CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
translated by Andrew Zawacki
1: The Pepper Grains
When you can’t take nothing on the nose but a beak
whose nature we wonder may have particular aims
some purpose her sights are set on when she invents
what we don’t see all that much farther than bipeds
spying at night amid the pepper plants absorbs them more
into black grains of pepper than humble predators
of whom anyhow you hadn’t before had the feeling
the twisted idea they’d pull the wool over your eyes.
2: The Ship’s Log
The spiffy hats not getting feathered except from the ass quiff
drifting toward what’s ahead (it’s the golden age of whalebone
and of farthingales the end) on the island we run behind the fashion
from the onomatomaniacal captain—he who’ll sign the logbook
of his clipper as the proof by dying of melancholy
our three pretty pretty ashy birdies spoof us of a joy
for the crown (finger stuck up your)—from this captain a little
later the bourgeoisie will ride again doffing a tricorn into the sun.
3: The Winning Camp
No longer sure which left foot to favor to do the pink
flamingo bingo becomes for the dodo a second skin shedding
with every attack on the floor the talon tears its balance
from the horizon and so the one-leg-onlys in unison fall
for surrendering without further ado to the champions’ side
we pummel them within an inch of their plumes
but dusting the sill with no real adversary to put to bed
feeling sad on occasion we dab our pinkie to the eye.
4: The Corner Bookseller
Atrophy of the propellers is just a stroke premeditated
to make small talk of pigeons to the book guy on the corner
of the eye of the familiar specter struck with his o’ertaking wings
who sank like lead like so into the paradoxical poet
we’ve known worse—our own pygmy wings clipped
our knack for flying was stymied: we flap to try
to overcome a weight we never bore penguins
we flail at a sky that lay dead like a load on my weary eye.
5: The Dutch Tomb
With its maffive & almoft cubic body Mr. de Buffon
dixit my dodo yielded in short within the grotefque from head
to foot of paradise from which nothing had ever extracted it
Mauritius being love the Dutch dug its grave to the scale
of the isle (cf. the bones from the Mares aux Songes) swift
ingesting its bitter body and I quote grotefque to heart’s content
leaving their dogs behind in the woods from the barque
hey! yo! to scramble the eggs with a poke in the yolk.
6: The Last of the Idiots
You are the last of the idiots Volkert emo Evertsz will tell himself
disembarking the vessel in haste your species has already vanished
from the surface of our globes we rub out everything and start again
just in case nobody further can ever engender anyone
with anyone else—he doesn’t believe his own—there remains only
an umpteenth time to watch without frightening the film reel
where walking sticks still saunter over apples before this world
will be blank anew without you in the blink of a blinded eye.
7: The Fingertip
One of these days happy with the outcome on our fingertip
kissed kissed that athletes sometimes blow from the lips
rising up to heaven we will turn the key of the resurrection
with a museum mummy and with ants in the eyes of scientists
will withdraw for us the substantive stuff scratching their heads
they’ll give birth to a body they’ll call o my god
with their best wishes at welcoming a sister and a gestation
down the line we’ll have stars in our eyes once again.
8: The Island’s Coat of Arms
Standing in line for the twenty-one-gun salute I live no longer
than soon as the trumpet solemnly we draw back the pall
on a coffin to stiffen the sugar canes red
tawny in concert a deer & I camp in the coat of arms
symbols of us in the center the stars light up the checkered
field we wave like an oversize handkerchief
a grief a thought for his wife conveys the captain
into embarrassment that dreams aye dreams of slipping a finger in.
Sébastien Smirou is the author of three poetry volumes: Un temps pour s’étreindre (2011), Beau voir (2008), and Mon Laurent (2003), all from P. O. L. A psychoanalyst, he has authored prefaces to new translations of Winnicott’s La haine dans le contre-transfert (2014), Ferenczi’s Un petit home-coque (2012), and Freud’s Le petit Hans (2011). His translations of Italian psychoanalytical texts include Antonino Ferro’s Rêveries (2012) and Domenico Chianese and Andreina Fontana’s Immaginando (2014), both from Éditions Ithaque. Smirou codirects the journal LIGNE 13 and has just completed a book on photographer Robert Capa.
Andrew Zawacki’s latest poetry volume is Videotape (Counterpath, 2013). His translation of Smirou’s earlier book, My Lorenzo, appeared from Burning Deck in 2012. (A portion was published online by Conjunctions in 2008.) The above poem is one of eight chapters from his new Smirou translation, See About, which has been supported by an NEA translation fellowship and will appear in 2016 from La Presse.