My love and I are inventing a country, which we can already see taking shape, as if wheels were passing through yellow mud. But there is a prob- lem: if we put a river in the country, it will thaw and begin flooding. If we put the river on the bor- der, there will be trouble. If we forget about the river, there will be no way out. There is already a sky over that country, waiting for clouds or smoke. Birds have flown into it, too. Each evening more trees fill with their eyes, and what they see we can never erase. One day it was snowing heavily, and again we were lying in bed, watching our country: we could make out the wide river for the first time, blue and moving. We seemed to be getting closer; we saw our wheel tracks leading into it and curving out of sight behind us. It looked like the land we had left, some smoke in the distance, but I wasn't sure. There were birds calling. The creaking of our wheels. And as we entered that country, it felt as if someone was touching our bare shoulders, lightly, for the last time.
Translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him. We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth. We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on. We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands. We thank Him for all the animals on the earth. We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all. We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter. We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth. We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good. We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines. We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees. We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us light, the moon. We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs, the stars. We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests. We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o. We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion. We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith. We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies on this occasion.
No, love is not dead in this heart these eyes and this mouth that announced the start of its own funeral. Listen, I've had enough of the picturesque, the colorful and the charming. I love love, its tenderness and cruelty. My love has only one name, one form. Everything disappears. All mouths cling to that one. My love has just one name, one form. And if someday you remember O you, form and name of my love, One day on the ocean between America and Europe, At the hour when the last ray of light sparkles on the undulating surface of the waves, or else a stormy night beneath a tree in the countryside or in a speeding car, A spring morning on the boulevard Malesherbes, A rainy day, Just before going to bed at dawn, Tell yourself-I order your familiar spirit-that I alone loved you more and it's a shame you didn't know it. Tell yourself there's no need to regret: Ronsard and Baudelaire before me sang the sorrows of women old or dead who scorned the purest love. When you are dead You will still be lovely and desirable. I'll be dead already, completely enclosed in your immortal body, in your astounding image forever there among the endless marvels of life and eternity, but if I'm alive, The sound of your voice, your radiant looks, Your smell the smell of your hair and many other things will live on inside me. In me and I'm not Ronsard or Baudelaire I'm Robert Desnos who, because I knew and loved you, Is as good as they are. I'm Robert Desnos who wants to be remembered On this vile earth for nothing but his love of you. A la mysterieuse
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"No, Love Is Not Dead"
by Robert Desnos
A Christmas circular letter The city had withdrawn into itself And left at last the country to the country; When between whirls of snow not come to lie And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove A stranger to our yard, who looked the city, Yet did in country fashion in that there He sat and waited till he drew us out, A-buttoning coats, to ask him who he was. He proved to be the city come again To look for something it had left behind And could not do without and keep its Christmas. He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees; My woods—the young fir balsams like a place Where houses all are churches and have spires. I hadn't thought of them as Christmas trees. I doubt if I was tempted for a moment To sell them off their feet to go in cars And leave the slope behind the house all bare, Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon. I'd hate to have them know it if I was. Yet more I'd hate to hold my trees, except As others hold theirs or refuse for them, Beyond the time of profitable growth— The trial by market everything must come to. I dallied so much with the thought of selling. Then whether from mistaken courtesy And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said, "There aren't enough to be worth while." "I could soon tell how many they would cut, You let me look them over." "You could look. But don't expect I'm going to let you have them." Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close That lop each other of boughs, but not a few Quite solitary and having equal boughs All round and round. The latter he nodded "Yes" to, Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one, With a buyer's moderation, "That would do." I thought so too, but wasn't there to say so. We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over, And came down on the north. He said, "A thousand." "A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?" He felt some need of softening that to me: "A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars." Then I was certain I had never meant To let him have them. Never show surprise! But thirty dollars seemed so small beside The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents (For that was all they figured out apiece)— Three cents so small beside the dollar friends I should be writing to within the hour Would pay in cities for good trees like those, Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools Could hang enough on to pick off enough. A thousand Christmas trees I didn't know I had! Worth three cents more to give away than sell, As may be shown by a simple calculation. Too bad I couldn't lay one in a letter. I can't help wishing I could send you one, In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, I heard a Negro play. Down on Lenox Avenue the other night By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light He did a lazy sway . . . He did a lazy sway . . . To the tune o' those Weary Blues. With his ebony hands on each ivory key He made that poor piano moan with melody. O Blues! Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. Sweet Blues! Coming from a black man's soul. O Blues! In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan— "Ain't got nobody in all this world, Ain't got nobody but ma self. I's gwine to quit ma frownin' And put ma troubles on the shelf." Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor. He played a few chords then he sang some more— "I got the Weary Blues And I can't be satisfied. Got the Weary Blues And can't be satisfied— I ain't happy no mo' And I wish that I had died." And far into the night he crooned that tune. The stars went out and so did the moon. The singer stopped playing and went to bed While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. He slept like a rock or a man that's dead.
If I were to live my life in catfish forms in scaffolds of skin and whiskers at the bottom of a pond and you were to come by one evening when the moon was shining down into my dark home and stand there at the edge of my affection and think, "It's beautiful here by this pond. I wish somebody loved me," I'd love you and be your catfish friend and drive such lonely thoughts from your mind and suddenly you would be at peace, and ask yourself, "I wonder if there are any catfish in this pond? It seems like a perfect place for them."
The Stoli bottle's frost melts to brilliance where I press my fingers. Evidence. Proof I'm here, drunk in your lamplit kitchen, breathing up your rented air, no intention of leaving. Our lust squats blunt as a brick on the table between us. We're low on vocabulary. We're vodkaquiet. Vodkadeliquescent. Vodka doesn't like theatrics: it walks into your midnight bedroom already naked, slips in beside you, takes your shoulders in its icy hands and shoves. Is that a burglar at the window? No, he lives with me, actually. Well, let him in for Christ's sake, let's actually get this over with.
I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed. but all I could do was to get drunk again. worse, the bar patrons even ended up liking me. there I was trying to get pushed over the dark edge and I ended up with free drinks while somewhere else some poor son-of-a-bitch was in a hospital bed, tubes sticking out all over him as he fought like hell to live. nobody would help me die as the drinks kept coming, as the next day waited for me with its steel clamps, its stinking anonymity, its incogitant attitude. death doesn't always come running when you call it, not even if you call it from a shining castle or from an ocean liner or from the best bar on earth (or the worst). such impertinence only makes the gods hesitate and delay. ask me: I'm 72.
You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.
But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.
And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: "It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish."
He winds through the party like wind, one of the just who live alone in black and white, bewildered by the eden of his body. (You, you talk like winter rain.) He's the meaning of almost-morning walking home at five A.M., the difference a night makes turning over into day, simple birds staking claims on no sleep. Whatever they call those particular birds. He's the age of sensibility at seventeen, he isn't worth the time of afternoon it takes to write this down. He's the friend that lightning makes, raking the naked tree, thunder that waits for weeks to arrive; he's the certainty of torrents in September, harvest time and powerlines down for miles. He doesn't even know his name. In his body he's one with air, white as a sky rinsed with rain. It's cold there, it's hard to breathe, and drowning is somewhere to be after a month of drought.