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Charlotte Mandell

 

 

Guillaume Apollinaire

ZONE

In the end you are tired of this ancient world
Shepherd oh Eiffel Tower the herd of bridges is bleating this morning

You've had enough of living in Greek and Roman antiquity

Here even the cars look antique
Only religion has stayed new religion
Has stayed simple like the hangars at Port-Aviation

You alone in Europe are not ancient oh Christianity
The most modern European is you Pope Pius X
And shame keeps you whom the windows are watching
From entering a church and going to confession this morning
You read the flyers catalogues posters that shout out
There's the morning's poetry and as for prose there are the newspapers
There are 25 cent tabloids full of crimes
Celebrity items and a thousand different headlines

This morning I saw a pretty street whose name I forget
New and clean it was the sun's herald
Executives workers and beautiful stenos
Cross it four times a day from Monday morning to Saturday evening
In the morning the siren moans three times
An angry bell barks at noon
The inscriptions on the signs and walls
The billboards the notices squawk like parrots
I love the charm of this industrial street
In Paris between the Rue Aumont-Thiéville and the Avenue des Ternes

There's the young street and you're still just a little boy
Your mother dresses you only in blue and white
You're very pious and along with your oldest friend René Dalize
You like nothing better than the rituals of the Church
It is nine o'clock the gas is low and blue you sneak out of the dormitory
You pray all night in the school's chapel
While in eternal adorable amethyst depths
The flaming glory of Christ revolves forever
It's the beautiful lily we all cultivate
It's the torch with red hair the wind can't blow out
It's the pale rosy son of the grieving mother
It's the tree always leafy with prayers
It's the paired gallows of honor and eternity
It's the star with six branches
It's God who dies on Friday and comes back to life on Sunday
It's Christ who climbs to the sky better than any pilot
He holds the world record for altitude

Apple Christ of the eye
Twentieth pupil of the centuries he knows how to do it
And changed into a bird this century like Jesus climbs into the air
Devils in their depths raise their heads to look at him
They say he's copying Simon Magus in Judea
They shout if he's so good at flying let's call him a fugitive
Angels gyre around the handsome gymnast
Icarus Enoch Elijah Apollonius of Tyana
Hover around the first airplane
They scatter sometimes to let the ones carrying the Eucharist pass
Those priests that are forever ascending carrying the host
Finally the plane lands without folding its wings
And the sky is full of millions of swallows
Crows falcons owls come in full flight
Ibises flamingos storks come from Africa
The Roc Bird made famous by storytellers and poets
Soars holding in its claws Adam's skull the first head
The eagle swoops screaming from the horizon
And from America the little hummingbird comes
From China the long agile peehees have come
They have only one wing and fly in pairs
Now here's the dove immaculate spirit
Escorted by the lyre-bird and the spotted peacock
The phoenix that self-engendering pyre
For an instant hides all with its burning ash
Sirens leaving the dangerous straits
Arrive singing beautifully all three
And all eagle phoenix peehees from China
Hang out with the flying Machine

Now you're walking in Paris all alone in the crowd
Herds of buses amble by you mooing
The anguish of love tightens your throat
As if you were never going to be loved again
If you lived in the old days you would enter a monastery
You are ashamed when you catch yourself saying a prayer
You make fun of yourself and your laughter crackles like the fire of Hell
The sparks of your laughter gild the abyss of your life
It is a painting hung in a dark museum
And sometimes you go look at it close up

Today you're walking in Paris the women have turned blood-red
It was and I wish I didn't remember it was at the waning of beauty
Surrounded by fervent flames Our Lady looked at me in Chartres
The blood of your Sacred Heart drenched me in Montmartre
I am sick from hearing blissful phrases
The love I suffer from is a shameful sickness
And the image that possesses you makes you survive in insomnia and anguish
It is always near you this image that passes

Now you're on the shores of the Mediterranean
Under the lemon trees that are in flower all year long
You go boating with some friends
One is from Nice there's one from Menton and two from La Turbie
We look with dread at the octopus of the deep
And among the seaweed fish are swimming symbols of the Savior

You are in the garden of an inn just outside of Prague
You feel so happy a rose is on the table
And you observe instead of writing your story in prose
The Japanese beetle sleeping in the heart of the rose

Terrified you see yourself drawn in the agates of Saint Vitus
You were sad enough to die the day you saw yourself
You look like Lazarus thrown into a panic by the daylight
The hands on the clock in the Jewish district go counter-clockwise
And you too are going slowly backwards in your life
Climbing up to Hradcany and listening at night
To Czech songs being sung in taverns

Here you are in Marseilles in the middle of watermelons

Here you are in Coblenz at the Giant Hotel

Here you are in Rome sitting under a Japanese medlar tree

Here you are in Amsterdam with a young woman you think is beautiful she is ugly
She is engaged to a student from Leyden
There they rent rooms in Latin Cubicula Locanda
I remember I spent three days there and just as many in Gouda

You are in Paris getting interrogated
They're arresting you like a criminal

You made some miserable and happy journeys
Before you became aware of lies and of age
You suffered from love at twenty and at thirty
I've lived like a madman and I've wasted my time
You don't dare look at your hands anymore and all the time I want to cry
Over you over the women I love over everything that's terrified you

Your tear-filled eyes watch the poor emigrants
They believe in God they pray the women breast-feed the children
They fill the waiting-room at the St. Lazaire station with their smell
They have faith in their star like the Magi
They hope to earn money in Argentina
And go back to their country after making their fortune
One family is carrying a red eiderdown the way you carry your heart
The eiderdown and our dreams are equally unreal
Some of these emigrants stay here and put up at the
Rue des Rosiers or the Rue des Ecouffes in hovels
I've seen them often at night they're out for a breath of air in the street
And like chess pieces they rarely move
They are mostly Jews the wives wearing wigs
Sit still bloodless at the back of store-fronts

You're standing in front of the counter at a sleazy bar
You're having coffee for two sous with the down-and-out

At night you're in a big restaurant

These women aren't mean but they do have their troubles
All of them even the ugliest has made her lover suffer

She is a Jersey policeman's daughter

Her hands that I hadn't seen are hard and chapped

I feel immense pity for the scars on her belly

I humble my mouth now to a poor hooker with a horrible laugh

You are alone morning is approaching
Milkmen clink their cans in the streets

Night withdraws like a half-caste beauty
Ferdine the false or thoughtful Leah

And you drink this alcohol burning like your life
Your life that you drink like an eau-de-vie

You walk towards Auteuil you want to go home on foot
To sleep surrounded by your fetishes from the South Seas and from Guinea
They are Christs in another form and from a different creed
They are lower Christs of dim expectations

Goodbye Goodbye

Sun neck cut

 

from Alcools, 1913

Translation copyright Charlotte Mandell


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