Then came a time of caesuras. The lakes
the land, the soul-blue earth, listened.
Some dream, long sealed in the ice of stars,
awakened, tinkling like a crystal glass
under a knife — the dream that all men
dreamed, lying in wet grass under comets,
or thighs vacant in the back of brothels —
a lust for another planet of another hue,
redder than the Red square in Moscow.
Of course, it felt just like a joke, this false
reverie of a false country, but it covered it all,
the heat thicker than honey into which
bears dived and died, bees lost in poppies,
nightingales missing at dawn, their songs,
their small decisions, their inscrutable innocence
filling pages of books never to be read
again. And no one could say if it mattered much
or not, to live under of a birdless sky,
when there wasn’t a creature on this earth,
flapping its wings out of illustrations,
for whom one would gladly give his life.
When the word extinction flooded the news,
everyone felt the roots of his own world
move but sat on, with pictures, pictures
and nothing else, pinned on retinas like moths.
— men falling from boats or towers of steel,
selfies longing to drown in popularity.
A horror so deep only a new ritual could absorb it
— with no icons nor incense, but laughs
and porn halting the mind via telephones.
Oracles hardly depicted such terminal,
that pit of iron oxide, hung like a ruby
in the sky. Never mind — the City of Light
now drifted as a glacier in the distance,
the last trumpet — or was it the whole
Revelation ? — just a broken gutter pipe.
There are so many ways to decline
a miracle, not the jasper flying through the air,
but the air itself. Not the gold but the water.
Heaven was blue. The dream, of blood.
Honey I’m losing you, played the song on repeat.
I can feel it in the air, it’s there everywhere.
During the interval, between the sapphire
and the record, the picture and the eye,
a disk tried not to break in the sunless oceans,
— whales, linked as children in a circle,
danced the perfect dance of Ezekiel’s wheels.
Watching it roll at the surface of water,
for a moment, was enough to unfold
the lungs like newspapers in the wind.
Something in their cry pierced the bones.
It carried the cold ordinary world.
The wild memories that swallowed us all.
The silence of islands and the height of cities.
The mother’s womb and the cruel clock ticking,
the trucks unloading skinned animals
from beds of ice, and the high heels
walking down the same street at dawn.
They were, these colossuses, the sense
of pride and the sense of guilt. Sex,
passion, breath, boredom — gift.
They turned and turned indifferent to greed.
From that rusty ball, you will remember
their grey loneliness, the chant that can’t
reach you, so high up in this vertiginous
Hell. You will crave the modern landscapes,
those you prefered to ignore, the deserts
which contained all human scorn.
The shopping mall, the suburbs, the freeways,
the asylum — all with a kind of softness
in the bone. You will picture the dirty lane,
and the lover you kissed in the dark.
Everything is gone, will play the song
but not the way love is done.
And in the world below, the whales
will achieve their dance in silence
for we only forgive those we understand.
There are days still so full of light on the shore, in the sand, in the forest paths leading to the ocean, and the water is cold but never quiet. Swimming here feels like training for a fight, a fight that is always lost, the waves are incredibly strong, the current stronger, and the exhaustion complete. I lie down on the sand, trembling but not from the cold, trembling like muscles and flesh tremble under one’s hand, under the weight of memory, and the sun, and the loud breath of the air, everything around me seems to tell what I’m sensing. I’m having a cigarette, fire in my mouth, fire in my belly. There are only two things I can’t defeat, the ocean. And memory .
While America plays its horrible show, with fat politicians trying to make believe something will change this time, when nothing will, the ocean, here, changes from pearl grey to green, then to blue in a few hours. Each day washes the small lusts and deceitful pettiness of the world away. I emerge almost new, bitten to the bone by the sun, or washed pure by the salty sharpness of the rain. Yesterday the sky was riveted to the water as by an invisible anchor, payne’s grey, one of the finest blue colors, and not a soul showed on the beach for a long time. I lay there in the crashing noise of the waves with the feeling that no matter what the ideas or conduct of others, there is a unique beauty to life, given in openness, in wind and light. I almost forgot about the dirty daily fight. I buried its dead weight in the cold sand.
Later seagulls began to squawk in the distance. Two dogs appeared, big black dogs, one running full speed towards the birds, the other imperturbable, a branch keeping his jaws opened, walking ahead of a man. So the man smiled, passing by, saying hello, and the dog stopped, convinced his trophee should be buried at my feet. I got up as fast as I coud in a sudden storm of wet sand and overflowing joy – the dog jumped as a puppy in the snow – my eyes fixed on the other one, mad about birds, splendid in his stride. “He’s a real beauty”, I said. The man replied saying his name was Thor. I said “No, not this one, not the materialist, the other one, running over there, the idealist.” His name was Malakov, he couldn’t call him back. Good. I didn’t want him to.
