:: Article

Arcimbaldo Revisited & other poems

By Louis Armand.

The Picnic
(for E.)

What, at that moment, we resembled. The drunken
orangutan signifying in its tree – we groped
under the fabric tacked-up to make a sky,
searching for the lost magical ennui: statues
wore hats, history on a shopping spree,
strangers regaled us, the mind’s sorority.
Not once did suspense disbelieve itself. The sequel
had all the virtues of a sequel – in it, you drove
hard through every bar in town, closing them down,
beautiful as a piano being disembowelled.
Prague in her leopard-print brassier after the sun’s
come up and the world with its dogshit stink.
A moment ago is easily forgot, the rest’s eternity –
bearing witness to empty coffee cups, the waiters
earnest as flies trapped in a room. Someone
will always dream-up new humiliations for us,
all we’ve got to do is wait. Sleep tasted of cheep wine
and cigarettes and dead leaves while day
ripened the maggoty sky. The scenery hung in tatters,
when at last your mouth burst like expired celluloid.

Allgone Shoe

Living in the allgone shoe, the five a.m. dustbin man,
the traffic light, the sermon on the mount, the rain and nothing new.
To you I’ve been that stone in a field you can’t walk around.
How many mothers does it take to make a man?
The ground under the feet and the feet under the ground.
Listen, something’s trying to tell us something –
Swing low, sweet… A penny’s too much.
Are these the ceremonial customs of an extinct race?
Blisters in your ears, sand between your toes,
and up all night, and all day, and the weather, and the sides
and angles in ratio, and time ain’t kind, time ain’t nothin’.
Oh my love, the sky trembles yellow. Oh my back, it’s broken.
And those were the best, the golden, now only mouths unfed.
After all this, never asking, because already knowing.
There are stranger things than paradise.

    Who who who goes the hoot of the owl
    in the house in the allgone shoe.

Sotades the Obscene of Maroneia

Nine o’clock and all the worst yet to come –
May Day parades, Saturday morning horrors.
Been living in mirrors as long as you have,
dear. What’s life but a stumbling palindrome
in a lead-suit aqualung? And you call that a man?
Awake to another day’s ego-dissolving bliss,
I’ve condensed myself into a fraction
between matter and no matter. Hours pass
like rotten plumbing – the untolled village bell,
the ass in its stable braying – a pair
of all-night drunks earnestly at attention
before the crux of their patriotic God, whistling
while they urinate. How do you cross a line
drawn in water? Jacques Cousteau
of the depthless blank page – I am the whole
of my own autism: the world on its axis,
the poetaster’s wife, the perturbed length of a
human pratfall as it drowns and breathes again
and still drowns.

Arcimbaldo Revisited

And why it all became so difficult suddenly to comprehend.
The piano tuner, the wasp in the room.
There are times of life whose only key is denial.
We know this. Every film had the same situation.
Is a question necessary at this point
to balance out the process?

For the record, everything. What choices
would a secret agent make?
You cut off, rearrange the furniture, give the words
a certain roominess. Acoustics for eavesdropping.
America is hiding in a bowl of fruit
on the table everyone talks around. Limes. Nectarines. Mangoes.

And for the Plat de Résistance: an upward come-hither motion.
Hiving-off into milk bottles, the unbreathable
atmosphere. Left with the choice of one or both ears
to wrap in a handkerchief. Love offerings
of the blind or a word mumbled into a telephone, unbelieved
because unseen.

Broadcast Graffiti

A landscape, spied through the anecdotal keyhole.
You keep it all barely
ticking over – a one-eyed strabismus
Roman holiday –
how many times must X be said,
before heard?
The weather’s grey – realism’s last word
creeping up the drainpipe.
Another emergency
ripples the fishbowl:
death to quotation marks!
People you know don’t always like each other.
Vague evocations
of the mystified quotidian.
The wilderness and foreignness
of life de-dramatised? Preferring the counterfeit,
the evening’s amorousness settles in.

Louis Armand is a writer, publisher, visual artist and former subtitles technician at Karlovy Vary Film Festival. In 2004 he founded the Prague International Poetry Festival which has continued, since 2009 as the Prague Microfestival. He is the editor of Contemporary Poetics (Northwestern UP, 2007) and in 2010 he edited The Return of Král Majales: Prague’s International Literary Renaissance, 1990-2010. He is the author of five novels, including the neo-noir Breakfast at Midnight (2012), recently published in Czech translation by Argo, and Canicule (2013; both from Equus). His most recent collections of poetry are Letters from Ausland (Vagabond, 2011) and Synopticon (with John Kinsella; LPB, 2012). He is presently an editor of the international magazine VLAK: Contemporary Poetics and the Arts.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, October 21st, 2013.