In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

- Ezra Pound (1885-1972)

Calling the Magician: A Few Words for a Caribbean Civilization

From all our machines put together, from all our roads charted in miles, from all our accumulated tonnage, from all our arrayed aeroplanes, from our regulations, from our conditioning, not the slightest feeling could emerge. That is of another order, and real, and infinitely more exalted.
From all your manufactured thoughts, from all your graded concepts, from all your concerted measures, not the slightest frisson of genuine civilization could result.
That is of another order, infinitely more exalted and sur-rational.

I cannot stop admiring the great Caribbean silence, our insolent wealth, our cynical poverty.

You have encircled the globe. You have yet to embrace it. Warmly.

True civilizations are poetic shocks: the shock of the stars, of the sun, the plant, the animal, the shock of the round globe, of the rain, of the light, of numbers, the shock of life, the shock of death.
Since the sun temple, since the mask, since the Indian, since the African man, too much distance has been calculated here, has been granted here, between things and ourselves.

The true manifestation of civilization is myth.
Social organization, religion, partnerships, philosophies, morals, architecture and sculpture are the representations and expressions of myth.

Civilization is dying all around the world because myths are dead or dying or being born.
We must wait for the powdery frost of outdated or emaciated myths to blow apart. We are awaiting the debacle.

...And we shall be fulfilled.

In the current state of things, the only avowed refuge of the mythic spirit is poetry.
And poetry is an insurrection against society because it is a devotion to abandoned or exiled or obliterated myth.

Civilization is not built by means of schools, clinics and statistical calculations.
Only the poetic spirit corrodes and builds, erases and invigorates.

The Caribbean has no civilization because the Caribbean suns poetry. Scandalously.
We has lost the meaning of the symbol. The literal has devoured our world. Scandalously.

Civilization is generalized participation in essence.
Civilization is a wondrous generalized communion.
We are at its mass stage. And the essence of facts, like that of the real, escapes us, initiated as we are to application alone: crude application.
Only the poetic spirit links and reunites.

The vital thing is to re-establish a personal, fresh, compelling, magical contact with things.
The revolution will be social and poetic or will not be.

I don’t hide the fact that I expect everything from a new barbarism.

True civilization is in the realm of obsession.
Civilization is an absurd idea which, felt and lived in its entirety, by that very fact and by that fact alone, becomes true.
I preach obsession.
The true ideal: the ‘possessed’ woman.

To resituate joy and pain, acceptance and creation in the cosmos.

Civilization is born of individual sincerity, individual daring, from that part of individual disorder that everyone carries within him and that he owes it to himself to expand and communicate and that gradually takes over like irresistible tall flames.
Keep your distance, wet blankets.
Give us back our power of wonderment.

I’m calling upon the magician.

Civilization is neither a policeman nor a mechanic. Its foundation is neither order as order, nor work as work.
I admire the perspicacity of poets. Baudelaire celebrating the useless and the dandy. Mallarme pouring scorn on bread. Rimbaud spewing on the ‘centuries of hands’.
And Breton announcing:
‘Professions are withering away.’
The true poet does not preach work. He preaches availability.
To be better able to reach the heart of things.
I demand the right to indolence.

A new attitude towards the object. After the exploitative nonsense that is our bourgeois, comfortable attitude, it is healthy and profoundly important that Andre Breton restores liberating, catalysing and dangerous power to the object, that he gives back the profaned object its dignity of mystery and its radiant force, that, when all’s said and done, he makes of it again what it should never have ceased to be: the Great Intercessor.
Once generalized, this attitude will lead us to the great mad sweep of renewal.

I’m calling upon the Enraged.

- Aime Cesaire(1913-2008)

the Witnesses

This morning, stirred beneath the agitation of rain
came three white-collar magpies to my lawn.
Jehovah's Witness-like they knocked
they knocked upon my window pane,
stood black demanding entrance. I held my ground
but they were smart and oh-so-keen,
so upright, firm they pushed their song at me,
surprised my shrinking soul.

'Spare my breath,' I said, 'you've fangled
on my lawn all night. Enough's enough.
What more have you to tell me?'
'O foolish pale and puny earthling,
save your wit - our glamorous warbling
has unlocked the last old secrets of the soul.
Go warm your winters fast against the
rising dark, the setting sun,
the climbing moon, the mourning grasses
and the chill of dusk.'

- Fay Zwicky (1933)

the Indifferent

Never more will I protest,
To love a woman but in jest:
For as they cannot be true,
So, to give each man his due,
When the wooing fit is past
Their affection cannot last.

Therefore, if I chance to meet
With a mistress fair and sweet,
She my service shall obtain,
Loving her for love again:
Thus much liberty I crave,
Not to be a constant slave.

But when we have tried each other,
If she better like another,
Let her quickly change for me,
Then to change am I as free.
He or she that loves too long
Sell their freedom for a song.

- Francis Beaumont (1584-1616)

Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey

Scrambled eggs and whiskey
in the false-dawn light. Chicago,
a sweet town, bleak, God knows,
but sweet. Sometimes. And
weren't we fine tonight?
When Hank set up that limping
treble roll behind me
my horn just growled and I
thought my heart would burst.
And Brad pressing with the
soft stick and Joe-Anne
singing low. Here we are now
in the White Tower, leaning
on one another, too tired
to go home. But don't say a word,
don't tell a soul, they wouldn't
understand, they couldn't, never
in a million years, how fine,
how magnificent we were
in that old club tonight.