Today nothing remained. The sun was high and almost burning my skin after a swim. The deep blue grey disappeared. There was only the lactescent foam, the shattering pale green of the waves, the trembling silver of the light. I felt my bones turn to clear emeralds. The ocean separating the world from everything that is not oceanic — vast, undefeated, transfiguring, proved this world imaginary. I closed my eyes and found the face of the person I love. Then I fell asleep.
She’s catholic. He’s a Jew. She has nothing. He seems to have everything. His father’s death is the first event. Reality falls on his young shoulders, making so little noise. Only a hit, like bread on some bird’s wings. The first word time unfurls for him is Duty. Like a ribbon. What a present.
No ribbon for her. She chooses her word, it is Freedom. She begins to work, to live on her own. She takes lovers, has affairs, some offer jewels. It doesn’t seem to matter. The only thing she wants to know is the feeling of buying one. She will not stay where she is. She’s a fighter, already, she has this incurable pride.
The first stone is a little sapphire. My mother gave it to me lately. It looks like the lost splendor of freedom. Removed from its original ring. A lonely blue thing, drifting.
They meet young, before the war. Fall in love, madly. Immediately, there’s this impossibility. The words given are different, worlds too. But love has nothing to do with the world. He’s the first to lose control. Plans an escape, wants to marry her abroad, leave his family who will never accept her. It breaks him in two. What can he do ?
What breaks her, is to live hidden. Never to be recognized, accepted. She wants to live in full light.
She will never tolerate to be that one. The one not worthy of.
Her favorite word begins to drift, slightly. It is just the beginning.
It lasts a little less than five years, then hits the wall. He will marry a Jew. A young woman who has everything. Who plays piano divinely. Well born. That one doesn’t have to fight, she thinks. But what she doesn’t know is that few years later, she will have to die.
For the moment all the dying is for her. Another word appears, Suicide. She will confess this, frankly. Music only seems to ease the pain. This is a time made of music, mostly. There is one affair, or two. It matters less and less. And then, the war comes. As a reason to live.
She joins the resistance in the first hours of occupied France. She has very little fear of the Nazis. She’s ready to die, so they all really can go to hell. Like the other members who joined this movement ” Ceux de la Libération/Those of the Liberation”, she owns a cyanide pill in case something goes wrong.
And of course, something goes very wrong. A woman is captured and talks. Gives all the names. The camps open their doors. The sapphire begins to drift, alone, in its box. The cyanide awaits.
He will hear about her arrestation later. For the moment he is left alone in an orchard in the south of France, literally knocked out by a friend. His wife and two children, mother and sister, deported too. Some said he hid in a tree, like a bird. Have they ever seen orchard trees ? He’s in a barn at the end of everything and the black cars are gone when he awakes.
The word time unfurls is Confinement. For him, three years talking to rats in a basement in Paris. For her, four different camps, eating wood and shield bugs. It is only the menu.
When Hitler falls, the chimneys stop. But no one returns. Not for him. He’s a Jew. He’s alone. Alone in himself. The children were two and five years old. Faces, voices. In himself.
Pride. Freedom. Her favorite words are almost gone in smoke. Almost. When she comes back from Mauthausen, in a Red Cross truck, she barely weighs more than a pile of ashes. And he’s there. Waiting for her. They are in Paris, it’s twelve years later. Or twelve years too late. Now the words correspond. It is the same world.
How does she live with the ghost of the woman who took her place ? How does she live with the echo of his children’s laughter ? When she can’t have children anymore. When what happened to her in the camps happened in such a shadow. To make sure she will never have any, and that she will never say a word about it. How do they live, now, with their first love ?
How do they smile, make tea, collect berries, for me ? From where comes all this strength ? These kisses on my ckeeks ?
It seems that love is made of glass.
I could hear it every day I spent with them. The glass breaking endlessly.
And love remains.
It is sapphire blue.
Like this lonely blue thing, drifting in a box, beside my bed.
To Marcel & Maine Berr, my grandparents.
A Six AM Poem.
I get lost like dew
abducted by day.
Night, in me
had another trust.
An Eight AM Poem
There was nothing here.
Now is closed.
Except to Time Shut,
I am nought.
This is one of the first poems I have ever written and that I recorded with no music at all, since I believe only some truly inspired music could go with it.
And with the whole feeling.
Also maybe because for me it’s more a song than anything else.
This is where I began to understand that ” you don’t write poetry when you wish, you write when you can’t, when your larynx is flooded and your throat is shut.”
You can listen to it here, it’s called “Lullaby for Kolja” :