breakfast at Midnight (2012). In addition, he has published several recent collections of poetry – including East Broadway Rundown (2015) & The Rube Goldberg Variations (2015) – & is the author of Videology (2015) & The Organ-Grinder’s Monkey: Culture after the Avantgarde (2013). He lives in Prague.]

Copyright © 2017 by Louis Armand, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.