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8 Poems by Marcel & Gabriel Piqueray, translated by Jean-Luc Garneau & Robert Archambeau

Belgian poetry has been little listened to or understood in the States. This is somewhat less true just north of us in Quebec, where a tenacious Francophone culture keeps things from being swept away by the Anglophone monolith. So these translations by Quebecois Jean-Luc Garneau and American Robert Archambeau of Belgian poets Gabriel & Marcel Piqueray serve as a double-notation: French language is not only France, and North America is, obviously, not just English. Beyond that, the Piquerays are also very lively figures....

            —Leonard Schwartz

[For more information on and translations of the Piqueray brothers, see Robert Archambeau's presentation in The Drunken Boat and in Samizdat #8 (forthcoming at Samizdat online).]


* * *


Heavy Dust
for Ann, to ***, for Paul Colinet and (in principle) for everyone in the Universe who, etc. etc.

        In the forest of chairs the searchlights seek out shadow. Having found it they coil there, gathering their courage. They wait and watch, greedily taking in the secrets that, even now, they spy in the large armchairs upholstered with shimmering light.
        The feet of the chairs, their backs, their arms all eye each other, crouch in waiting, ready to ambush one another. Roving battles rage, velvet against velvet.
        The beds rally, surrounded in the heart of the forest of chairs. Arching up, hoisting themselves high, their coiled springs suddenly freeze, they stagger, seized up in the tremendous heat.
        The luminous rays grab the cushions with an unheard-of violence, then seize the great table and the low doors. The forest gives off a thick stench as the light burns it away.
        Now constellations of dust particles whirl in the great volumes of light.
        In the forest of chairs, nothing is left but this precious load of heavy dust, falling like ruin on a forest silent with fear, a naked forest playing at death.
        The reign of chiaroscuro has come.



* * *



Beauty In Season

        She was a woman very proper in her bearing, her speech and, perhaps, her character. When she spoke she would arrange her hair with a sudden movement of her hand, pushing it back with the easy grace possessed by only the rarest of women. Then her hand would return, softly, to her body, to rest on her joined knees.
        Her conversation was unforced, her eyes always fixed respectfully on yours. While speaking she'd let her tongue glide lightly to her lips as she pronounced certain words: praline, humid, jewel, garden.
        Sometimes, too—for she spoke well on a wide variety of topics—sometimes, during a theoretical exposition, she would stretch out an arm, take up a book, promptly pull her skirt back into place, and read, with great poise, a seemingly trivial sentence. She would roll her r's ever so slightly: "...soon the volume of the overflow will surpass the volume of the capacity of the reservoir, and its contents will roil violently. At this point, the contracting muscles will repeatedly activate an exhaust valve, leading to a forceful expulsion…" or "... these elements, because they contain many extremely sensitive particles, play an important role in the attaining of pleasure..."
        Invariably, she would hold her listener completely in her power; her terrifying, sublime, famous and inexorable spell.
        In the end, she would rise and leave the room laughing, her supple, reptilian body gliding through the breezy chambers of victory and night.



* * *



Artists
for Jacques Calonne

        In an immense glass hall, six hundred and twenty five men, wearing only delicate black silk socks that sculpt their otherwise naked legs, have just mounted racing bikes with elegantly curving handle bars. The wheels are mounted on rotating steel cylinders driven by electrical motors.
        Twenty five rows of twenty five participants fill the vast room. Each man is isolated from his immediate neighbors by a space of about twenty five square meters, at the center of which he prepares for the performance.
        In the back of the hall, facing the cyclists, an orchestra composed mainly of trumpets, flutes, fifes, and ocarinas tunes up, as is the custom before the real show begins.
        At the appointed time a technician throws a switch, setting in motion the twelve hundred and fifty cylinders and, therefore, the wheels of the bicycles. At the same time, the orchestra begins playing moderato, a tempo barely half the speed intended for this piece. The audience, meanwhile, watches the orchestra attentively, through binoculars issued to them before the show began.
        The orchestra performs with a rare consistency, and (it is worth noting) with excellent support from the fifes playing in the background.
        The whole ceremony comes to an end with a passage repeated in forte, each phrase punctuated by the cyclists. Having let their pedals go, they kick (first with their ridiculously stiffened right feet, then their left), at big gold-lamé balloons hurled at their legs by a well-timed machine expertly engineered for just this purpose.



* * *



Hostages
for Claudine and Tom Gutt

The hostages made their way home to bed.
They were four: two men, two women.
The men paraded out front in bowler hats and moustaches, wearing robins as a boutonnieres.
Behind them, the women kept having to choke back their laughter.
The moon cast its regal light down on the little group.
Reaching the house, one of the men fumbled with his key and opened the door.
But he would go no farther.



* * *



The Woman from Alsace

        My great invention, the revelation of my youth, the terrible companion of my solitude: a certain kind of girl, tall and straight, severe as a Russian beauty, scheming, cerebral, streetwise; with arms that seem to propose a solution to the problem of unexplained attraction; a certain kind of twenty-five-year-old woman; a woman who makes you think and—damn it—shuts you up. First and foremost, she shuts you up; makes you silent as a friar, so you won't miss anything about her lips, her eyes, her face: makes you want to be silent to see better. Then there's a kind of abruptly extinguished sound, her two eyes staring you down, binding you and setting you free. The kind of love she inspires is calculating: it's with you every second of every night.
        A cloud of eyelashes closes in.



* * *



Everyday Life

        This planet is spinning like crazy.
        Soon it will have to take a sharp turn, and this means trouble, what with so many people paying to see that nothing happens.
        Children are being locked away in plastic boxes, into their coffin-cribs. And women wave ragged bits of skin high in cryptic gestures. Breasts bloat with morphine, push at black silk bras—darkness holding back the light. Respectable, well-dressed gentlemen switch on all the lights in their studios, hang themselves with phone cords from their chandeliers.
        Thousands of men and women arrive, eternity-eyed at the crossroads—the opened bedrooms of great cities—as if glued to one another. The makers of Universal Art.
        This planet is terrible, foreign.



* * *



The Hungarian

        I've got to fill my glass. Absolutely.
        Over by the carafe, the radio warms up, crackling with static.
        The lodger from the next room says it's a power surge, that the air is too muggy. Where does he get off talking like that around me? What's his logic here?
        The landlady comes in crying, says that war has been declared.
        So it's off to join our regiments.
        As I head out, I notice that my glass, has, conveniently, been filled.



* * *



Heart Phosphor
for Eliane, and Jean-Michel Pochet

Birds
Detergents
Fatigues
Lost time
Medicines to cure the uneasiness of great
Orchestras

The tiny little girl
Is
Dead

She
Did
Not
Choose
The
Authoritative
Team
Of an
Unarmed
German
Pontius
Peter
Shabbat

Tango
Of
The ecologists
The fountain-maker
Prefers
Wheat

Land

Thamar

High sea

Abysses
Abysses
Abysses

Money

Concrete
Concrete
Concrete
Concrete

Things
Things
Things
Things

Blood

In the summer, in the evening, under a green-gage sky, ancient wire ties the periwinkles to the edge of the night: catgut for the memory of love.

 





Issue No. 16 Copyright © 2002 The Transcendental Friend. All rights revert to the authors upon publication.