CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
The Dodo
Sébastien Smirou
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.