Sunday, June 3, 2018

Clocking Out




Clocking Out







2:07 pm in the 1932
over the flattest bridge
in the arrondissement, flyblown
with grey men in black hats,
where I hadn't been born
just to die but
many
many who had
were getting ready
after a glass of Pernod, of absinthe,
after another gasper.


I punched in
for the
salvage, for the
love-making bedded
in mustard-gas linen
with souls of dead boys precison-worked
behind lively eyes, 
(mais pas les généraux, 
or insects in black hats.) My
sequins bright as
the flash

of rat's eyes in trenches,
feathers to fly
my velvet cloche helm v.
the midnight sword wind
off the Somme, the sweep,
the stench. It
was only a dance
beneath the clock
of statues, of bones, a few seconds
excused
from hundred-year plagues

sent by that god who gives nothing
a  defense--jamais de la vie!--
not even the bee

except for
the sting that kills it.




~June 2018






for Kerry's camera











Another one without much editing--thanks to Kerry for the photographic nudge.



Image: Clock of the Académie Française, Paris
Andre Kertesz (1932)








15 comments:

  1. N'oubliez jamais ma soeur, and a poppy for all the lost boys. That last line is dynamite, a sharp indictment of the every-generational urge to go blow somebody up, cheered by train station crowds and speechified by men in top hats who are never the ones to bleed and die under the rats' eyes.

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  2. Speechified by men with "small dog butthole mouth"s… the last two lines of this are overwhelming in their intensity. Are we always so ready to kill each other? My father was in the first wave at Omaha beach. He became a vegetarian the second day. Don't know why that is relevant here but he said the smell of death was intense. He was a sniper and part of his job was to euthanize men who were too badly damaged to be fixed. This poem reminded him and his gentle demeanor the rest of his life.

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  3. The rats' eyes in the trenches, the souls of dead boys behind lively eyes, thanks for the glimpse of life in the trenches. Not one thing about it that isnt horrible.

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  4. This is raw, perhaps, but nonetheless, it sizzles for the stench - and the precision of words - (I almost thought I was reading a 55!) -

    These images are so essential in the capturing of an era - war time - in between the seconds, minutes, hours and years after, before - and undeniably, they are brilliant - (for some reason, suddenly The Stones Symphony for The Devil is tuning my head) yet they also hop us right into the now. What happens here, there, everywhere, under different night skies and soils - which still bleed red despite continental divides -
    well, you know. You've warped time, both forwards and backwards and captured now.

    And damn - if these lines aren't just superb - I mean exquisite
    I punched in
    for the
    salvage, for the
    love-making bedded
    in mustard-gas linen
    with souls of dead boys precison-worked
    behind lively eyes,

    hell - this is just one fascinating write Hedge! Caught me right up.

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    1. Thanks, willow. Those are my own favorite lines. I have a soft spot for flappers, boys ripped from their boyhood too soon, and Sympathy for the Devil, too.

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  5. yesterday for the first time in 2 years i took a walk on the local beach (yes, why bother living here if I don't, and yet.) then stepped on a still pumping stinger, flush in the arch. exclaiming, i stopped and pulled it out, then each step home was a punch of pain, until I could get to the sidewalk and no more sand was pushed onto the quickly inflamed flesh. i'm fine, but in the grand sweep of your pen - what is a moment of discomfort, as we wait for another rictus of hate to sweep us into our local Seine?

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    1. Ouch! Searing pain is pretty much an attention-getter, and yet, while we talk a lot of tosh about how we learn this or that from it, it's mostly useless, mindless nerve responses that do nothing but hurt--and yes, one's own demolishing wrecking balls pale before the size of the huge hammer and anvil of hate and fear that is being readied to pound out the age.Thanks for reading, M.

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  6. So many places to take this mysterious history, the whore of Time lifting her skirt to Paris in the square, inviting in both burgher and the dead, womb enough to corral even "the midnight sword wind / off the Somme" with its eternal infernal reek. Soldiers who fought in those trenches said you could smell death for miles before approaching the front; how long the half-life of that reek? Was it still there as stormtroopers trekked fast over that despoil, chasing the Brits beyond the Maignot Line to Dunkirk? Our modernist and even confessional influences in poetry were soaked in that nightmare -- ee cummings an ambulance driver, Ted Hughes father shattered by shellshock: So much sticking out of the loam-pile here, ender the unwavering gaze of the figure whose job (I suppose) is to seduce and comfort and further the next crossroads of time. Understandable why one would wish to clock out. Anyhoo, sorry if none of this quite applies, it's quite a horse to ride and thanks.

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    1. Close enough...I was just aiming to voice somehow that between-wars frenzy birthing a new mystique while packed with the memories of death and senselessness, the wine of escapism, the heady appreciation for life in the moment,that one had survived even at the cost of everything else--which also saw so much unparalleled activity in the arts, the break with the old, can't-ever-be-the-same pre-1918 mindset, the new one riding in with the 20's and 30's intellectual coteries of madmen, surrealists and damaged....it's a time period I find fascinating, especially in Paris, where so much was on the boil.Thanks for the insights and the deep read, B.

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  7. I read your poem last night before bedtime, and the images stayed with me for a long while. I especially like the focus on date and time, the references to the wars, France the battleground, and the fragments of history tied to personal experiences. The narrative voice is so authentic, which makes the whole very immediate - a cautionary tone for us all.

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    1. Thank you Kerry. Your own seemed so delicate and wispy, yet ended up like blown silk draped over stone, with something very strong underneath.

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  8. fine job, truly a delight to exerience

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  9. Being at a VA hospital most days of the week, I overhear many (too many) war conversations. All-timers (missing legs, arms, eyes, having misplaced who they used to be before they were shipped to (insert name of terrible place here) talking about "the good old days". I can almost understand the reasoning behind the selective memories--if one remembers everything as horror, one's head might just explode--still, I never understand the glamour added to the blood and guts and hurts. It's not difficult to justify ourselves, to say, "I can see why I thought that it was necessary at the time", but reality should be, well... real. Hindsight should be more telling, more of a teacher. But... it is what it is.


    And all that rambling is just my way to say that your poem makes me wonder if the bees (and warring humans) live knowing that the sting means death, but that they will not keep from stinging anyway.

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  10. The significance of the year, those men walking the streets in 32 would still feel the scent from the trenches, and we just have to wait for the next disaster to hit, when their sons would be killed in the next war... Now all is in the past and unless we see them we will just do it all again.... Love the mixing of French

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  11. Your poems are so 'huge' I have a difficult time knowing where to 'put' them ... ah, yes .. in my heart, in my soul.

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"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats