the star and the hammerkop …

“the star knows the time when our heart no longer breathes,
and then it shoots, it falls down as our heart falls down,
and the star’s noise, dying away, takes our heart away”

— ‘The Star and the Hammerkop are Those that Tell Us that One of our People Has Died’

(Bleed, Lloyd; reworked Alan James)
San/Bushman Tradition, ? – 1910

charles baudelaire – le crépuscule du soir (evening twilight)

Carlos Schwabe
“Le crépuscule du soir”
from Fleurs du Mal (1900)


This poem is from Baudelaire’s 1861 masterpiece, Les Fleurs du Mal (read the original French, as well as two more, quite divergent, translations HERE):

Evening Twilight

Delightful evening, partner of the crook,
Steals in, wolf-padded, like a complice: look:
Heaven, like a garret, closes to the day,
And Man, impatient, turns a beast of prey.

Sweet evening, loved by those whose arms can tell,
Without a lie, “Today we’ve laboured well:”
Sweet evening, it is she who brings relief
To men with souls devoured by one fierce grief,
Obstinate thinkers drowsy in the head,
And toil-bent workmen groping to their bed.

But insalubrious demons of the airs,
Like business people, wake to their affairs
And, flying, knock, like bats, on walls and shutters.
Now Prostitution lights up in the gutters
Across the glimmering jets the wind torments.
Like a huge ant-hive it unseals its vents.
On every side it weaves its hidden tracks
Like enemies preparing night-attacks.
It squirms within the City’s breast of mire,
A worm that steals the food that men desire.

One hears the kitchens hissing here and there,
Operas squealing, orchestras ablare.
Cheap tables d’hôte, where gaming lights the eyes,
Fill up with whores, and sharpers, their allies:
And thieves, whose office knows no truce nor rest,
Will shortly now start working, too, with zest,
Gently unhinging doors and forcing tills,
To live some days and buy their sweethearts frills.

Collect yourself, my soul, in this grave hour
And shut your ears against the din and stour.
It is the hour when sick men’s pains increase.
Death grips them by the throat, and soon they cease
Their destined task, to find the common pit.
The ward is filled with sighings. Out of it
Not all return the scented soup to taste,
Warm at the hearthside, by some loved-one placed.

But then how few among them can recall
Joys of the hearth, or ever lived at all!

— translated by Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

egghead (2004)

I sleep with one eye open, so I can see them coming.
I can’t get away, but at least I can see them coming and steel myself.
Ideas like bunnies fuck me in my bed.

Sometimes they bounce in uninvited, coquettish, and it’s almost fun. They keep me up till morning. I writhe, giggle hysterically, chase them pillow to post. Fluff tickles, a humid sneeze, and I’m knocked up, swelling anaphylactically. On colder nights I’m gang-raped, tied down and stabbed, bloating with high-pressure jets of rabid spores.

However it happens, the thoughts germinate in swarms, another and another and another sprouting.

I’m weepy again. Exhausted.
I don’t want the mutants that grow from these unions. I wish there was a contraceptive. A chastity belt. Anything to stop this brood, to render my imagination infertile. The pills are useless.

I can feel my chemistry changing inexorably as the cells divide. Thalidomide embryos kick with vestigial limbs, opposable pink stubs. Leprous digits dropping off and repropagating like mitotic cacti. Opaque eyes, squamous ear buds, mouths filmed over with milky membrane. Foreheads bulging with gestating thoughts trapped in undifferentiated tissue, crying out restlessly in underwater bubbles before they can even breathe. They’re so ugly!
Fruitless and multiplying.
I have to abort them all.
Distended oxygen thieves.
They mustn’t breathe.
They mustn’t breed.
Halt the assembly line!

I wish I could give these little niggling creations a chance, the benefit of my doubt. Wish I were able to carry them to term, to quietly, patiently allow them to ripen inside me till they could live by themselves. If only human nature could be allowed to take its organicky course… I cry for their inchoateness as I spew them out. It seems such a pity that I’m allergic to them.
Yes, they’re poisoning me.
Yes, I make myself sick.
Yellow serum oozes the truth of what I’m doing. I’m bleeding inside, putrescing slowly.

Maybe I’ve succeeded this time in gouging free? I wonder every time if what I’ve done will make me barren.
But no, the root won’t be cauterised. I still malfunction just fine afterwards. Each time I pick at the raw scab over the umbilical entrance, each time I lance the pus, another swelling surfaces elsewhere, ballooning mercilessly with the filth that I’m never able to excise completely, swimming with stillborn nonsense.

I’m leaking rotten discharge out of every opening. I don’t even try to hide the bulimic blurts any more. Everyone knows. I can’t stay home ALL the time. I’ve become inured to their “Shut up!” “Shut up!”… I like to believe they’d be more sympathetic if only they understood the advanced state of septicaemia I’m living with. Then again, no one likes someone else’s bloody vomit on their shoes I s’pose… They recoil, grimaces masked with grins.

I smile beatifically.

Plop!

Another black clot of afterthought.

Malformed.
Malignant.
It smells disgusting.
And oh, the cramp!

The nausea rises, throbbing.

Heave. Swallow. Metallic post-nasal drip.

Rises again…
I can’t down another millilitre of this bloody mucus, eat one more word.

BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHA

Sorry.
I’ll go home now.

Lock the door.

Lie down. Palms up.

Oh it’s quiet.

Teeth chattering.
SHUT UP!

Baby talk.
Stupidness.

Stupor.

Smooth and cool… So serene. So sterile for a few moments.
But the sweet stench is creeping back. I turn on my side, hug my legs up to my chest. And my cheek is wet with the dark patch spreading on my sheets. Squirming with infection, with congealing dread. I scrub and scrub, but the stain is under my nails.
So? I’ll paint them vamp red then.

I click on the hundred-watt bulb, swinging futile against the darkness, awaiting the cuddly incubi’s return. I can hear them breathing behind the curtains.

First published at http://www.africans.co.za, april 22, 2004

moon and flying snow

Beautiful fight scene between Moon (Zhang Ziyi) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) in the yellow forest from the extended version of the movie “Hero”

Hero was first released in China on October 24, 2002. At that time, it was the most expensive project and the highest-grossing motion picture in Chinese film history.