- Hayden Carruth (1921-2008)

At Stonehenge

Grim stones whose gray lips keep your secret well,
Our hands that touch you touch an ancient terror,
An ancient woe, colossal citadel
Of some fierce faith, some heaven-affronting error.
Rude-built, as if young Titans on this world
Once played with ponderous blocks a striding giant
Had brought form oversea, till child more bold
Tumbled their temple down with foot defiant.
Upon your fatal altar Redbreast combs
A fluttering plume, and flocks of eager swallows
Dip fearlessly to choose their April homes
Amid your crevices and storm-beat hollows.
Even so in elemental mysteries,
Portentous, vast, august, uncomprehended,
Do we dispose our little lives for ease,
By their unconscious courtesies befriended.

- Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929)

the Libertine

A THOUSAND martyrs I have made,
All sacrificed to my desire,
A thousand beauties have betray'd
That languish in resistless fire:
The untamed heart to hand I brought,
And fix'd the wild and wand'ring thought.

I never vow'd nor sigh'd in vain,
But both, tho' false, were well received;
The fair are pleased to give us pain,
And what they wish is soon believed:
And tho' I talk'd of wounds and smart,
Love's pleasure only touch'd my heart.

Alone the glory and the spoil
I always laughing bore away;
The triumphs without pain of toil,
Without the hell the heaven of joy;
And while I thus at random rove
Despise the fools that whine for love.

- Arphra Beehn (1640-1689)

The Divine Image

To Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
All pray in their distress:
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
Is god our father dear:
And Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
Is Man his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart
Pity, a human face:
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine
Love Mercy Pity Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk or jew.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell
There god is dwelling too.

William Blake (1757-1827)

Less Time

Less time than it takes to say, less tears than it takes to die; I’ve taken account of
there you have it. I’ve made a census of the stones, they are as numerous as my
fingers and some
others; I’ve distributed some pamphlets to the plants, but not all were willing to accept them. I’ve
kept company with music for a second only and now I no longer known what to think
of suicide, for
if I ever want to part from myself, the exit is on this side and, I add mischievously, the entrance, the
re-entrance is on the other. You see what you still have to do. Hours, grief, I don’t
keep a
reasonable account of them; I’m alone, I look out of the window; there is no
passerby, or rather no
one passes (underline passes). You don’t know this man? It’s Mr. Same. May I
introduce Madam
Madam? And their children. Then I turn back on my steps, my steps turn back too,
but I don’t
know exactly what they turn back on. I consult a schedule; the names of the towns
have been
replaced by the names of people who have been quite close to me. Shall I go to A,
return to B,
change at X? Yes, of course I’ll change at X. Provided I don’t miss the connection
with boredom!
There we are: boredom, beautiful parallels, ah! how beautiful the parallels are
under God’s

- Andre Breton (1896-1966)


Our lives, discoloured with our present woes,
May still grow white and shine with happier hours.
So the pure limped stream, when foul with stains
Of rushing torrents and descending rains,
Works itself clear, and as it runs refines,
till by degrees the floating mirror shines;
Reflects each flower that on the border grows,
And a new heaven in it’s fair bosom shows.

- Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

Album Leaf

All at once, as if in play,
Mademoiselle, she who moots
a wish to hear how it sounds today
the wood of my several flutes

It seems to me that this foray
tried out here in a country place
was better when I put them away
to look more closely at your face

Yet this vain whistling I suppress
in so far as I can create
given my fingers pure distress
lacking the means to imitate

Your very natural and clear
childlike laughter that charms the ear

- Stephane Mallarme (1842-1898

Asleep in the Valley

A small green valley where a slow stream flows
And leaves long strands of solver on the bright
Grass; from the mountaintop stream the Sun’s
Rays; they fill the hollow full of light.

A soldier, very young, lies open-mouthed,
A pillow made of fern beneath his head,
Asleep; stretched in the heavy undergrowth,
Pale in his warm, green, sun-soaked bed.

His feet among the flowers, he sleeps. His smile
Is like an infant’s - gentle, without guile.
Ah, Nature, keep him warm; he may catch cold.

The humming insects don’t disturb his rest;
He sleeps in sunlight, one hand on his breast;
At peace. In his side there are two red holes.

- Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

One Night I had some Ghastly Jewish Whore

One night I had some ghastly Jewish whore
We were a couple of corpses side by side
But dreamt of one whom my desire denied,
My dark and melancholy paramour.

Envisioning her form, her sovereign air,
The gaze, still fully armed with power and grace,
The casque of fragrant hair about her face,
Filled me with cold regret and love's fierce fire.

How eagerly I should have given you
Such kisses and caresses, head to toe,
As bartered flesh and blood may never know,

If but a single tear would form, like dew,
Some dawn on your dark cheek, to contravene
And melt your icy splendor, cruel queen!

- Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1821-1867)


LIGHT and silv’ry cloudlets hover

In the air, as yet scarce warm;
Mild, with glimmer soft tinged over,

Peeps the sun through fragrant balm.
Gently rolls and heaves the ocean

As its waves the bank o’erflow.
And with ever restless motion

Moves the verdure to and fro,

Mirror’d brightly far below.

What is now the foliage moving?
Air is still , and hush’d the breeze,
Sultriness, this fullness loving,

Through the thicket, from the trees.
Now the eye at once gleams brightly,

See! the infant band with mirth
Moves and dance nimbly, lightly,

As the morning gave it birth,

Flutt’ring two two and two o’er earth.

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)